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Solent University’s IT estate has evolved in recent years to both keep pace with emerging teaching methods and technological developments. As is often the case, however, integrating new and old technologies can be problematic.
“Since joining the team in 2013 I’ve seen many changes to the technologies we use and how we use them,” said Damien Sambrook, Solent University ICT Infrastructure Manager. “A recent migration to a Hyper V platform and ongoing plans to fully migrate to Windows 10 highlighted security issues that we needed to address.
“Despite a recent upgrade and extensive input from the incumbent vendors to try and improve how they integrated with the upgraded infrastructure; it became increasingly clear that we needed an alternative solution to our existing backup and Disaster recovery (DR) technologies. We wanted a simpler, faster and more efficient solution.”
The onset of the Coronavirus Pandemic brought things into even sharper focus. “As we approached the lockdown, we knew there would be increased demand for our services and a surge in threats from external sources. Analysts were predicting an acceleration in phishing attempts and ransomware attacks; we also wanted to ensure that our systems would not expose us to the risk of GDPR non-compliance. We therefore wanted to move quickly to protect our vital IT assets with a robust, long-term fix,” said Damien
Critical Success Factors
· Overcome infrastructure/software non-compatibility issues
· Enhance DR capabilities
· Implement solution within demanding timescale
The existing method involved manually performing ‘non-native’ backups of individual data sets. This increased the potential for errors as databases had to be individually copied to a second location and backed up separately. In addition to security concerns, due to the potential for unsecured access to the information contained in the dataset, the process took from between four to eight hours to complete – time that a relatively small IT team could have used much more effectively elsewhere.
“We’ve worked with Solent on a number of different projects in recent years,” said Nick Goulding, Higher Education Client Manager at Softcat. “Over that time, we’ve really got to know Damien and the team. It meant we had a good understanding of their requirements and exactly what technologies were needed. After a collaborative assessment of available technologies alongside trusted provider Rubrik, it became clear that its Cloud Data Management Platform leveraging Microsoft Azure would be ideal. It would fulfil all of Solent’s specific backup, DR and security requirements, ensure GDPR compliance and deliver significant efficiency and cost savings going forward.”
“Once we’d identified the right solution, the project moved at a phenomenal pace,” said Damien. “Softcat and Rubrik were both really hands on. Rubrik delivered clear analysis to illustrate how its solution would provide the security we needed. That analysis contained everything we needed to know about the costs, benefits and support package available, as well as how the solution could be tweaked to perfectly match Solent’s specific requirements.”
“Helping clients make a strong business case and rapidly access the technologies they need through a trusted third party is part of Softcat’s value add,” said Nick “Our high-ranking position within the sector’s purchasing framework enables Softcat to negotiate favourable financing terms with leading providers. It also illustrates to clients that we possess the extensive industry knowledge needed to rapidly source fit-for-purpose solutions capable of enhancing IT services.”
“Once we’d agreed on what was needed, Softcat worked closely with Rubrik to organise the implementation schedule,” said Damien. “By now, the date for lockdown across the UK had been confirmed and we were concerned that this might delay the project. However, both teams pulled out all the stops to get the job done and it was completed within just two days! A Rubrik specialist was on site for two and a half hours and then all the critical configuration and optimisation work was completed remotely. Given the situation we were in, it was an incredible turnaround and shows what can be done even in the most extreme of situations. The solution was fully operational by mid-April!”
· Rapid identification of fit-for-purpose technologies
· Cost-effective, upfront financial model arranged
· Rapid solution implementation
Critical backup operations are now performed automatically, helping to free up valuable IT team resources for other important tasks and eliminating the potential for errors, security breaches and downtime associated with manual operations.
Performing Cloud Native backups automatically encrypts all data and produces immutable records that assist GDPR compliance, as well as improving application uptime. As predicted, the Coronavirus Pandemic has generated a noticeable increase in Phishing attempts and other cyber threats, yet the in-built ransomware recovery assurance element of Rubrik’s solution ensures such risks are minimised.
“Backups that could potentially take up to a day to achieve with our old system are now completed, secured and available to restore, if required within a couple of hours,” said Damien. “It’s given the team back half a day a week, allowing us to focus on other vital tasks and explore alternative ways of working.
“As we emerge from Lockdown and return to whatever the ‘new normal’ will be, we’re convinced that the cloud-based elements of the solution have helped future-proof Solent’s IT service provision. It’s enabled us to extract more value out of our existing infrastructure, rationalise our datacentre provision and leverage long-term productivity gains that will help a small team achieve even more with less as we continue our transformation journey.”
The financial benefits of the solution are far from insignificant too. Rubrik offered an up-front financing deal projected over a five-year period that would deliver a 14% improvement in Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) in comparison to the old solution. When factored alongside the expected improvements in productivity and infrastructure rationalisation it has enabled, Solent expects to achieve overall savings of around £70,000 over the lifetime of the agreement. Furthermore, the Rubrik GO solution that Solent have adopted will provide the university with access to “evergreen hardware”, via the product refreshes and predictable renewals made available within the subscription-based program.
“Throughout the project, we’ve had great working relationship with both Softcat and Rubrik,” said Damien. “All support requests are responded to quickly and efficiently and we’re confident that should we need them as we enter a challenging time for the sector they’ll be there. This pandemic has made every educational institution reassess how they do things and what teaching will look like going forward. While we can’t completely eliminate risk in the university environment – there are just too many potential vectors for malicious cyber-attack – we now have totally resilient DR capabilities and the robust protection we need to securely provide IT services, however learning is delivered.”
Benefits at a glance
· Enhanced data security through automatic encryption, backup and DR functionality
· Future-proofed IT service provision and eliminated risk of GDPR non-compliance
· 14% reduction in TCO and overall savings of £70,000
· Adoption of Rubrik GO, enabling automatic access to the latest technologies, future-proofing for cloud and lower upfront costs
“The longstanding, productive relationship we’ve built up over multiple projects involving Softcat during the last six years was a powerful driver when it came to our choice of technology partner. We trust Softcat to deliver on its promises and its high ranking on university procurement frameworks massively reduces the complexity associated with sourcing the right technologies at the right price,” said Damien.
“We knew that choosing Softcat would eliminate a host of time-consuming research and groundwork that a small team like ours really can’t afford to provide. Procuring this solution within a bespoke framework helped reduce overall costs, massively accelerated the implementation schedule – during a global pandemic – and has enabled Solent to secure a cost-effective solution.”