University Data Recovery testing a success

7 May 2010

Have you ever stopped to wonder what would happen if a disaster destroyed the University's data centre? University data and IT systems are now much safer, thanks to a reciprocal arrangement with Macquarie University made in ICT's disaster recovery plan.

Over the past two years, ICT has been performing a major review of the University of Sydney's Data Recovery (DR) capability. Data Recovery mitigates risk by ensuring the organisation can continue to operate satisfactorily even in an event where disaster causes complete loss of the University's data centre (in this case the GlobalSwitch facility in Ultimo). As part of the University's DR plan, a reciprocal arrangement was put in place with Macquarie University whereby they have space in our GlobalSwitch data centre for their DR, and the University of Sydney has space in their North Ryde data centre for ours.

On 24 April 2010 the review of the University's DR reached a major milestone, with the successful test of our first set of IT systems at Macquarie University.

To achieve full DR capability, ICT has installed servers, storage and network equipment in the North Ryde data centre to host our systems, and established major network links between GlobalSwitch and Macquarie( which allows for "real time" synchronisation of our data), as well as Camperdown/Darlington and Macquarie (for connection of all our campuses and remote sites to Macquarie's data centre, and in turn the AARNet network and Internet).

With the effort of over 30 people from ICT, HR, Student Centre, and Finance, the first set of IT systems were tested to run in a completely standalone fashion - with no reliance on the primary data centre at GlobalSwitch - as it would need to in the event of a disaster. We can now say that for the first time the University of Sydney has the capability to recover the following systems in the event of a disaster:

  • the Talent2 HR system,
  • University email (Exchange) and associated systems (eg mail gateway and antispam),
  • FlexSIS at Macquarie University, thus replacing the limited capability at Fisher Library,
  • a number of our key supporting infrastructure systems, and
  • Peoplesoft Financials at Macquarie - however this will require some additional work and a further test before we have sufficient confidence to turn off our "interim" Peoplesoft DR configuration at Fisher.

Over the next few months, ICT will progress to the next phase of DR establishment, which includes building DR capability for:

  • Learning Management systems (WebCT and Blackboard),
  • Research systems (RIMS & IRMA) and Hyperion.

It also involves further refining our planning and testing methodologies to more closely reflect what we would do in a "real" disaster. Our next major test, including these systems, is anticipated to occur in quarter 3 2010. Further systems, such as much of the University's web presence, will be added towards the end of 2010.

This is a major development in the University's IT operational risk posture, and is a considerable achievement from all the staff involved.