Data has become integral to life at James Cook University for students and staff alike. Students, both on campus and online, can access over 129,000 hours of recorded lectures and other video materials, with over 730,000 logged views. As Head of James Cook University’s ICT Infrastructure Services Swain Kirk said, “Our data is exploding like never before.
With several campuses and locations across Australia and overseas as well as students connecting from across the world, all the university’s content, from course materials to email and documents, needs to be available all the time.
Data availability was the top priority on Kirk’s team agenda. “We looked at our backup environment and realized the capacity around the legacy system licensing deal constrained us,” he said. “It wasn’t going to be able to support our growth, which is in the order of terabytes weekly.”
The University discovered not only that there were constraints around its existing service licensing, but it was also costing even more time (and therefore money) because the ICT team had to change to suit the legacy backup and recovery system rather than the other way around. Every time the needs of the ICT team met the limits of the old environment, it required an expensive and cumbersome rework of backup policies.
“Prior to Veeam, we were spending a few hours every week trying to fix our backup issues. Due to the licensing model, we were not able to back up the entire workload, which left a large portion of our workloads not being protected.”
In addition, James Cook University uses Office 365 for staff and students. The University needed a solution that could not only improve data management within their data centres, but also cover critical business data stored and operating within Microsoft’s Office 365 SaaS. As such, the University is running a pilot of Veeam for Office 365 backup on high value assets.
When James Cook University opened its tender process, it decided to choose a partner and a product that moved with, and adhered to, its needs as they grew, rather than the other way around.
With content residing on all types of systems from traditional physical servers to cloud services such as Office 365, integration was crucial for JCU as the University believes that backup and replication are the engines that drive availability. “It’s not just about backup,” Kirk said, “It’s easy to back up, but it’s the ability to restore data in an efficient manner that counts.”
Veeam’s Availability Platform offered JCU a solution that it could count on. Following a proof of concept, Veeam was introduced into the environment and immediately reflected “a fantastic outcome of 100% reliability of backups”.
Veeam’s ease of use and simplicity has been a huge positive for Kirk and his ICT team. “We selected Veeam because of its simplicity,” he said. “It was a very easy platform to move to.” The University was able to transition in a seamless manner, replicating their legacy backup environment directly into Veeam Availability Platform. “We ran in parallel for three months and had no regrets about turning the old one off,” he added.
Now, Kirk says policies drive the backups according to their needs; backup and recovery evolves with JCU’s growth and any necessary changes can be made with greater efficiency than ever.
As he points out, the University’s backup completion rates have gone from 96 or 97 percent under their old provider to 100 percent with Veeam. “We don’t have to babysit the backup solution any more. We have that peace of mind.”
Kirk also points out that Veeam Backup for Office 365 can potentially help the University protect everything stored within SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, and even Microsoft Teams. “Knowing Office 365 data is protected and backed up by the same availability solution would certainly assure us of backup consistency, and keeping the valuable information in faculty emails, documents and conversations accessible and under our control.”
As the University’s data needs grow, backup and recovery can serve another vital purpose – development and testing. With complete and up-to-the-instant copies of all the data, Kirk and his team can continue to innovate on secondary datasets without disrupting the live workloads of the University.
Backup availability and reliability at JCU is now 100%, based on a comprehensive internal audit
“There is a difference between 97 or 98% reliability or availability and 100% availability. We have a fleet of around 1200 VMs, so if you take 2% of that failing, that’s a considerable number,” Kirk said.
Up to 12 hours of time savings per month for internal ICT team
“Prior to Veeam, we were spending a few hours every week trying to fix our backup issues. With Veeam, we don’t have to babysit the backup solution anymore,” Kirk said.
Mitigates risk of Office 365 data loss
“Knowing Office 365 data is protected and backed up by the same availability solution would certainly assure us of backup consistency, keeping the valuable information in faculty emails, documents and conversations accessible and under our control,” Kirk said.
Headquartered in North Queensland with campuses throughout the state and overseas, James Cook University (JCU) is ranked among the top two percent of the world’s tertiary education institutions. With over 21,000 students, it is located at the crossroads of some of Australia’s most important and spectacular ecosystems and with a focus on intensive research, the university is an internationally recognised leader in fields like marine science, biodiversity and remote health care.
James Cook University has been battling the issue of data explosion. Across the university, the ICT team supports three major data centres, in Townsville, Cairns and Singapore, hosting over a thousand VMs and over 350 TBs of data. Students require access to their data anywhere and anytime, so the university needs to be able to provide both local and remote students with the latest in digital connectivity technology in order to facilitate their learning and prepare them for an increasingly globalised and digitised workforce.