Queensland Airports looks to cloud for DR

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Queensland Airports looks to cloud for DR

Takes disaster recovery off-site.

Housing your disaster recovery solution on the same site as your production systems can leave you exposed to a substantial degree of risk - especially when operating under threat of tsunami, cyclone or even terrorism.

Such was the issue faced by Queensland Airports, a regional consortium that operates four airports at Townsville, Longreach, Mount Isa and the Gold Coast.

Until recent months, the consortium replicated data from its corporate information systems - which include finance systems, records management (SharePoint), email (Exchange) and remote access (Citrix) - between server rooms in buildings located 1.5 km apart on either side of Gold Coast Airport.

Even in the case of an internet outage, the airport's DR site would be as lost as the production data centre, according to Queensland Airports' group ICT manager Peter Nelson told iTnews.

In the event of a catastrophic failure, the company expected it could take up to 24 hours to restore systems.

The Airports’ Risk and Audit Committee, a subset of its board of directors, deemed that this no longer met the company's recovery time or safety objective.

“Obviously we’re at risk of terrorism and fire but we needed to look more broadly than that," Nelson told iTnews. "We’re very low-lying and the greatest risk to some of our airports are tsunamis and natural disasters. We needed a robust and resilient system.”

So Queensland Airports recently decided to ditch their in-house disaster recovery solution, which was based on Quest vRanger, and replicate to a service hosted offsite.

Nelson and his team surveyed several options, including one Gold Coast-based data centre about 15km away from the airport, and another in Brisbane. Price was a factor and Nelson was put off by the “expensive” costs quoted. 

“We looked at a lot of options. We found that all were doable, and all were expensive,” he said.

The company has since signed up to a new cloud-like DR service offered by the airport's existing IT support provider Idea 11.

Idea 11's DR service is based on Zerto's hypervisor-based replication and recovery software solution. It hosts the solution in Pipe Networks' Queensland data centres and charges from $500 per month for the service, which includes the VMs, storage volume, the rate of change of data and the volume of transferred data.

“Given they were launching a new product, price was a differentiating factor for them, and their promise of a discount made it more attractive to us," Nelson said. "We were almost like a proof of concept for them."

Queensland Airports selected 14 of the most mission-critical virtual machines to protect from a shortlist of 60.

The Idea 11 service provides systems restoration in under 30 seconds, a big improvement over the 24 hour outage the airports would otherwise have endured. It provides for recovery to any period within the past 24 hours.

Queensland Airports has reserved 4TB of data at the DR site - half a terabyte more than what is in its production systems - but can dial up more capacity using a web interface.

Reviewing operations systems

Nelson will now study whether DR solutions across the airports' 30+ operational systems are adequate, which handle everything from baggage handling, CCTV, access control, security, and flight information display.

Those systems already had their own business continuity and managed service contracts in place, he said.

“Now we’re satisfied we’ve got the corporate systems at the leading edge, we’ll start to engage with managed service providers that we’re comfortable the DR solutions they are provisioning are up to a standard we expect."

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