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How data was saved from fire

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When your data centre goes up in flames and with it go the back-up tapes, it is still possible to be back in business in mere hours if an off-site copy is available, says HEDI WEYERS of Attrix5.

What could be worse than a fire which consumes not only the entire computer room, but also the backup tapes containing a copy of organisational data? Not having an offsite copy of that information, says Attix5 Sales General Manager Heidi Weyers. ‚Even if the entire data centre has gone up in flames, it is possible to be back up and running within mere hours if such an offsite copy is available.‚

Weyers makes that claim with some confidence, referring to a recent fire which destroyed a municipal computer room. When a conflagration broke out in the offices of the Dr. JS Moroka Local Municipality at Siyabuswa in Mpumalanga early in September 2011, all would have been lost. Except, of course, that the organisation was in the proof of concept phase of an Attix5-powered backup and restore project deployment.

Peter Balt, CEO of Munsoft, which provides software and services to Dr JS Moroka Local Municipality, picks up the story: ‚We got a call informing us that the computer room at the municipal offices was completely gutted in a fire. There was no offsite backup tape and all the backup tapes in the computer room were destroyed.‚

A municipal information system contains a wealth of information which is critical to the operation of the entity: details of ratepayers, the state of their accounts, the financials, all records and much more were suddenly hanging in the balance. Without this data, in effect, there is no local authority.

However, all was not lost, as Balt explains. ‚Fortunately, this municipality is on our Managed Private Network and our Munsoft Disaster Recovery System.‚

What that means is that a remote, offsite copy of the municipality’s data was in existence. More than that, this data is kept up to date thanks to the Attix5 technology which powers it. Law explains how it works: ‚An initial backup is made and taken offsite for storage on a disk subsystem in a data centre.

Attix5 Backup Professional is installed on the client’s systems: it automatically scans for any changes to the data and synchronises these changes over the internet to maintain that offsite copy as an up-to-date version of the client’s business.‚

In practice, for Dr. JS Moroka Local Municipality, this meant out of the frying pan wasn’t into the fire.

ITNA (Pty) Ltd in Centurion is responsible for providing the Attix5 component of Munsoft’s service offering. Just three hours after being informed of the fire at the municipality, it had fully restored the latest data backup from the Attix Backup Server onto the Munsoft Disaster Recovery System. ‚All users were reactivated and passwords reissued,‚ confirms John Currie, CEO at the company.

Incredibly, he reveals that due to the scheduling ‚ and the automation ‚ of the Attix5 Backup Professional solution facilitated by ITNA, the municipality didn’t lose a single transaction.

Marius Richter, director at ITNA adds: ‚In a matter of hours, the DR Munsoft Financial System was up and running. Notebooks, PCs and other equipment was sorted out, and the organisation was back up and running. It was almost as if the disaster had never occurred. ‚

Balt says this disaster has highlighted the necessity to provide for the unknown. ‚This municipality has foreseen the unexpected and taken appropriate precautions. Had it relied on outdated tape-based protection, it may have had an offsite copy as a best-case scenario. It is likely that such a copy would be outdated, if available at all, and it might take weeks or even months to get back into business.‚

Instead, the power of Attix5’s proven technology, as well as sound business processes, has ensured minimal impact from an information perspective. ‚It was just sheer chance that the fire happened so soon after the appropriate data protection provisions were in place. Were Attix5 not yet installed, the impact on the municipality and its residents could be considerably worse,‚ Balt adds.

He says the incident highlights the necessity of protecting data against the unexpected: ‚And there is no better way to do that than using a system which delivers a reliable, automated, remote copy.‚

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