Section 4.3 disaster recovery in the cloud

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Section 4.3 disaster recovery in the cloud

  1. 1. The Progression of Cloud Computing in Further Education Colleges Section 4.3 Disaster Recovery in the Cloud A study based on Cloud Technology projects managed by the Association of Colleges and funded by the Skills Funding Agency - 2012 - 2013 November 2013
  2. 2. Detailed outcomes from Individual Projects 4.3 Disaster Recovery in the Cloud Needs and Opportunities There has always been a need in Colleges for robust disaster recovery services. The challenge of providing on-site or College-owned off-site back-up and disaster recovery provision is increasing. Factors which influence this include the need to back up and recover an increasing amount of data and to maintain critical services. This implies ongoing server and software upgrading/ replacement and increased staff support if handled internally. A further factor is the changing nature of Colleges including increased employer engagement and involvement in federations which include academies and university technical Colleges. This increased business implies greater demands on disaster recovery services. Moving disaster recovery services to the cloud has the potential for increasing capacity as required and sharing management charges with other users. It can also increase the security of data by removing dependence on key internal staff. The Projects Two projects were focused wholly on disaster recovery: South Tyneside College South Tyneside’s key challenge was that one third of their turnover was derived from learners in the Marine Industry located in 73 countries. This added to the disaster recovery requirements in requiring 24/7 support. The campus front-end server is replicated in the cloud. As the project is focused on disaster recovery there hasn’t been any impact yet, other than the theoretical impact that if the College were to have a disaster it would minimize its downtime. South Tyneside use Microsoft Azure for their disaster recovery service. Walsall College Walsall College’s key challenge was to provide robust disaster recovery in a context where their two main buildings were close together and where their responsibilities include 2 academies and a university technical College. Walsall College has integrated public and personal cloud solutions to significantly increase the resilience of their disaster recovery plan. The College is developing a seamless integration between our on-site private cloud and public cloud solutions to reduce server infrastructure replacement costs while maintaining excellent service uptime. By ensuring data integrity and availability in the event of a disaster and by making older data available for future retrieval, all users of Walsall Colleges IT infrastructure could benefit.
  3. 3. A further two projects included a significant disaster recovery activity. Joseph Chamberlain College: This involves the back-up to the cloud, using Redstor, of all of the College’s data systems. (The other part of the project is concerned with the migration of email accounts to the cloud using Microsoft 365.) South Devon College: This initially involves the back-up of some key servers to the cloud and then, if need be, these could be used as an option for disaster recovery. This consisted of installing Assigra software onto one of the College’s virtual servers which was responsible for creating back-ups, deduplication and uploading to the cloud data centre overnight. The second phase involved testing the disaster recovery of these servers by instructing the data centre to power on backed-up servers one by one and for the College to test each one thoroughly to prove they could be used in case of a disaster. (The second part of the project was to set up a remote farm of servers to allow students, teaching staff and remote workers to access all College systems.) 2
  4. 4. Outcomes It should be noted that there is a difference between full disaster recovery and data back-up. Similarities All Colleges were faced with growing and more exacting demands for disaster recovery. South Tyneside College and Walsall College identified challenges and risks with their on-site provision. The facility to release staff and equipment for other applications was a common element. Colleges anticipate significant savings in the region of £20,000 - £70,000. Project and change management was executed smoothly and limited to IT staff. Differences Item Cloud Host South Tyneside Microsoft Azure Security Public / Private Replication of front Cloud end server in the cloud Supplier experiences Agreement with Microsoft took a long time as it was a first in the field Walsall Amazon Glacier Joseph Chamberlain Redstor Emphasis on encryption Integration of on-site and public cloud services Rigorous selection process from many suppliers South Devon Selected systems backed up Straight forward Worked with Deverills as a partner Delivery Models South Tyneside College: This has involved using Microsoft Azure hosting and development services. Virtual machines to host and replicate all College data sets and applications servers have been created. Walsall College: Walsall College has integrated public and personal cloud solutions to significantly increase the resilience of its disaster recovery plan. The College has developed a seamless integration between its on-site private cloud and public cloud solutions to reduce server infrastructure replacement costs while maintaining excellent service uptime. The cloud provider is Amazon Glacier. The College required all data to be encrypted by Walsall College before it was transferred across to the cloud provider. The data is encrypted with a 448-bit data key before transfer and remains encrypted at the data centre until recovery is requested. The data centre is compliant with ISO 27001 and BS 25999. This maintains the College’s ownership of the data as it can only be read with knowledge of these encryption keys. Several software solutions were tested before settling on one that fulfilled these criteria. 3
  5. 5. Joseph Chamberlain College: This has involved the online back-up of College servers to Redstor servers using the Janet link. To achieve this, Redstor agents were installed on the College servers. For the larger servers, the initial back-ups were made to hard drives which were transported to Redstor with subsequent back-ups being online. Daily differential and weekly back-ups of all College servers are taking place. South Devon College: This has involved the College working with partner, Deverills, to achieve back- up in the cloud of College servers. Supplier Relationships South Tyneside College: Microsoft Azure. “Signing up with a cloud provider was significantly harder than anticipated. Whilst it appears relatively straight forward to sign up at commercial rates (i.e. only requirement being a credit card) obtaining an educational discount proved to be a challenge. Neither the resellers we were working with, nor Microsoft themselves, had a clear idea of what was required. Microsoft told us the issues we had were because we were one of the first people to sign up. This is fair enough as one of the purposes of pilots is to find and resolve issues and they do now seem to have now corrected these issues.“ The Microsoft contacts we were working with indicated that as far as they were aware we were the first educational establishment to sign up for an Azure educational contract in the UK. As a result all parties were feeling their way through the process; this resulted in delays resulting from the need to obtain clarification from Microsoft head office in the US on certain points, incorrect paperwork having been submitted etc. As a result, an activity that was expected to be quite simple turned out to be protracted and painful. Microsoft have resolved the paperwork issues encountered. We have signed up for additional cloud contracts with them since and process was very straightforward. I know of other Colleges who’ve done the same without issue.” Walsall College: “We tried a variety of different cloud providers and software solutions to archive Walsall College’s data in the cloud. We settled on Amazon Glacier and have recently completed a complete upload of all important data to the cloud. Evaluation included price/GB and took into account bandwith costs. We have evaluated several cloud solutions including Crash Plan, EduServ, Amazon and Microsoft Azure. Crash Plan and Amazon Glacier were both found to be cost effective. During the course of this project pricing was continually changing and it was difficult to assess a long/medium term cost to storing our data in the cloud. Evaluating costs of different cloud providers can be difficult due to different cost structures (e.g. CPU, Memory, storage, bandwidth and I/O can all be charged in different ways).” An important factor in the supplier decision is the location of the data centre, which should be kept in the EU for legal/access reasons. Walsall’s data on Amazon Glacier are held in Ireland. Joseph Chamberlain College: Working with Redstor has proceeded smoothly. South Devon College: The only significant issue was with the sign-up of a cloud contract. 4
  6. 6. Project and Change Management South Tyneside College: All technical aspects of the project have proceeded well; the major lesson learnt was that the time it took to sign up for a ‘new’ service was significantly longer than expected. Hopefully, given that these issues were the result of the resellers and Microsoft not having procedures in place and having to develop them as we went along, people following us should not encounter these issues! Walsall College: Change management was limited in this project as the College had no current long term archive solution. Joseph Chamberlain College: IT project management for cloud back-up has proceeded smoothly. South Devon College: Most of the changes have been related to internal IT processes and have therefore had limited impact and have only affected IT staff. SLAs South Tyneside College: The main SLA is between the College and Microsoft Azure. Walsall College: The main SLA is between the College and Amazon Glacier. Joseph Chamberlain College: The main SLA is between the College and Redstor. South Devon College: The main SLA is between the College and cloud hosting provider. Impact South Tyneside College: The process and procedures developed during this project have improved the accessibility of disaster recovery provision and should reduce the workload on the team responsible for these systems. This will allow the time that the network service team currently spends monitoring and maintaining these systems to be spent on strategic objectives, such as migration to Office 365. The full impact of this should become evident over the next 9-12 months. At present, student experience is difficult to quantify and is likely to remain so. The systems and procedures developed during this project will come into play in the event of a major disaster or IT failure at the main campus. Should this occur these facilities should ensure that the student experience has the least disruption possible. In addition, the time spent by IT staff maintaining the equipment in the onsite DR room can now be spent supporting students or implementing other projects. Walsall College: By ensuring data integrity and availability in the event of a disaster and by 5
  7. 7. making older data available for future retrieval all users of Walsall Colleges IT infrastructure could benefit. “This project has given us the option to release expensive and required on-site storage to be better utilised for other more business-critical solutions. The changes are transparent to the student but have allowed us to go back further with our archiving and data recovery should the student lose data. We have significantly improved the IT services department’s understanding of public cloud solutions and have enhanced the College’s business continuity plan with the use of cloud solutions.” Joseph Chamberlain College: “Online back-up is working very well. It removes the ‘techie’ aspect that is often associated with managing an in house backup solution that can consist of a number of technical components.” South Devon College: Servers are backed up to the cloud – no local back-up is required and no tape back-up for disaster recovery. The cost of data to the cloud proved to be more expensive than expected. Joseph Chamberlain College: “Online back-up is working very well. It removes the ‘techie’ aspect that is often associated with managing an in house backup solution that can consist of a number of technical components.” South Devon College: Servers are backed up to the cloud – no local back-up is required and no tape back-up for disaster recovery. The cost of data to the cloud proved to be more expensive than expected.ck-up for disaster recovery. The cost of data to the cloud proved to be more expensive than expect. Savings South Tyneside College: “Currently an onsite DR room has been established on the opposite side of the campus from the server room. The current DR equipment will reach the end of its planned life in summer 2013; replacements would cost approximately £70,000. The DR room could also be reused for other purposes.” Walsall College: Future costs savings have been estimated at around £20,000. On the last occasion we refreshed our on-site backup solution we spent approximately £24,000 on hardware plus £6500 on software. With the requirement to increase the amount of time we store back-up data we expected this cost to increase at the next refresh. Our testing and implementation shows Walsall College could save approximately £20,000 on our next back-up refresh by keeping the on-site storage to a minimum and by extending our existing refresh cycle by at least one academic year. This project has given us the option to release expensive and required on-site storage to be better utilised for other more business-critical solutions. The changes are transparent to the student but have allowed us to go back further with our archiving and data recovery should the student lose data. South Devon College: Data costs can accurately be calculated by the hosting company in late Autumn 2013. 6
  8. 8. Sustainability and Expected Longer Term Impact South Tyneside College: Perceived concerns over use of the cloud within the College have been reduced; this has helped pave the way for the adoption of other cloud services. Walsall College: The project has shown that the use of the cloud for hosting services which will be primarily accessed via the LAN is feasible and practical. Concerns in relation to latency and bandwidth which were raised by some staff have proven to be unfounded. Joseph Chamberlain College and South Devon College: Smooth operation of these two projects indicates future sustainability now that cloud-based back-up solutions have been implemented. Replicablity for the Wider FE Sector South Tyneside College: The development process used is replicable for any College wishing to migrate data and applications servers to Microsoft Azure. South Tyneside College also produced a guide to dissaster recovery for the AoC entitled ‘Utilising the Cloud for Disaster Recovery’ www.aoc.co.uk/cloud_computing/case_studies Walsall College: The approach is replicable for College federations wishing to use Amazon Glacier. The encryption approach should be considered by all Colleges who are backing up sensitive information in the cloud. Joseph Chamberlain College: The approach is replicable for single Colleges wishing to implement a Redstor solution. 7
  9. 9. With thanks to all project partners who contributed to the development of this report and consultant Chris West The Association of Colleges 2013 2-5 Stedham Place, London, WC1A 1HU Tel: 020 7034 9900 Fax: 020 7034 9955 Email: projects@aoc.co.uk website: www.aoc.co.uk

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