City College Manchester

The Challenge

As college services increased, as did the number of servers and storage, making management costs, network security and disaster recovery, difficult to control.

The Solution

Installed and integrated a SAN across the college’s campuses and implemented a disaster recovery suite to ensure data is stored and replicated for quick and simple recovery.


Storage is provisioned as and when it’s needed, problems can be spotted faster and future requirements can be easily predicted.

Improving access to information

One of the UK’s largest educational facilities, City College Manchester supports a growing number of students from around the world, and over 1,200 employees. In order to provide 24/7 access to essential materials and services online, the college needed a data storage and protection system to support this.

The challenges

“As we increased the number of college services, we had to continually buy more servers and storage to keep pace with the data this produced. IT management costs were soaring, and we were worried about network integrity as we didn’t have consistent disaster recovery and backup processes.”

“At the time, all our data storage was direct attached. Each server had its own storage that couldn’t be accessed by other servers. This just wasn’t efficient.”

John Goulden, Network Support Manager, City College Manchester

City College Manchester began the process of selecting a vendor to build a storage area network (SAN) that would link each of its four major campuses and partner sites across the city.

“Our key requirements were quality of hardware and an ability to scale to meet future needs,” explains Goulden. “Disaster recovery was also critical.”

The solution

City College Manchester selected a complete solution from XMA, a specialist ICT provider to the UK’s education sector. XMA installed and integrated a SAN across the college’s campuses and implemented a disaster recovery suite to ensure data is stored and replicated for quick and simple recovery. XMA also provided training to the college’s network technicians to ensure they were fully utilising the system’s capabilities. The hardware installed comprised two Hitachi Adaptable Modular Storage 1000 models, one at each of the college’s two main data centres.

XMA states, “By designing and deploying this complex storage solution, City College Manchester can now quickly and securely store and replicate all of their data. It also provides them with a solid platform for growth.”

Implementation was fast and efficient and was completed in just two weeks. City College Manchester is investing in VMware virtualisation tools as part of a server consolidation drive, and XMA ensured that the new storage infrastructure supported this environment.

Network technicians at the college have found the consolidated storage solution easy to use and manage. If they do need assistance on either the hardware or software, support is available around the clock.

The result

“We can now provision storage as and when we need it, which is absolutely brilliant. We’ve never been able to do it so fast,” says Goulden.

The college can also now monitor and manage its storage more efficiently, spotting problems faster and predicting future requirements. This in turn provides students and staff with higher information availability and better access to services and resources, in line with service level requirements.

Technicians have identified significant time savings by being able to perform data replication and backup procedures more efficiently, and reduced downtime means better time efficiency for users, too.

“With XMA’s new setup, if we lost our primary data centre, we could have all the data back within hours,” explains Goulden. “Before, it would have been a nightmare task that would have taken days to recover just some of the lost data.”

“Recently, one of our network volumes was corrupted. In the past we would have spent hours searching through the tape library for the backup, but thanks to the advanced Hitachi software which is built into the solution, we were able to recover it within 15 minutes.”

John Goulden, Network Support Manager, City College Manchester

The college uses a Novell GroupWise e-mail system and, since deployment, technicians have found that a disaster recovery task which used to take several days can now be completed within an hour. Data replication capabilities have also been found to be very robust. Data at the two main campuses is backed up locally, then between each other while data from remote sites is replicated to the two central data centres. This ensures that no matter where information is stored, it is automatically and securely replicated at a different location. The college’s opening hours are extending and a growing body of international students want access to information from anywhere, at any time.

Goulden concludes, “The College is becoming a 24/7 learning environment and its IT infrastructure is now able to support this important shift. At the time of implementation our data requirement was for 3.5TB and this is growing at 50% year on year. It’s a significant mountain to climb, but we are now equipped with the tools we need to meet the challenge.”