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"The TeraStation appealed to us at Haydon Bridge because it was a great price for high capacity and also had excellent data protection features." Chris Wilcox, Infrastructure Coordinator, Haydon Bridge High School
Setting the scene
Haydon Bridge High School, in Haydon Bridge, Northumberland, has been teaching children between the ages of 13 and 18 since the 1950s.
Computers and networks were unheard of in schools back then and all coursework was submitted on reams of paper and stored in large files. Today, things have changed dramatically. Now in the digital age, coursework, research, staff notes and reports are all stored electronically, which encourages IT literacy and reduces the volume of boxes containing hard copy material, but creates large amounts of digital content that needs to be stored.
The school needed access to data that was up to two years old throughout each academic year, but couldn't rely on teachers or students to keep all of their coursework on file. With over 750 pupils and 80 staff, finding the capacity to store and backup these important files was proving a massive problem, particularly at the end of long courses when coursework had to be retrieved or restored and sent to exam boards electronically. Three years ago, Haydon Bridge High School decided it needed to address this issue of electronic storage.
Moving with the times
"Looking back, AIT2 tapes just made it an impossible job. We were using more than one tape per day! Buying more and more tapes was also proving expensive for the school," Wilcox explained.
Haydon Bridge High School initially opted for AIT2 tapes to provide the capacity to handle its backup storage requirements. This involved a member of staff being there everyday to remove the tape and replace it with another. Within 12 months, the school was using multiple tapes each day and this was having a detrimental effect on the speed of the network whilst backups were running. To add to this, in 2004 Haydon Bridge High School suffered a network failure and lost a number of important files.
Chris Wilcox, infrastructure co-ordinator at the school for the last seven years, recognised that such demands weren't being met effectively by the current tape backup facility. Wilcox explained: "Looking back, AIT2 tapes just made it an impossible job. We were using more than one tape per day and because of the nature of my job means I'm not on site everyday and I certainly couldn't be there in the middle of the night to insert the second tape! Buying more and more tapes was also proving expensive for the school."
Mr Wilcox realised that higher capacity tapes were not going to be the answer; the cost to purchase additional tape drives, tapes and backup software proved to be in excess of ?5,000. Haydon Bridge High School decided to search for an alternative. To NAS or not to NAS
The school required a storage solution with enough capacity to backup a large amount of files on a daily basis. Having suffered a network failure previously it also needed a device that could securely backup these files.
"We carried out extensive research into other solutions and Network Attached Storage (NAS) fitted the bill. We found that NAS was a simple and cost-effective way to store and share data over a wireless and cabled network," stated Mr Wilcox. "It can easily be added to an existing network without needing to shutdown or upgrade the network."
After looking at a number of NAS players in the market, Mr Wilcox approached Buffalo Technology, a manufacturer of wireless storage devices, as well as networking, multimedia and memory hardware. Mr Wilcox had previously bought three Buffalo AirStation 54G wireless routers to get the wireless network off the ground. The routers are stationed in three separate buildings, including the main ICT office, and connect over 100 roaming laptops and printers to the network. Thanks to a donation of further wireless equipment by Buffalo, wireless access has now been made available in all areas of the school buildings.
"The TeraStation appealed to us at Haydon Bridge because it was a great price for high capacity and also had excellent data protection features. We could deliver higher levels of security for data loss prevention and continue to rotate the files using the widely used Grandfather ? Father ? Son (GFS) method. "
Reaping the benefits In the middle of 2005, the school purchased two Buffalo TeraStations, holding a capacity of 1.0 Terabyte each. The Buffalo TeraStation is a high capacity NAS device that allows users to store and share files. Mr Wilcox had already purchased BackupAssist, a backup software application, and found that Buffalo's TeraStation completed the solution for a secure storage facility.
Mr Wilcox explained: "The TeraStation appealed to us at Haydon Bridge because it was a great price for high capacity and also had excellent data protection features. With four operational modes, including mirroring and RAID 5, we could deliver higher levels of security for data loss prevention and continue to rotate the files using the widely used Grandfather ? Father ? Son (GFS) method. "
In a file rotation system, multiple files are organised into a backup library to provide the user with data recovery capabilities, whilst allowing files to be stored in a different building for added security. The GFS schedule used by Haydon Bridge High School involves backing up data in the following way:
Using the Buffalo TeraStation and BackupAssist, the school automates the backup of user work every weekday evening. The remaining parts of the server are then backed up weekly every Saturday, and then on each Sunday the main TeraStation mirrors its disk contents to the second unit, resulting in a large number of files being accumulated and stored across the academic year. Each TeraStation is housed in a separate building so that, in the event of a fire or other disaster, no data is lost.
Since the installation of the two TeraStations, Haydon Bridge High School has purchased a further two units. With four TeraStations now installed, the school is confident that the total capacity of four terabytes will service all backup requirements over the coming two years.
A lot of staff now have laptops for school use and so Mr Wilcox and his team are in the process of implementing a drop-in station for staff to hand in their laptop and backup important data on a monthly basis. Haydon Bridge High School is also in talks with Buffalo about acquiring USB storage devices so they can take files offsite. These will work alongside the TeraStations, which feature four USB 2.0 ports that can be simultaneously connected to allow capacity to be expanded.
"Purchasing the four Buffalo TeraStations has been the best investment we have ever made in our department, saving us money, time and convenience," stated Mr Wilcox. "Another local school in Cramlington has also followed suit after hearing about our success, I think we are starting a trend!"
The purchase of AIT2 tapes to service the school's initial storage demands would have cost Haydon Bridge High School ?5,000 upfront. By purchasing four TeraStations at a cost of ?2,000 over four years, a considerable amount of money has been saved.
"The money the team has saved is to be invested back into the development of the school's IT infrastructure," concluded Mr Wilcox. "From a personal perspective, I am delighted with the investment of the Buffalo TeraStations. We have experienced no technical problems, they sit perfectly in our wireless and cabled network and we would strongly recommend this solution to other schools with similar data storage requirements."