Superior healthcare, outstanding research, excellent teaching — these are the hallmarks of Leipzig University Hospital (UKL). As one of two maximum- care hospitals in Saxony, UKL plays a vital role in outpatient and inpatient care in the region. The medical campus has around 60 clinics, departments and institutes that cover almost all medical services at the university level.
UKL has one of the most modern medical technology infrastructures in Europe. Minimally invasive surgical techniques, computer-assisted surgical planning and execution and optimal interdisciplinary networking of the individual areas of specialization open up entirely new possibilities for patient care. In 2021, UKL opened the first center for robot-assisted and navigated surgery in Saxony.
To drive digital innovations in different areas, UKL needs powerful IT resources. Using two redundant data centers, the IT department operates more than 1,200 virtual machines in the background in a VMware vSphere environment. A stretched cluster architecture based on VMware vSAN continuously synchronizes data between the two data centers and can enable fast failover in the event of a site outage.
The ever-growing digitalization of clinical processes and the enormous growth in the volume of data has also significantly increased the demands on the availability of the IT systems. Ensuring optimal patient care requires that all important systems be available on a 24/7 basis. Only then can UKL make sure that vital treatments and operations are carried out as planned.
“For some time, one of the major challenges we faced was backing up the virtualized IT systems,” reports Stephan Liebner, system administrator at UKL. “The backup product we had been using up to that point was no longer able to meet our requirements in terms of usability and reliability. Time and again, data backups failed or could not be completed within the scheduled timeframe. In addition, restoring critical systems or individual application objects often took several hours.” The IT department therefore set out to find a modern and future-proof solution for backing up the data.
After extensive field testing, the IT team decided to employ Veeam Data Platform. “We realized that the Veeam solution is very easy to use and is completely reliable, even in a large, virtualized environment like ours,” says Liebner. “Backups run more than twice as fast as before — and we can restore even very large virtual machines in minutes if needed.”
To become familiar with Veeam Data Platform’s features, the IT staff required no training. Even those with little exposure to the topic of backups, such as the benefits of immutability to protect against ransomware, were able to work with the solution right away. The IT team was also able to plan and implement the solution on its own. “Veeam’s intuitive user guidance and excellent documentation really made it easier for us to get started. As a result, we’ve had to call on technical support only on rare occasions,” says Liebner.
Today, UKL backs up all of the virtual machines to two large scale-out backup repositories based on Fujitsu PRIMERGY servers, thus benefitting from streamlined horizontal scalability. When storage capacity becomes scarce, the IT team can add additional resources with little effort. Because expansions are largely automated, the backup infrastructure can easily keep pace with the growth of virtualized IT resources.
“Our IT environment is developing very dynamically — and every year we add around 100 virtual machines,” explains Liebner. “It’s reassuring to know that we don’t have to worry about data backup. New services are immediately integrated into the backup concept and are always available to our employees and patients from that point on.”
Long downtimes and data loss are unacceptable, especially for important digital processes in clinical areas. Whether in cardiology, radiology or the laboratory, employees need around-the-clock access to all relevant applications and data to provide optimal patient care. “If certain IT systems are not available in the area of nuclear medicine for example, radiation treatments might have to be postponed,” says Liebner. “With Veeam, we make sure that doesn’t happen.”
The IT team can restart failed virtual machines directly from the backup using Veeam’s Instant VM Recovery® technology. The affected application is available again within minutes and the respective clinical process can continue.
Today, UKL also saves valuable time when restoring individual application objects. IT staff use Veeam Explorer™ to restore objects such as e-mails, inboxes or files with just a few clicks. “We recently used Veeam Explorer for Microsoft SQL Server to restore an SQL database for our internal data warehouse to the point in time at which a specific transaction occurred,” Liebner reports. “This granularity is hugely important in safeguarding the increasingly data-driven processes in our organization and for supporting tasks such as accurate evaluations of bed occupancy.”
Based on its positive experience with Veeam, the IT team has expanded the solution to the hospital’s NAS system. A part of the unstructured data is now backed up with Veeam Data Platform — from high-resolution radiology images used in clinical diagnostics, to office documents used for generating invoices. “Here we also benefit from the nearly unlimited scalability of the Veeam solution,” emphasizes Liebner.
In order to protect the backed-up data even better against cyber risks, UKL wants to rely on hardened backup repositories in the future. “We can now use Veeam to specify that backup data cannot be changed or deleted for a certain period of time,” says Liebner. “This immutability provides great protection against unauthorized access and ransomware attacks and can help us take patient data security to the next level.”