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  • 10 December 2012 16:48

ShadowProtect’s data recovery results sweeten life for Mackay Sugar’s IT team

StorageCraft solution assures compliance and yields enormous time savings

Since Mackay Sugar, Australia’s second largest sugar milling company, implemented StorageCraft™ ShadowProtect™ real-time recovery (RTR) solution 28 months ago, Network Administrator Michael Ryan has enjoyed a much easier working life knowing all his data is recoverable if a problem or disaster strikes. First his senior management are assured that the company is complying with the sugar industry’s stringent regulatory guidelines, and that they are adhering to best practice in backup and disaster recovery.

Secondly he is delighted by the enormous time-savings he is achieving in restoring servers and accessing lost files. Instead of taking 12-plus hours to recover an Exchange server, he can do so in less than an hour. And when someone loses a file, it takes minutes rather than two or three days to recover, and he is able to access missing files as far away as Sydney from his office in Mackay. Recovery is now fast, easy and reliable

Michael said: “Since we implemented ShadowProtect it has worked like a charm and has helped us out with a range of issues including rapid file recovery, performing real-time server migrations, and exceptionally fast disaster recovery by mounting a server (physical or virtual) as a virtual server for disaster recovery and testing. Life has become much easier for our IT team.”

Mackay Sugar, which is geared to produce in excess of 800,000 tonnes of raw sugar each year, was formed as a co-operative in 1988 from six formerly independent milling co-operatives. This gave IT a legacy of six disparate IT departments, each with their own methodologies. All this was consolidated into a single department by the beginning of 1990.

The company’s 40 servers including SCADA systems - all protected by ShadowProtect - keep track of the sugar cane crush, payments to farmers according to how much they supply and the sugar content of their crop, plus their crop variety. Mackay Sugar also protects 10 critical workstations with ShadowProtect. The company has six sites, connected over ADSL, IP Connect and microwave.

According to Michael Ryan, there are many financial and legal implications governing how the company’s data is used and stored, which demand a reliable and dependable IT infrastructure.

“Management required a move to best practices, where downtime was minimised and efficiency was paramount,” he said. “In the past, downtime was a way of life and management sought to improve this situation to the point where our systems are ‘best-in-class’ and downtime is minimal.

“I was reasonably happy with our previous ‘world leading’ backup product, however we knew we needed a solution that was more focused on recovery than on backup to achieve our best practice goals. IT had previously tried disaster recovery with another imaging-based backup product, but it had some major drawbacks including reliability, ease of use and performance.”

“Someone recommended that we should investigate ShadowProtect. I saw a demo and was impressed – after doing our testing and due diligence we discovered that StorageCraft ShadowProtect excelled at recovery and migration as well as backup.”

Before ShadowProtect went live, Mackay Sugar used a tape backup product, and the tapes were taken offsite. To retrieve a lost file, they had to retrieve the tape, load it into a tape library, then restore it.

Michael said: “Recoveries were always a major issue because a single file restore could take two or three days. Now I can restore from ShadowProtect within minutes, even interstate. We still use some tape for offsite archival. When one of our design engineers in Sydney lost a folder containing lots of his drawings, I was able to restore the network volume almost immediately with no loss of data. The engineer was super-happy.”

In addition to protecting Mackay Sugars’ servers, ShadowProtect is used to protect SCADA / Telemetry systems. When a RAID controller on a SCADA server managing the data collected from sensors that monitor the mills network crashed, Michael used ShadowProtect’s hardware independent restore capabilities to restore it on a ‘normal’ HP server.

He explained: “I migrated it in a few minutes to the new HP platform using the included Hardware Independent Restore technology, then added the new drivers for the new server. This averted what might have been a major disaster, since with our previous product it could have taken a couple of days.”

On another occasion, ShadowProtect recovered an Exchange server within an hour, rather than the previous 12-hour chore. Additionally, with the Granular Recovery for Exchange option, they can now recover emails and mail items quickly.

Michael said: “These recovery results have really driven home to senior management how valuable ShadowProtect is, and how it has more than justified Mackay Sugar’s return on investment (ROI). The fact that it cost about the same our previous annual maintenance makes it a no-brainer investment.“

He adds: “StorageCraft’s technical support has been impeccable: I can’t fault their service. It is fantastic to have a solution that exceeds expectations as well as the claims in their brochure ”

He has a final word about ShadowProtect: “It’s an amazing product that is so easy to use, and quite simply works and enables us to recover our systems, which at the end of the day is all we require.”

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