Data replication helps Orchard bloom

Tuesday, 17 February, 2009

Orchard, a property funds management company, has invested in a data replication system to help keep the company’s data safe in the event of a disaster.

The firm is headquartered in Melbourne, with a number of regional offices throughout the country. With more than $3.5 billion of funds under management, the company invests in both commercial property and less traditional assets.

The company’s immediate plans focus on establishing a business in Europe, which is hoped to be as profitable as its Australian counterpart within five years.

To support these plans for growth, Orchard needed to ensure its IT infrastructure was up to the task: the company’s 150-strong team needs continuous access to property management and accounts systems to make and track investments on behalf of clients.

Dan Wimpress, IS Infrastructure manager for Orchard, explains: “IT supports every area of the business, and is key to the day-to-day activities of our property managers and revenue generation.”

In 2007, the company embarked on a massive data centre consolidation project, involving the virtualisation of the company’s server platform. The aim of the project was to reduce capital expenditure and improve business agility.

So far, this approach has enabled Orchard to reduce its physical production server estate by 35% while minimising the footprint of their disaster recovery hotsite to just four physical servers.

As part of this infrastructure optimisation program, Orchard examined its business continuity. With the cost of downtime to the business extremely high through both lost investment opportunities and staff productivity, the company decided to develop a better disaster recovery strategy.

“In the event of a major incident, we would have to source new hardware, rebuild each system and then import the data from backup tapes,” says Wimpress. “We estimated that it would take us up to a month to restore all our systems and data — at great cost to the business.”

One of the first applications that Orchard would need to restore is email. “We rely on our email environment to communicate with property managers in the field and with our clients,” says Wimpress.

In addition to meeting internal expectations for IT availability, Orchard must also ensure compliance with industry regulations, such as those governed by APRA.

To enhance its business continuity capabilities, Orchard decided to investigate data replication technologies as part of a company-wide disaster recovery initiative.

Following research in business continuity solutions, the firm opted to deploy a Recovery Management solution from CA, which Wimpress says matched the company’s requirements. “It offered solutions specially designed to work with Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL server, file servers and BlackBerry Enterprise Server,” he says.

Orchard uses CA XOsoft Replication to continuously replicate its core application data between two data centres in Melbourne. Wimpress says the solution was easy to install and integrated with the existing virtual environment.

“We were also impressed with the solution’s BlackBerry integration and functionality. Our senior staff require high levels of email access and availability, so the ability to safeguard mobile messaging data is a significant advantage,” Wimpress says.

With email access so critical to the business, Orchard uses the solution’s Assured Recovery module on its Exchange server cluster to automatically test the replication process on a daily basis. Combined with occasional manual data integrity testing, this provides Orchard with total confidence in the availability of its business-critical data.

Orchard’s IT department can now recover from a disaster with little disruption to business.

Wimpress explains: “Our service level agreement stipulates a recovery time of four hours for our primary systems, but depending on the severity of the incident, we could be up and running again within the hour. In the event of a hardware failure, the recovery time is just a matter of minutes.”

The solution has also enhanced Orchard’s compliance efforts and its ability to manage future business growth. Wimpress says, “Replication and our new disaster recovery strategy have not only helped to enhance our level of compliance with industry regulations and standards but have also prompted a significant culture shift. Business continuity is now top of the agenda, which will prove key as we look to expand the company’s operations.”

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