Network Communications News (NCN) May 2017 - Page 21

HOT TOPIC A case in point: The Craig Group The Craig Group operates the largest British wholly owned fleet engaged in the UK offshore industry, providing shipping and energy services worldwide. The IT department might have one of the toughest jobs in IT; a team of six are responsible for keeping 31 vessels, eight offices and more than 1,000 people both on and offshore working and connected. Between them, they use more than 30 applications across 80 servers. Communication across land and sea is possible thanks to a complex network – and downtime can be both expensive and dangerous. Although Craig Group had a business continuity and disaster recovery strategy in place, the traditional tape method of back up wasn’t working for its business any longer. Like many companies, Craig Group was using a mix of vendors to fulfil its back up needs, which did not provide the solution it was looking for. Onshore, at eight offices located worldwide, tape back up could only be taken once a day meaning Craig Group could potentially lose a whole day’s data in the event of an IT systems failure. In addition, Craig Group operates 31 vessels predominantly in the North Sea. These vessels are a mix of platform supply and emergency response and rescue vessels, (ERRVs), providing essential support to oil and gas assets in the region. Each ship employs approximately 12 to 15 crew and all ERRVs are at sea for 28 days at a time. On board, they rely on a server to run maintenance databases, email and print services. These are backed up to an external hard drive, which previously had to be loaded to tape when the vessel landed ashore at the end of a trip. This meant that when an offshore server failed, a ship would be reduced to functioning on just laptops. Additionally, it was difficult for the onshore team to know this had occurred. Checking in to a fleet of 31 ships in the North Sea is complex and time consuming. As a result, Craig Group was seeking an upgrade. The vision was one simplified solution, a ‘single pane of glass’ that could manage the Group’s back up environment at both on and offshore locations. It wasn’t until Aberdeen based ITWORX met with the IT department that an ‘elegant’ solution came into focus. ITWORX understood the vision of the client and demonstrated that the Datto product range could meet the diverse demands of the Group. IT WO RX a nd C ra i g G ro u p ra n ex te ns ive te s t s to d e m o n st rate t h at t h e new p ro d u ct s we re f i t fo r p u r p o s e . Tr ial s e sta b l i sh e d t h at b a c k u p s co u l d b e ta ke n eve r y t h re e h o u r s, w h i c h wo u l d l owe r C ra i g G ro u p ’ s R P O (Re cove r y Po int Ob j e ct i ve) a n d im p rove tota l re s i l i e n c e . As Craig Group operates internationally from different locations, email is the primary business conduit. Speed of response for communicating with a ship or tendering and quoting contract renewals can be crucial to the triumph of the business and values can be in millions – downtime could be very significant. Post deployment, although server failures can still be problematic, the new technology has significantly improved overall resilience, method of operation and recovery of data. Almost immediately after putting the first device onto one of the ships, there was a server failure, just one week into a 28-day trip. The vessel was off the coast of Africa and inaccessible. Previously this server issue would have been hard to manage; in this instance, Craig Group could run off a virtualisation for three weeks. Failures are not just exclusive to harsh weather and working conditions. An incumbent cloud provider to the land based HQ experienced service provision issues. Although the new recovery products were not the contracted solution for this onshore facility, it had become the operational benchmark expected of the IT department. Waiting hours for ‘The devastating effect of downtime caused by disasters includes irreparable damage to data, reputation, customer relationships, income, and business vitality.’ little sign of any recovery was unacceptable, and so the new recovery solution was invoked. One hour later, HQ was back to running as normal. The significant difference is that a ‘prevention not cure’ culture endures. Although less administration time is spent on a scheduled failover rotation, the Craig Group can ensure that each of the recovery devices are tested regularly – on ‘Failover Fridays’. Disaster planning must encompass disasters of all types and sizes: fires, floods, fraud, ransomware, cyber attacks, power or IT system failure, human error, and other unthinkable scenarios. While the type of disaster varies, the impact is typical: data loss and operational downtime. The devastating effect of downtime caused by disasters includes irreparable damage to data, reputation, customer relationships, income, and business vitality. For organisations like The Craig Group, the best offense is a good defence; you must protect your business by understanding your vulnerabilities, safeguarding against the risks, and preparing for the worst business disruptions with a plan for business continuity and disaster recovery that will shield data, protect the business, and keep systems available and reliable no matter what happens. With the appropriate planning and technologies in place, the risk posed to businesses by system, natural or human error disasters can be drastically mitigated. Data back up is the crucial last line of defence, ensuring that, even in the event of catastrophic events, organisations can spin up systems and restore their data – often in a matter of minutes – enabling them to continue functioning almost as normal in the face of adversity. May 2017 | 21