The client

Golding Homes is a profit for purpose housing association which owns and manages 7,400 homes and provides homes for more than 20,000 people across Kent.

As part of a radical IT transformation project designed to deliver better services to customers, Golding Homes sought to improve their IT resilience to guarantee continuation of service. A new backup and disaster recovery solution was prioritised at the outset not only to ensure IT resilience for the day to day operations of the business, but also to protect the service during the migration projects planned as part of the wider project.

Golding Homes was keen to maximise their investment in order to achieve better reassurance for stakeholders and customers and looked beyond traditional suppliers to seek a more progressive provider that could offer added value, over and above traditional and uncertain methods of data protection.

They were looking for a company that could offer a higher level of reassurance that the customers’ data would be protected, and that the availability of systems wouldn’t be compromised.

A need for better resilience

Although an existing offsite backup solution held regular backups of their data to avoid significant data loss, Golding Homes was not confident in the recoverability of their IT systems. The existing 4-hour recovery time objective (RTO) had not been achieved in DR tests consistently, which was flagged as a risk. Recovering from a real DR situation back onto on-premises equipment would have taken days/weeks in replication time, causing significant business impact.

The legacy DR solution lacked the high level of reassurance that Golding Homes demanded for continuity of service should an outage occur. With the customers’ needs at the forefront of their minds, a tender process began to find a partner to work with long term to improve their IT resilience.

Key requirements

From a functional perspective Golding Homes specified a disaster recovery service to deliver certainty of return to service with a 4-hour recovery time objective (RTO) for critical systems. This should be proven in both testing and live scenarios, resulting in users being able to work at usual performance levels within this time. Routine DR testing was important to verify SLAs in a non-disruptive manner.

A backup service should store copies of their data across multiple geographical sites, with a schedule optimised for commercial and technical performance. It should allow for long term retention for periods of up to 7 years in a secure and compliant manner yet be flexible to adapt as the requirements of the business change.

At the service level, Golding Homes wanted a partner that could offer a higher level of expertise, innovation and support to enable them to focus efforts on their production systems. In effect a partner that could be trusted to manage the disaster recovery and backup service, whilst delivering regular confirmation that Golding Homes had full and unmitigated protection against downtime and data loss.

The Solution

Ekco proposed a solution consisting of both Backup and Disaster Recovery elements to meet all of Golding Homes’ key requirements:

 

Disaster Recovery SLAs

  • RTO guarantee of boot time x2 plus 10 minutes (timed as 3 hours during testing, well within the 4-hour requirement)
  • RPO from 6 seconds using Zerto’s continuous replication technology
  • 20-minute invocation response time
  • 24x7x365 support direct into senior engineers

 

Ekco’s fully managed DR service includes a unique automated daily testing service to application level. It is this element that provides the reassurance that the recovery time will be met and is guaranteed, complete with financial penalties.

 

Backup SLAs

  • Response times from 1-4 hours depending on priority of issue
  • 99.9% platform availability
  • 24x7x365 support

Asigra’s backup technology was agreed as the best option with its high compression and de-duplication ratios that results in a lower cost of retention.

During the implementation period a dedicated hosted VM was provided on a complimentary basis. This would store Golding Homes’ existing backup archives and give them access at file or VM level until their new backup solution was deemed satisfactory and sufficient history gathered.

 

Service, management and testing

A project manager, technical director, account director and support team would be assigned throughout the relationship. Following successful implementation, the managed service would include:

  • Daily testing of the DR service to application level every 24 hours. This verifies that the DR platform is operational, network configurations are correct, database services mount and start, application services start, there is no data corruption, web interfaces are displayed correctly and that there are no errors in the event log. Ekco can subsequently certify the service as effective every day.
  • Daily monitoring of the DR solution by level 3 engineers
  • Proactive fault management of the DR service to address errors in the event log and ensure they are resolved
  • Reactive support service for the cloud backup solution with response SLAs

Adding value

Ekco is continuing to work closely with Golding Homes to develop the services to meet bespoke requirements as part of a collaborative approach.

Automatic polling over to the DR platform in the event of a failure means that a simple communication can be sent to users to log on as normal in 4 hours and resume service. This ease of dealing with an outage with a single email means that users and the IT department are not distracted during a potentially stressful event.

The DR service also delivers easy migration capability, with fast and easy failover and failback between production and DR systems. This capability means that future migration projects will run seamlessly, minimising workloads and ensuring continuity of service without data loss.

The potential of the DR service extends beyond just recovering from outage situations and gives Golding Homes a second production platform that is up to date and independent of the live system. This is extremely powerful for testing any changes prior to go-live, enhancing the resilience of the organisation.

The customer's view

“In just a few months, Ekco has already added value to our business over and above securing the availability of our IT systems for us. With such big transitional plans ahead and we need a DR service that is bullet proof to enable us to be so progressive with our IT strategy without it impacting our customers. Having invested in a DR solution to ensure that our IT systems are resilient, we expect it to work without complications.

Ekco has already identified areas where intervention was required to ensure ongoing protection against downtime. Their testing service offers a unique depth of assurance that cannot be matched, and the expertise of their engineers has meant that we have complete peace of mind that any problematic areas will be quickly address and rectified. We know that our IT systems have the highest level of resilience available because our DR is proactively managed by Ekco.”

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