Premier is one of the largest privately held fund management companies in the UK, providing clients with a range of services around funds, investment trusts and portfolio management. The Group manages just over £1.3billion assets on behalf of a range of retail, institutional and private clients.
The company experienced a rapid expansion in staff from 30 up to 75 employees during the past five years. As it grew, the company was investing heavily in new servers and applications to support its business. This represented a challenge for the company's IT team, as any incident of downtime would affect Premier's ability to serve customers. Kevin Strange, divisional director of information technology at Premier, recognised the risk that this represented, and decided to examine how he could improve the company's business continuity strategy.
"Our experience with tape-based back-up systems was that the potential window of downtime was too large. We could lose up to twelve hours' worth of work, which was an unacceptable amount; the time taken to restore would be about four to five hours, which again was not fast enough to meet our business requirements," said Strange. "We therefore chose to look at other technologies that could shrink these timescales as well as providing a more cost-effective way to manage the back-up process."
Purchase Process and Decision
Strange looked at the data replication solutions that were on the market, and quickly decided that a further criterion for Premier was the ability to work effectively over a Wide Area Network (WAN). While other solutions he evaluated could provide high availability, they would not effectively protect the business in the case of a full site failure. Strange therefore chose Double-Take Software's data replication products as the basis for protecting the company's critical data.
"Our requirement was for live replication of data across to our second office, which would provide us with faster recovery times in the event of a disaster," explained Strange. "It was extremely efficient at moving data over the WAN, and could support our complex requirements. For example, we have some multi-user Excel spreadsheets in place: Double-Take was the only solution that was able to replicate these files over correctly. The other products that we looked at were not up to scratch."
Strange and his team began their implementation of Double-Take in May 2006, with the roll-out to the initial batch of servers completed in June that year. Since that time, protection for further applications and servers have been added as the company has grown and the data contained has become more important to Premier's success. Overall, Premier now has ten servers protected using Double-Take, covering applications such as Microsoft Exchange 2003, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle and Citrix. The company's file servers are also protected using Double-Take.
"We chose Double-Take because of the strong standing that it has within the market. From our experience, that reputation is well deserved: it was the most cost-effective solution that we looked at, and it was both easy to implement and manage," commented Strange. "Alongside our business continuity testing programme, we have also invoked Double-Take when one of our file servers suffered a multiple disk failure. We quickly failed over to our second site, and used the replicated file server to support our normal business activities. Overall, there was no impact on our day-to-day business."
Premier has expanded its use of Double-Take over the years, firstly by implementing a Full Server Fail-over approach for its remote site. "We implemented the Full Server Failover system because it significantly reduces the amount of management required to maintain the back-up and recovery side of our business continuity approach. By having the servers built to a basic level, Double-Take can then automatically rebuild the complete application server for us and restart the machine, this reduced the management overhead for us considerably," explained Strange.
"Our overall experience with Double-Take Software has been extremely positive. Our business continuity strategy has evolved as the company has grown, and our Double-Take solution has changed alongside us. The speed of recovery that we have been able to achieve is significant, while it has demonstrated its value back to the organisation both in our testing procedures as well as real-world situations," said Strange.