Charity Moves Backup Away From The Cloud


The MS Society found that cloud based storage could not meet its needs for robust disaster recovery, so it brought its data back in-house

The MS Society said it is saving tens of thousands of pounds a year as a result of a project to move its business-critical disaster recovery (DR) back-up storage infrastructure in-house.

The UK’s largest charity for people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS) had previously outsourced its storage area network (SAN) backup processes to a managed services provider. Andrew Young, The MS Society technical services manager said not only did this became very costly, but it didn’t support its disaster recovery (DR) needs.

“We had outsourced our backup to a managed services provider over a 10MB leased line, which was then migrated to a 2MB line,” Young told eWEEK Europe. “But during routine maintenance one day we had a major outage on the SAN and couldn’t recover the one terabyte of data we’d lost, especially over a 2MB connection.

“The provider sent a NAS [networked attached storage] appliance the next day with an engineer, but it took half a day to get the information off the NAS and nearly a week for full DR. And the cost were prohibitively expensive, where it was costing us around £150,000 a year.”

Added to this, the consolidation of its IT operations in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland meant the MS Society IT team was responsible for five times the number of users it had supported in the past.

“We wanted to bring the backup in-house, but didn’t want to buy more tape drives,” he continued. “But we also just wanted a large, reliable amount of space to back up to. So, even though I’d heard they weren’t as fast as fibre channel arrays, we started looking at iSCSI SANs.”

The MS Society selected Dell EqualLogic arrays due to the advanced management capabilities such as load balancing, snapshots and thin provisioning that were offered at no extra charge, as well as its″ target=”_blank”>ability to integrate with VMware for high scalability, management and cost savings.

“Now I never have to worry about the SAN,” Young said. “And the lower amount of maintenance we have to do is also a benefit, where the simple GUI [graphic user interface] is easy to use for extending or cloning drives easily, for instance.”

With Dell EqualLogic iSCSI arrays now working in a virtualised server environment, MS Society has significantly reduced its backup window, and expects to save an average of £40,000 a year from the backup solution alone.

“That’s probably a conservative estimate, where we reduced the amount of licensing we need from our backup provider and we’ve stopped having to use contractors by centralising everything around our iSCSI SAN,” he added.

The new SAN has also allowed the charity to establish a second DR site with a 2MB leased line connection, improving the IT service it provides to its users. Young added that, along with new server cooling systems, the SAN has reduced the load on its uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) from 22 to 7 percent.

“Whereas before my role was a support one, where I’d spend 60 percent of my time doing maintenance, I can now spend more than half of my time learning about new technologies and taking on my project work,” said Young.