For more than 20 years, System Online has delivered a broad suite of managed communications and business-class Internet services targeting small and medium-sized businesses with anywhere from 50-1,500 users. From complete managed hosting and remote access to network management and monitoring, System Online provides the innovative IT foundation that hundreds of organisations rely on. In recent years, the firm has enjoyed a particularly strong presence among Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) such as housing associations, trusts and cooperatives — the government-funded, not-for-profit organisations that provide affordable housing in the U.K.
The government funding for these organisations carry a range of regulatory requirements, including strict provisions for data protection. Although some larger RSLs have sophisticated IT teams, many are smaller organizations that need specialised services from providers like System Online.
According to Jason Reid, head of technology for System Online, the firm’s previous offerings in this regard presented some limitations. “Previously, we were able to offer disaster recovery services through our ‘HIVE’ (Hosted Intelligent Virtual Environment) offering,” he said. “But this was purely disaster recovery for customers using VMware environments — an ‘all-or-nothing’ service where we provided an immediately usable remote hotsite in the event of a catastrophe such as a flood or earthquake. Unfortunately, this was an administratively intensive proposition and the value we were able to offer was narrowly tailored. We were experiencing unacceptably high failure rates that required a lot of staff time to correct.”
Immediate Favourable Impression
Recognising an opportunity to reach a wider customer base and improve the level of service it provides, System Online began evaluating new alternatives. Its partnership with NetApp as its preferred provider of storage led the company to analyse the NetApp Syncsort Integrated Backup (NSB) solution.
This innovative solution combines Syncsort data protection software with NetApp’s high performance disk storage to deliver zero-impact backup, data deduplication, instant restores, data replication, and support for disk, tape, and physical and virtual servers. It’s flexible enough to work in mixed primary storage environments while consolidating backup processing to a single user interface.
“When we were first approached, I’d never heard of NSB or Syncsort,” Reid said candidly. “With just a 30-minute demo, I was sold — it’s a superb solution. So, we arranged a demo for all of our management and at the end of that meeting, we’d firmly decided to move forward with NSB — but we first needed to use it risk-free for 30 days and achieve 100-percent success in our backups.”
After successfully completing the test, System Online moved into production mode and rolled out its next generation HIVE solution to several customers. Nearly a dozen different customers use the service, streaming in as much as 6 TB of data each day. “Now, with Syncsort and NetApp, we can offer a granular system for true data protection,” said Reid. “If a customer’s hard drive fails, we can restore it. If their server fails, we can restore it — instantly.”
Fast Recoveries Minimise Any Impact
Currently, System Online offers recovery-point objectives (RPOs) of as little as 15 minutes. What’s more, the recovery time objective (RTO) guarantee is one hour — regardless of the RPO. The solution takes full advantage of the NetApp SnapVault and SnapMirror replication technologies for faster data protection. “Whether we’re restoring a single drive or a complete site recovery, we can produce it within an hour,” Reid said. “It’s a superb service to demonstrate to our clients. It’s immediately available and we can restore data with just five mouse clicks. Customers see it and are truly wowed by what we can deliver. We recently had to restore 2 TB of customer
data and we were able to do it in less than two minutes — something that previously would have taken more than eight hours to complete. Syncsort and the NSB solution give us extraordinary peace of mind when it comes to our SLAs. We can show very persuasively that we can deliver on the SLAs we’re claiming and proposing.”
Within System Online’s world-class data centre, NSB has delivered an 85 percent gain in labour efficiency just by slashing the time needed to monitor its managed services. What once required a full-time, 40-hours-per-week support engineer can now be handled in just five hours. As a result, System Online can allocate its valuable resource to support other critical areas of the business and enhance customer service.
Furthermore, System Online has used NSB to guarantee its clients a 99+ percent backup success rate compared with just 80 percent it was able to offer previously. This is helping to accelerate the company’s growth by enabling System Online to target a wider market of customers while controlling storage utilisation and reducing costs by leveraging NetApp storage efficiencies.
“We’re now offering a unified disaster-recovery/dataprotection solution in one place. And the IT folks we speak with are very happy to finally stop worrying about and devoting so much time to the backup/recovery challenge,” said Reid. “With NSB, we are meeting all of our service level agreements with clients. We anticipate that the added value that NetApp and Syncsort provide will play an important role in helping us to potentially double or triple our managed services business over the next few years. We have been so impressed by the success of the implementation that we are considering setting up a dedicated data protection business unit based solely on NSB.”