The University Hospital of Würzburg (UKW) looks back on over 400 years of history and is one of the oldest university hospitals in Germany. As a maximum care hospital, it provides important health services for a region with more than one million inhabitants. In addition, some of the treatment methods offered there have a nationwide, sometimes even a worldwide appeal.
The UKW has 1,400 beds and 6,300 employees, who treat over 70,000 inpatients and more than 260,000 outpatients every year. Thanks to the close cooperation with the Medical Faculty of the Julius-Maximilians-University of Würzburg, the research carried out at the UKW boasts an international standard. In interdisciplinary centers such as the German Center for Heart Failure and the Comprehensive Cancer Center, scientists and physicians work together on groundbreaking projects.
Excellence in research and medicine today can only be achieved with the support of state-of-the-art technologies. “Digital progress has an enormous impact on our working environment,” says Andreas Störlein, system administrator at the UKW. “Most processes, from patient admission to treatment and care to billing, are no longer conceivable without IT support. In the worst case, if central systems were to fail, critical examinations and operations would have to be postponed.”
Therefore, the IT team of the university hospital is required to ensure the continuous availability of digital applications and data. Statutory requirements have also become stricter in recent years. The UKW is a hospital that offers the highest level of care available in Germany and has therefore been classified as an operator of critical infrastructure (KRITIS). For this reason, the institution must prove, among other things, that its IT systems are adequately protected against failures and cyber-attacks.
However, with the solutions used to date, the IT organization had been finding it increasingly difficult to meet the new requirements. “Our previous backup software required a great deal of maintenance and administration, and was also not designed to secure virtual workloads,” says Andreas Störlein. “We were therefore looking for a new solution, a true data management solution, with which we could backup and restore all important systems in compliance with the law. It was also important for us that the solution was easy to use and could keep pace with our enormous data growth.”
The UKW decided to deploy Veeam® Availability Suite™. “The decisive factors in this decision was the good interaction with VMware vSphere, the user friendliness and the excellent price-performance ratio,” says Störlein. “In the past, we would have needed expensive add-on modules for functions such as the granular recovery of application objects. With Veeam, these functions are integrated ‘out of the box’”.
The new platform helped the IT organization to further increase the level of virtualization of the infrastructure and reach a new level of virtual resource availability. With Veeam, the UKW now ensures that 650 virtual servers and over 700 virtual desktops are reliably available around the clock. With the new solution, the IT team is securing a total data volume of over 900 terabytes.
One of the most important benefits of Veeam for the UKW is the significantly faster recovery of resources. With Instant VM Recovery®, failed virtual machines can be restarted directly from the backup. “In everyday hospital life, there are often situations when every minute counts,” explains Andreas Störlein. “If, for example, the control computers of our sterilizers failed, we would no longer be able to provide freshly sterilized surgical instruments. With Veeam, we are able to restore important systems for examinations and treatments within minutes.”
The new platform also makes it possible to quickly restore individual application objects such as e-mails or files. The UKW uses Veeam Explorers for Microsoft applications such as SharePoint, Exchange and SQL Server – and this already at the first support level. Thanks to Veeam’s delegated rights management, helpdesk employees can restore e-mails of UKW employees on their own, even though they themselves do not have administrator rights for the exchange servers. This model significantly accelerates user support and relieves the staff responsible for managing the infrastructure.
Today the Veeam solution also helps the UKW to comply with the legal requirements as a KRITIS operator. The IT department uses the SureBackup® function of the Veeam Availability Suite to continuously check the actual recoverability of the backedup resources. Virtual machines are automatically started in an isolated sandbox environment and all relevant functions are tested. “SureBackup then sends us the test results by e-mail,” explains Andreas Störlein. “We send these reports to the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), thus proving that we can restore our IT systems at any time in the event of an emergency.”
In order to comply with legal storage regulations, the UKW backs up all data first to disk and then again to tape. Today, tape archiving is also integrated into the Veeam solution. For example, it is possible to restore backed up virtual machines directly from tape in the primary environment – without time-consuming intermediate steps. The availability strategy that entails storing data on different storage media also serves as a protection against ransomware attacks.
After the positive experiences in the virtual world, the UKW now also relies on Veeam for securing physical servers. With Veeam Agents for Microsoft Windows and Linux, the IT organization ensures the availability of around 100 different systems – including many critical workloads such as domain controllers, file servers and SAP application servers. “If a hardware component fails, Veeam enables a very fast bare metal restore,” explains Andreas Störlein. “We simply fetch a new server from the shelf and can put the system back into operation in the shortest possible time. We have thus further improved the operational security of our environment”.
As for the future, the UKW wants to secure its SAP environment with Veeam. The IT organization as already successfully tested the new Veeam Plug-in for SAP HANA. UKW’s medium-term goal is to integrate the SAP-based hospital information system with all digital patient data into the overall availability concept.
The University Hospital of Würzburg (UKW) is a maximum care hospital with around 1,400 beds. The facility comprises 19 clinics with polyclinics, three independent polyclinics and four clinical institutes. 6,300 employees treat over 70,000 inpatients and more than 260,000 outpatients every year.
Due to the digitalization of workflows, but also due to new legal requirements, the requirements for IT availability in the UKW have increased considerably. Therefore, those responsible started looking for an easy-to-manage solution to ensure uninterrupted access to applications and data.