Keeping disaster at bay

Keeping disaster at bay

Data loss and downtime is not just a dip on the power charts or loss of revenue: it could literally cost lives in the healthcare and aged care arena.

Ozcare knows all too well about the risk. The health and community service provider needed help finding a solution to deal with its data management and storage requirements, as well as potential disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) challenges. With 8000 clients and 70 locations throughout Queensland, and a good chunk of its offices in regional areas, the organisation's key requirements were to protect the fort, centrally store data and email, and add more storage muscle to the mix.

Enter Queensland-based system integrator, ordyss, which came onboard to help assess the organisation's mission-critical applications and the impact of downtime. The job, which took about three months, involved the implementation of Hitachi SAN hardware. ordyss general manager, Michael Cooke, said the upgrade gave Ozcare true availability while dealing with its data management and storage requirements.

"Ozcare's IT is distributed around the state. They have individual servers at remote locations, and they don't have an endless budget or IT staff," Cooke said. "The SAN helped centralise the technology, and offer up more control and consistency."

A key challenge was dealing with the business continuity and stability of services. Ozcare had broadly dispersed information across independent servers in branch locations. These prevented data consistency and made it increasingly hard to ensure system-wide, complete backup.

ordyss designed a geographically dispersed cluster running on Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition. The cluster has the ability to deliver application failover between sites. Cooke said it maintained access to critical applications in the event of failure or disaster. "If head office fails, it seamlessly fails over to a secondary site," he said. This takes about two minutes. "It works as though all of the systems are in the same server room."

Remote branch servers were also relocated to a new data centre at Ozcare's Fortitude Valley site in Brisbane. The reseller handles the organisation's backup and offsite tape storage at its managed services centre, using the SATA features of the Hitachi modular storage. Similar stories are popping up in aged care and in healthcare because of growing regulatory conditions, Cooke said. New requirements released in 2003 required Ozcare to maintain all email records for a minimum of seven years.

"Disaster recovery is very topical in aged care, and healthcare, which has lots of challenges and where compliance is a big issue," Cooke said. "In healthcare and aged care, federal government funding is linked to how the organisation can demonstrate government compliance guidelines."

While healthcare and aged care are hot spots for the technology, the loss of data and the ensuing loss of revenue is also keeping CIOs awake at night. And while big enterprises are a likely spot for the technology, Cooke said the not-for-profit sector was also gobbling up the technology.

"The not-for profit category tends to be more savvy and more sophisticated than large corporates. If there's a pandemic, and data is lost, people could die," he said.

Mid-market madness

Corporate Australia, particularly the mid-market, is a big opportunity for DR and BC, Hitachi Data System's (HDS) marketing manager, Tim Smith, said. He claimed larger enterprises, including banks, telcos and many government sites, already had well established policies.

"The fastest growth area is the SME market, so don't treat the SME customer like a poor cousin," Smith said. They had the same worries over data loss and information management as the big guys - and they couldn't afford downtime either.

HDS had added enterprise class functionality into its mid-market gear. The AMS 200 entry-level product was a prime example, Smith said.

"This functionality only existed in the 500 and above models previously," he said.

Smith said ensuring all files were backed up and kept safe in a separate location was of paramount importance. This would be borne out in 2007 as more organisations put business continuity plans into place. "There's a definite fear of the potential loss of data and the direct business impact," he said. "This is a continuing trend because there's greater alignment with IT and business."

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