The City of Fremantle’s current IT priority is to move to a digital workflow, so staff can access any data in any City application, on any device. According to Joel Hurst, Manager of Information Technology, “A lot of paper comes through the door and most of it is in the form of documentation pertaining to properties or council premises. To me, true data availability is the ability to easily reference this information at anytime from anywhere.”
The City Council also needs to meet strict compliance requirements around data permanence. Different types of information is categorised using multiple retention periods — some mandating retention for a number of years, while others must be maintained forever.
But to the City of Fremantle, there is more at stake than just adhering to standards. Home to Western Australia’s first permanent settlement, the City holds some records that go back over 100 years, the loss of which would be ‘catastrophic’, according to Hurst.
“There are plans for a lot of very old buildings, some of them Heritage listed,” he says. “Original plans and deeds of title for those buildings had to be digitised and stored online because the hard copies were deteriorating. In some cases they’ve fallen completely apart, so the digital copies are the only ones that exist. If we lose those copies we’d never be able to get those plans back.”
Prior to adopting Veeam software, the City of Fremantle used a legacy solution which was inherently unreliable. “It didn’t do what we needed,” Hurst says, “we had no confidence that our backup copies would be there when we really need them.”
Overnight backups would often fail, meaning Hurst’s team had to conduct backups throughout the business day just to catch up. “It had a huge impact on our production environment because business application performance would slow to a crawl while backup jobs were running.”
“And when we couldn’t recover critical data for our staff members who may have accidentally deleted or lost files, it could delay time sensitive projects and often result in the loss of many man-hours of work.”
Veeam® Availability Suite™ provided an end to end solution for the City of Fremantle that assured ongoing agility. Veeam was able to apply and secure the software architecture to the existing hardware environment the City Council is using. In fact, when new storage was put on tender later, there was a mandatory requirement for integration with Veeam. The council decided on NetApp FAS2554 and All-Flash FAS AFF8040. As the council recognised, Veeam® and NetApp’s experience dealing with growing data volumes, more devices and applications and the growth of hybrid cloud strategies means a consistently simplified IT environment.
The City of Fremantle now relies on NetApp FAS and All-Flash FAS to manage, move and protect their critical applications and data. Veeam® Availability Suite™, directly integrates with NetApp ONTAP, the operating system of NetApp FAS environments, to provide increased levels of backup and DR automation for the City of Fremantle. Additionally, the City’s IT staff rely on Veeam ONE™ to monitor the health of virtualized workloads across the enterprise and enables them to proactively respond to the needs of the business.
The outcome is an improved interface layer between the hardware and data, so access to the information is seamlessly shared, managed and protected. NetApp tools make it easy to deploy software architectures into cloud environments, and when put together with the Veeam platform, the council saw improvements in the performance, protection and availability of data and applications.
Hurst believes the strongest improvements the Veeam and NetApp deployment have made on City of Fremantle’s data availability needs have been simplicity and reliability.
With staff now freed from scrambling to keep up with failed backups, they are able to work on more strategic projects that promote the innovation and digitalisation the City is looking for. A state of the art administration building is under construction, and the IT department needs to dedicate its efforts to systems development more than ever.
“The old method took a system administrator at least two to three hours a day just to verify the backups had worked,” he laments. “If they hadn’t it’d be another three or four hours re-running them, so more often than not it took one full time employee a whole day just maintaining the back-up requirement, that’s a manpower cost of around AUD300 per day.”
As Hurst has found, Veeam’s® integration with ONTAP deploys several tools that have contributed to the new way of working. Backup and DR orchestration have increased the council’s ROI by enabling application development, data analytics, proactive testing and more.
And when disaster struck, it was even worse. About three years ago when using its legacy backup and disaster recovery platform, the City of Fremantle found itself attacked by malware that infected the core file system. The recovery procedures specified that the system be shut down and the previous clean back-up reinstalled, but because of backup failures, the most recent copy of the file system was not complete.
“The newest copy we had was about three days old, so we lost three days of data by recovering the file system,” Hurst remarks. “We had four people working round the clock for about four days manually removing the malware and cleaning up the file system. It was very time consuming and I had to pay external contractors to assist my team.” The operation was a success, but Hurst describes it as being ‘quite painful’.
“With Veeam, I know we’re taking incremental back-up every hour, and full backups are being done once day over three hours in off-peak period, so the worst possible outcome is I’ll lose three hours’ worth of data, and the restore time is so fast I can reinstall core systems within an hour.”
The City of Fremantle is one of the oldest local government areas in Western Australia, dating back to 1848 with the formation of a town trust to facilitate the construction of roads and public buildings. With just over 450 employees, it serves an area of metropolitan Perth that encloses 19 square kilometres and is home to almost 29,000 residents.
With records dating back to the time of Federation in 1901, the oldest paper-based plans, deeds and other documents are in danger of being lost forever. Digitisation will ensure the legacy of Fremantle’s heritage, and as new documentation joins the old in digital form it will enable council staff to access and work on records at any time and from any location globally.