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NHS Branch Reduces Backup Cost

Backing up files isn’t just something undertaken by individuals or private enterprises. Wherever there is data it needs to be backed up unless losing it isn’t a problem. The public sector in the United Kingdom, made up of areas such as teaching and health, also have to back up their data. In fact, the need for their data to be securely backed up is probably more pressing than individuals.

This article will take a look at a specific National Health Service (NHS) branch in the UK to see what their backup process is and why they use it.

The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT) is a specific, regional branch of the NHS in the north west of England. For whatever reason, each region of the NHS operates independently, perhaps due to the varying backup needs of the departments.

The UHMBT has datacentres across three hospitals and used to send their backup data straight to their two EMC VNX SANs. After that, the data was sent to a Quantum Scalar 24 library. This process worked well initially, back in 2009. There was only 5TB of data on each array, but over the years the amount of data has grown greatly. As such, the existing process no longer made economic sense.

“With the amount of capacity we needed for backup it was not sustainable to keep it on the VNX, so we wanted to get it off there. It just didn’t make sense to keep backups on primary storage,” said Stephen Ion, technology manager at UHMBT, speaking to Computer Weekly.

The backups included data such as email, SQL databases and unstructured file data. Also, there was a need to have 24/7 access to live data backups during the night so as not interfere with the busier hours during the day.

Currently, UHMBT has 230 servers in total (150 virtualised with VMware). The volume of the entire backups total around 25TB, thus the need for a more elegant backup solution was paramount.

A supplier recommended that they use Spectra Logic. On investigation, they found that it offered a good price point and the partnership with CommVault was a bonus.

They are now using a Spectra Logic nTier Verde disk-based system that has 77TB capacity. They also have a T50e tape library that has capacity for48 1.5TB cartridges. Tape is beneficial as it is low-cost and can store data for a very long time. The data is backed up to the nTier Verde disk for seven days, just in case there is a need for a short-term restore, but it’s also immediately sent to tape for the long term.

“We can now keep backups on disk for longer as it is dedicated capacity, and we can restore from there quickly if we need to. Restores were complex and time-consuming and we had to stop the constantly running tape libraries during backups to do them,” said Ion.

University Hospitals Morecambe Bay now benefits from reduced backup times, confidence to carry out data restoration if necessary, and the free space to suit their growing data needs.


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