Providing secure data storage to support essential services to the public
Providing local authority services in towns such as Abergele, Colwyn Bay and Llandudno, Conwy County Borough Council covers 113,000 hectares in North Wales. With around 38% of the County Borough lying within Snowdonia National Park and 37 miles of coastline, Conwy also caters for over 8 million tourists visiting the area every year. Due to the broad nature of the services it provides to the public, Conwy’s data storage needs are vast and varied. Conwy’s IT department was faced with three challenges in continuously improving its services to the public: centralising backup, supporting a new generation of internal systems and providing an IT platform for its developing disaster recovery plan.
As a legacy of its creation from the merging of 4 different local authorities in 1996, data was generated and stored by 6 main and 100 satellite Council sites across the County. Islands of storage existed at many Conwy sites with different management and backup techniques employed at each. The disparate nature of this IT environment had led to a general proliferation of unmanaged storage. The challenge of backing up and securing data at each site using tape drives was proving to be an administrative nightmare, and effective information sharing across the enterprise was unable to take place due to the geographic dispersal of the data and the mix of hosting operating systems and associated clients.
“Managing remote servers has always been something of a headache for us. Users had to take responsibility for managing the backup media, and in most cases we had no offsite copies of data to fall back on in the event of a real disaster,” says Principal Technical Support Analyst at Conwy, Will Valintine.
A number of new systems brought in by Conwy to facilitate its operations were another focus area for the IT department. A centralised e-mail programme and replacement payroll system had particularly heavy data storage requirements and needed to back onto a single storage platform in order to facilitate employee access to critical data.
IT staff at Conwy had been so impressed by the performance of its previous storage system, a Hitachi Thunder modular storage system that they asked long-term technology partner XMA to propose a suitable Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) solution. XMA recommended 2 Hitachi Adaptable Modular Storage (AMS) 500 systems in different locations, with Hitachi TrueCopy® Extended Distance software’s asynchronous capabilities to enable replication between two sites.An AMS500 was installed at the primary site, Bodlondeb in Conwy, with a second installed at the remote site in Colwyn Bay. TrueCopy Extended Distance enables Conwy to store data and support critical applications at the primary site and replicate to its remote site, ensuring copies of all data are available in the event of an incident at the main offices. The Hi- Track® Monitor (a “call home” service/remote maintenance tool) watches the status of the storage environment, reporting any problems directly to the HDS support centre. XMA provided four storage administrators at Conwy with full training on the new system and a mixture of onsite and offsite support was provided 24/7 by HDS. “The Hi-Track Monitor has been invaluable to us,” says Valintine.
“The tool contacts the HDS support centre as soon as it sees a problem and the support centre immediately addresses it remotely. This removes the need for our department to spend time monitoring the system manually and allows us to focus on our strategic IT projects instead”.
“The scalability of the Storage systems means we don’t have to worry about running out of capacity. The team and I can focus on strategic concerns to protect Conwy’s data and guarantee that public services are available for the future.”
Will Valintine, Principal Technical Support Analyst, Conwy County Borough Council
The primary site AMS500 has consolidated the Council’s existing storage, providing a file server platform, which has enabled Conwy to reduce its 15 remote file servers across various sites to just 2 primary file servers. This in turn has led to a significant reduction in management and backup issues, as well easing connectivity and power issues for the 13 servers the Council has been able to decommission.
The data storage consolidation at the council’s primary site means that Conwy’s mission critical applications and data are now together on a reliable system. This has allowed Conwy to be more flexible in the provision of applications and information to client departments. This helps to prevent their storage architecture from becoming a barrier to effective data sharing and has improved information processing across the enterprise. The additional capacity of the solution, currently 12TB at each site, expandable to 64TB, has provided Conwy with the storage space it needs to consolidate all its previously disparate file servers and support the aggressive storage demands of many new systems, including e-mail, payroll, Social Care and Revenues and Benefits systems. The scalability of the system also means that Conwy can easily add capacity to the as and when required.
Having migrated internal e-mail archives and payroll data, as well as data critical to services Conwy residents rely on, such as revenue, benefits and leisure centre records to the new system, Conwy is now looking to the future.