Nelson Marlborough District Health Board (DHB) was facing steadily increasing costs for its IT system backups, and its existing system relied on tapes. It needed to modernise backup, making its operations more resilient while reducing expenses. By transitioning its back-ups to Azure Blob with the help of CCL and Veeam, it was able to make major savings while boosting its immunity to disruption, so the DHB team can now focus on delivering better service to patients.
Back-ups are a unique part of any organisation’s IT system. Back-up files and systems can go long periods of time without being accessed, so their value may not always be visible. Yet when catastrophe strikes, whether it be a fire, flood or earthquake, cyber-attack or power cut, system back-ups can save weeks or even months of service disruption, and prevent significant loss of data, money and reputation.
In today’s world, the unexpected should always be expected, and recent high-profile breaches in the public sector have underlined that. That’s why it’s important to use the most reliable and secure backup service possible.
In 2020, Nelson Marlborough DHB was on the hunt for just that. The DHB manages health services across the top of the South Island, encompassing a population of around 160,000 people. Its vast array of services create equally large quantities of critical data, from test results to appointments, referral requests, patient records and operational records as well.
Its existing setup put backups on tape servers, which are slow, expensive and – as anyone born before the millennium can tell you – tapes are not the most reliable technology, due to the operational burden. The cost only grew as the amount of data increased. The system was also complex, relying on multiple platforms and vendors, which created potential security risks. Files could live in any one of a number of places, managed by different parties.
On top of it all, the system wasn’t cloud ready, which meant that the DHB couldn’t protect workflows which sat in the cloud. It needed something faster, more resilient and which could save money better spent on delivering new services and capabilities.
A COLLABORATIVE SOLUTION
The DHB coordinated with tech partner CCL, with support from Veeam and Microsoft, to create a new system that leveraged the capabilities of the public cloud using Veeam’s backup software. As cloud adoption specialists, CCL realised cloud’s greater security, reliability and scalability was ideal for Nelson Marlborough DHB’s needs. It helped the DHB identify opportunities for transitioning the backup solution to the cloud, and all four parties worked collaboratively to develop a streamlined solution.
The new system takes backup data from Nelson Marlborough DHB’s three main sites in Wairau and Nelson, processes it through Veeam’s backup servers there, and consolidates it all in Microsoft’s Azure Blob, a cloud environment built for data at scale. This was the perfect solution for the DHB, which is constantly generating large volumes of data.
Moving an entire system to the cloud requires special expertise. Anything from bandwidth limits to issues with the migration process could have created problems with the data that came through the other end.
It was of the utmost importance that the transition from tape to the cloud came off without a hitch, especially when you consider the type of data held by DHBs, from individual patient treatment plans to scans, test results and patient histories.
To avoid any of these hiccups, the teams from CCL, Veeam, Microsoft and Nelson Marlborough DHB worked together to test each scenario, developing a process that prevented any issues before they could arise.
“Without all the pre-planning we did, there was the potential for this to be a very difficult process,” says Daniel van Trierum, Technical Consultant at CCL, who led the migration.
“Because we did that work, the migration ended up being pretty uneventful. We spent a lot of time validating the process throughout to ensure it was as painless as possible.”
The painless migration is testament to the collaborative approach taken by all the technology partners. “If we could bring multiple partners together the same way on other projects, we’ll be in a great place,” says Dan Coe, ICT Manager at Nelson Marlborough DHB.
“The results will be quietly transformational” This move has created a multitude of benefits for Nelson Marlborough DHB. The first is cost. The new system costs about a third of the previous BaaS solution. Being freed from tapes means that the data can continue to grow without costs getting out of control. For the DHB, which operates on a fixed budget, that means more money for other enhancements to its digital services.
“We’ve now got the chance to deliver things we’ve never had before,” says Dan.
The new solution isn’t just cheaper, though. It’s also more reliable and secure, since it makes the most of Azure’s scale and automatic security updates. Nelson Marlborough DHB now has much better peace of mind, knowing that if something goes wrong, it will be able to restore quickly and efficiently.
“I’ve lost count of the number of times we had to re-do a backup restore after our tape solution failed,” says Dan. “Now that we have this cloud infrastructure, it’s much easier to sleep at night.”
The DHB accesses the backup on a weekly basis due to regular software upgrades, so resilience is incredibly important. The new solution has also allowed for much more frequent backups, meaning the system always has the most up to date information.
“Before we migrated to the cloud, the idea of backing up even daily felt unattainable. Now, we’re backing the system up twice a day, without causing any issues for bandwidth or the broader system,” says Dan.
The Modern Backup system has provided a much clearer picture of where backed up documents are stored and who has ownership of them. The new system is co-managed by CCL and Nelson Marlborough DHB, and all of the files sit in the same system, so everyone has visibility of what is backed up, as well as immediate access.
“Recent experience has shown us just how important a robust backup system is for all organisations,” says Matt Bostwick, Partner Director at Microsoft New Zealand. “The success of Nelson Marlborough DHB’s project is a testament to the great teamwork between CCL, Veeam and the customer, and the results will be quietly transformational.”
Above all, what the new Azure Blob solution has delivered is trust. For a public healthcare organisation, it’s essential patients can trust it to protect their personal data as well as deliver the services they need on time, without disruption. The DHB’s investment in modern, stable backup technology has quietly provided exactly that.
Not that they’d know. Of course, the hallmark of a good backup system is that it sits out of sight.
“That’s the best part,” says Dan.
“This system has created a world of benefits for us and our patients, and the ICT team are the only people who have to think about it.”