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Study Group

Veeam Helps Online Education Provider Turn Disaster Recovery On Its Head

Company:

Study Group is a global leader in preparing students for international academic success and rewarding careers through a transformational learning experience. The colleges teach customised programs across higher, language and online education starting from high school to life-long learning. Over 73,000 students from 145 countries were enrolled in their courses in 2015.

Challenge:

Study Group was established in 1994 in the UK and now has 80 campuses and 30 international offices. Three data centres in Las Vegas, London and Sydney have enabled the group to centralise its services and applications, and made it agile in terms of capability. The biggest challenge has been implementing a practical backup and disaster recovery strategy in a global virtualised environment.

Results:

  • The simplicity of disaster recovery
  • 100 percent increase in disaster recovery capability
  • Delivers continual 24.7.365 availability of data
  • Significant ROI of 45% and cost savings

The Business Challenge

Today’s businesses operate on a global stage and are impacted by global and political forces. These influences are felt uniquely in the international education market. Study Group works with education institutions across the world to expand their reach. This is a competitive market as international students are increasingly looking for quality programs for academic success, which will enable them to develop career skills that will help them fulfil their career ambitions.

Global changes in the education sector can have a dramatic impact for students and education institutions. The ability for these institutions to be dynamic and flexible is of upmost importance.

For Study Group, a logical decision was taken five years ago to fully virtualise their technology environment. The business realised their legacy backup system was no longer supporting their ever-growing business needs. In a highly competitive market with increasing globalisation, in order to stay ahead of the curve, the company needed to transform their business and look into modern technologies. The decision to virtualise was important to give the business flexibility in how it would deal with the peaks in troughs in student enrolment across the globe. A hub and spoke approach was decided upon. Study Group’s data centre infrastructure is now shared across three global data centres in London, Las Vegas and Sydney.

“The idea behind centralising our global services and applications was that we could then easily increase the load in one region to cater for fluctuations in demand,” said Andrew Christensen, Senior Systems Engineer, Global Data Centres for Study Group.

“The hub and spoke concept in a virtualised environment allows us to adapt very quickly. We get better value for our space and better value for our energy consumption. Increased data usage is almost an inconsequential thing.”

The virtualised concept of the three hubs is based on VMware vSphere. With the addition of the Veeam Availability Suite into the environment, the capability for one-click disaster recovery and availability has been achieved.

“Getting a disaster recovery process in place was our first challenge that we needed to address and Veeam was the forerunner for that,” Christensen said.

The Veeam Solution

Veeam® Availability Suite™ ticked all the boxes for Study Group. The straight-forwardness of the suite enabled the company to move to a robust, disaster-proof environment, which was also simple to manage.

The project started about a year ago and deployment into some sites is ongoing. The Las Vegas data centre, which is considered the largest global hub, was switched to Veeam first. “We’ve got a lot of data there, a lot of applications based in Vegas. We installed it there with a view to replicate all that data and all our backups of our recovery functions to our Sydney data centre.”

Prior to the implementation of Veeam, disaster recovery was a very manual process for Study Group. The company was reliant on individual members of the IT team’s intimate knowledge of the environment and where individual backups were located.

Large-scale tape drives were a predominate figure in the group’s disaster recovery process. High costs and a high allocation of manpower was a big factor in the move to a more modern disaster recovery system for Study Group.

“We are getting more bang for our buck with Veeam, we don’t need to invest further in our older solutions which weren’t optimised for our virtualised environment. Resourcing too has been a break-even affair. So in theory, based on our initial spend for the project, we’re thinking in a couple of years it will have paid for itself. Moving forward that is money in the bank.”

Examining what Veeam has meant for the business, Christensen says the increased levels of availability and protection has added the most value. The reduction in effort and hours put in by the IT infrastructure team has also been very important.

“I am very much happier having a one-click, or at least very close to it, or a single pane of glass solution. It has a nice interface, something that we know works and we are familiar with globally. The standardisation has also made life easier”.

“We can shift experience into an environment where it’s needed very simply and easily. This extends to when IT staff take leave, they can be backfilled and covered.”

On a day-to-day basis, the workload for the IT staff at Study Group has shifted since the Veeam rollout. The infrastructure team has been freed up to work on other projects. “The time that we’ve had freed up has made us a lot more effective on each project that we do take on. That’s giving us better results as a whole.”

The experience of deploying Veeam has instilled a rigor in terms of documentation and policy in the IT area, which has been leveraged heavily in recent projects. Going through the steps of deciding how the software would be used, how data was going to be managed and which software would be protected put a realistic significance on what data needs to be retained.

“Getting all our T’s crossed and our I’s dotted and making sure we are certified and protected and had good policies is front of mind. I wouldn’t have attempted to undertake a number of projects on the boil right now without the protection and availability we get from Veeam. It has made us a more robust company, made us more adaptable and resilient to challenges,” Christensen added.

The Results

  • The simplicity of disaster recovery
    Study Group has conducted a hypothetical case study on typical recovery time since the rollout of Veeam. The simulation examined how the business could get back online if the Las Vegas data centre was brought down. “It was quite an eye-opener. Previously we were thinking somewhere in the range of 3-4 days to complete a recovery properly. With Veeam we’re probably going to lose, at the most, about an hour’s worth of data, and that is the worst case scenario.” Christensen said the ability to recover next to instantly is feasible. “The order of magnitude is faster and the simplicity involved is amazing.”
  • 100 percent increase in disaster recovery capability
    Prior to Veeam, Study Group had a less formal and more manual disaster recovery process. Improved coverage from a backup point of view stands at about an 80% increase, whilst the bottom line on IT spend on backup, disaster recovery and replication has been reduced by 11%. Improvement in other areas of the IT infrastructure are now being made as manpower can now be redirected from disaster recovery efforts.
  • Delivers continual 24.7.365 availability of data
    Availability in Christensen’s business is about being able to recover data and continue to do business. “The corporate business needs to work on systems with very limited downtime. This is what we’re trying to achieve with availability as a whole, limiting the amount of time when earning potential is hampered.”
  • Significant ROI of 45% and cost savings
    Since the rollout, the business has seen a 60% reduction in the cost of the retention of data and storage. Application development costs have been reduced by an estimated 15% and spending on hardware has reduced by 10%. “Shifting away from the legacy storage methods such as tape, portable USB hard drives and manually copying data to dedicated SAN devices for backups and protection has definitely changed our storage requirements. Our SAN storage requirement has increased, yet what we’re achieving with that storage is exponentially greater and dramatically of better value,” Christensen said. “We’re thinking that we’ve got a rough return on investment of about 45% on an annual basis from the Veeam project.”
Study Group
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