Cork brewer in data backup deal with Magnet

3 Apr 2006

Two hundred year-old Cork brewer Beamish & Crawford has signed a strategic deal with Magnet subsidiary Netsource to roll out an online data storage facility that will back up the company’s IT systems if systems go down or if its offices are destroyed by a fire.

The Cork brewer has opted to deploy Netsource’s NetVault service that allows companies to back up their data on a server or over a broadband connection.

In February, Magnet Networks agreed to acquire Netsource in a deal that the company claimed will make it the third largest business internet service provider in Ireland behind Eircom and BT. The purchase price has not been disclosed but it is understood to be several million euro. Privately held Netsource was founded in 1995 and was originally called Club Internet. It has built up a client base of more than 4,000 SME and corporate customers around Ireland including Ernst & Young, Allianz Worldwide Care, Boyne Valley Foods, Alphyra and Dublin Port.

Beamish & Crawford has 160 employees, divided between the main facility and marketing offices in Dublin. Until recently the data generated by the company’s 14 Windows servers was saved to tape and then stored at a different part of the Cork site. While it did the job it had its limitations, says IT manager Dave Dilloughery. “Traditional tape backup is fine if you can wait 24 or 36 hours to recover your information but if you want it any quicker you’ve got to look at a different way of doing it.”

A second consideration was that the brewer is part of Scottish & Newcastle, a UK PLC that is required for compliance purposes to have a proper offsite data recovery strategy in place. The fact that Beamish & Crawford was storing tapes onsite, albeit in a different area, would not have been considered good practice. But storing them offsite would have incurred the additional cost of using a specialist courier firm. So the company began to look for alternatives. It was its IT services and support provider TechNiche, a Netsource/Magnet Business channel partner, that proposed NetVault.

When Netsource launched the NetVault service at the end of 2005 it did so for two reasons, according to Louise McKeown, of Magnet Business. “A lot of our channel partners would do tape backup for their customers and they were looking for a solution that would allow them to manage this service better and eliminate the risk of human error. In addition, with broadband becoming increasingly popular, we felt that this type of solution would help use the full capability of broadband.”

The NetVault solution was implemented by Beamish & Crawford last October. A Netsource engineer was initially dispatched to Cork armed with a powerful storage unit to download all the data from the company’s tape library — approximately 150GB of it. The data was then uploaded to Netsource’s secure data centre in Dublin.

Beamish & Crawford conducts its daily backup programme during a defined window, between 7pm and 7am, over a 2MB DSL connection. As the service only backs up the data changes rather than the entire data set, only about 500MB of data is uploaded to NetVault nightly. As well as data, the company also backs up images of its servers. As part of a new disaster recovery strategy, it plans to install backup servers so that if a server goes down the server images can be retrieved from NetVault and the data then restored onto the backup box.

“Although clients choose a price plan that matches their storage needs they can also avail of what’s called ‘burst capacity’ — extra storage should they exceed their limit,” says McKeown. “This is clearly a useful feature because of the 100 or so customers that are using the service, at least 75pc are underestimating their data storage requirements. It also gives clients a level of flexibility they don’t get with tapes, whose storage capacity has a physical limit.”

By John Kennedy