From Tape Robots to backups in Azure Cloud

Catholic Education South Australia (CESA) have been working with Blue Crystal Solutions in a variety of ways for over 15 years, with initial engagement surrounding the management of the on-premises databases. Previously, CESA’s data moved from disk to tape. This tape was stored in large tape libraries which required the development and maintenance of database robots. When a specific tape needed to be checked, replaced, or moved, the tape robot would find and retrieve the specific tape from the library.
tape robots azure cloud tape backups

CESA represents 103 Catholic Schools across the state educating approximately 48,000 students with over 8,500 staff. CESA’s mission is to provide quality education for young people within a catholic context. The organisation acts as a centre for Catholic school within SA.

CESA have been working with Blue Crystal Solutions in a variety of ways for over 15 years, with initial engagement surrounding the management of the on-premises databases. Previously, CESA’s data moved from disk to tape. This tape was stored in large tape libraries which required the development and maintenance of database robots. When a specific tape needed to be checked, replaced, or moved, the robot would find and retrieve the specific tape from the library. At the time, this “tape robot” was considering leading edge tech that drastically reduced the time taken to manage these tapes.

The Tape Robot Challenge

Fast forward a few years where there was a routine internal review conducted of CESA’s existing infrastructure.

Their current setup which was still effective, was now not as efficient. It had over time, begun to pose a number of risks such as when managing the transport their tapes in and out of secure storage, lost or damaged tapes was a constant. It required ongoing physical management of their tapes, escalating costs for tapes and their storage, degradation of aging tapes, and replacement of the actual tape robots when they came to end of life. There was also manual intervention at several points in the process. The tapes were managed via the robot which requires regular manual intervention as tapes are swapped. This robot also had failures which made getting access to specific tapes much harder. The maintenance of the tape library was also costly.

CESA was seeking a new solution that would improve efficiencies and asked Blue Crystal Solutions to investigate and if reasonable, implement a full Azure cloud backup solution. Knowing that technology is continuously evolving, CESA decided to test the market to ensure they were receiving innovative and competitive services and wanted to check this was still the case with their current method of database management.

 

Implementing A Tranformative Azure Cloud Backup Solution

From this internal review and an assessment of latest technology benefits, a move to cloud was deemed the next logical step in their business plan. Blue Crystal Solutions’ capability in delivering these services, coupled with their intimate understanding of CESA’s history, current landscape and future goals, selecting Blue Crystal Solutions to deliver this next curve of IT transformation was an easy decision.

Blue Crystal Solutions was able to migrate the traditional tape robot backup environment to a full Azure cloud backup solution in July 2021. The first stage of this was to create and develop the container. A container is a technical package of software that contain all of the necessary to run in any environment, in this case, subject to CESA’s needs. The following stage was developing the backup tool, this being the location in which the files can be stored and is in itself, the cloud backup. The final stage was configuring the backups, from disk to tape (what CESA was doing initially), to disk to cloud. With the plan to move to a public cloud, means CESA would no longer need their own hard or software; zero infrastructure maintenance costs; unlimited scalability; high reliability and resource flexibility.

"Blue Crystal Solutions are a reliable partner keen to ensure they deliver value to our business; they listen to our needs and challenge and advise us during the forming stages of new strategies. If they say they can do something, I have confidence they can do it”
Phil Proctor
CIO, CESA

Enjoying the Business Benefits of Azure Cloud Backups

This shift has resulted in multiple benefits for CESA, predominantly in reducing storage costs, replacing and recovering data from unreadable tapes, and no longer needing to worry about failing robots. CESA has a storing policy of 100 years, which means all data stored must remain accessible, and only after this time can they proceed to delete data. No longer needing such a large storage facility meant “real estate” costs where significantly reduced.

There are also operational efficiencies, resource hours from Blue Crystal Solutions can now be directed towards value add rather than manual handling of tapes. CESA can now easily navigate backups with an instant recall – significantly reducing turnaround times which had previously been 1- 3 days. The shift to cloud has modernised and brought CESA to the forefront of business management capabilities. This greater efficiency of business management systems will have flow on effects to the rest of the organisation and allow for CESA to operate more effectively.

Additional benefits included reduced reliance on and ongoing maintenance effort and costs relating to physical infrastructure (tapes management, tape library hardware support) and allowed flexible and cost effective management of backup data. Archive-tier and de-dup support allowed to reduce cost even further. 

This solutions also saved Client from having to purchase and provision new Tape Library as replacement of the old one which reached EOL. As a result the customer has since enjoyed the following cost savings: 

  • Refresh of tape library infrastructure not required (purchase of the HP Tape Library was $54K in 2012).  
  • Annual support on tape library hardware not required ($17K/year). 
  • Tape consumables no longer required, and with an estimated usage of new backup tapes each year of $7K, this expense is also no longer required.  
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Blue Crystal Solutions: your trusted & innovative IT partner.

Australian owned and operated since 2004, we provide information technology services locally, nationally and beyond.

We are a specialised supplier of Cloud, Application, Database & Infrastructure, Operating System Management, Modernisation and Transformation services. With security at the forefront of everything we do, all your services are fortified by our integrated outage protection  and monitoring tool, BlueDiamond

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