The backup procedure used in all European and African offices of Container Liner MOL was error-prone and expensive. When Tectrade’s IT specialists proposed the Carbonite EVault solution to simplify the backup process by using redundant backup appliances with intelligent data transfer via Delta Pro Technology, MOL decided to test this option. Following a successful proof of concept, the solution is now in use. Backup and recovery can now be completed within an hour instead of days or even weeks, and the solution also leads to a significant costsaving.
‘In the Netherlands we talk about the cloud, as we have good Internet availability. But this is not always the case in African countries,’ according to Jerry Kalpoe, IT Manager at MOL Europe BV. MOL Europe BV, a subsidiary of Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, is a leading listed global player in transport and logistics. Kalpoe is responsible for EMEA with a total of more than 25 offices. For this reason, creating a good off-site backup system was quite a job, and the growing quantity of data made it increasingly expensive.
‘At every branch there are physical servers with a tape library infrastructure. The data include prices of containers, photos of damaged containers, which containers are on certain vessels, and when the vessel will be arriving. But there are also local or separate documents such as faxes, mutual agreements, e-mails, and appendices. Just about everything actually,’ says senior system administrator Zoran Jukic. He is responsible for the network, backup, and telephony.
In order to safeguard all data at MOL and get back to work quickly in the event of disasters such as the recent ransomware attacks, good, reliable backup is crucial. In the old situation, local employees with no IT background had to put a copy on tape. Backups were made on tape every day, and every month these tapes were flown from Africa by a tape-handling service that delivered them in the Netherlands by first-class air transport. Apart from the long processing time, there were various moments in the backup and restore process that were prone to errors, such as tape changes by end-users at the offices.
Requesting tapes for a restore was an expensive and time-consuming job. MOL wanted to achieve a faster recovery time in which the right data were always available. The tape library infrastructure used at the various offices was not the most reliable solution. Using multiple tapes for each backup and having to replace the tapes regularly owing to wear made the whole operation very complex.
The solution for this increasingly expensive and error-prone method was offered a few months ago. Kalpoe talked to Tectrade about MOL’s current backup environment and shortly after Tectrade proposed a cost-saving, malware-proof alternative in the form of Carbonite EVault. Based on an accurate calculation by Kalpoe, a proof of concept (POC) was set up – an integrated backup appliance with advanced Delta Pro technology. A number of European and African countries that have extremely high latency and limited WAN connections were selected to try out this new way of working.
The POC went smoothly. The solution was ready within twelve hours and the backup was scheduled between 8:00 PM and 8:00 AM. Kalpoe has this to say: ‘Of course the biggest challenge were the branches in Africa with low bandwidth and radio connections. ‘But with this solution, far less data is backed up, and it is also compressed. With the Delta backup, it is not the whole server that is backed up but only the files that have been changed. This allows us to save a huge amount of capacity. This could not be done with the alternative backup solutions we have looked at.’
Jukic adds: ‘This is how the Delta Pro Technology works. Let’s say you have a Word file. With Delta, you don’t back up the entire Word file but only the words that you have changed. This minimizes the data that you have to send and store.’ The focus of the POC was on countries with the biggest connection challenges. In Europe and Africa, MOL has 27 offices in 20 countries. And among these, Nigeria and Ivory Coast are the most challenging places for Internet connections.
The test was a success and Kalpoe decided to propose this solution to management. ‘The new backup solution is 100% secure for malware thanks to end-to-end encryption and virtual walls in the backup. What’s more, the EVault solution does not run in our active directory. This ensures that, in the event of a ransomware attack, we can always return to a point in time when the environment was unaffected. In addition, the solution is so cost-effective that it will not only pay for itself within a year, but will continue to save a lot on costs in the years thereafter. This is a very strong business case that will save us serious money in a few years’ time. The project started officially following the approval of Dutch management, and later the Japanese head office.’
Alongside the POC, the official internal server was set up within a couple of weeks and the data from the POC was sent to the live environment. After that, the regions were connected one by one. ‘It ran flawlessly,’ says Kalpoe. Jukic adds: Both Tectrade and Carbonite EVault have been on site for a day, and if we have any questions, we can always go to Tectrade. Employees in the offices are also pleased with the new solution – they no longer have to touch anything.’
‘We have everything in-house,’ says Jukic. ‘And we are responsible for the whole process. Because of the solutions that Tectrade has put forward and implemented, I spend 70 per cent less time on the backup process; I can focus on other processes and we work much more effectively. I no longer need to check if all the tapes are there. When all the lights are green, then I know that it has gone well: the automated process also means much less chance of errors.’
Of course, a backup is critical in data recovery. Kalpoe has this to say: ‘In Europe, we can restore an office’s work in a few hours; this can take longer in an African country. If we have a network connection with an office, we can first build a virtual office environment. A VPN connection can be established via an Internet connection so that our employees can get back to work.’
Now that the new backup solution works well, Kalpoe and Jukic are planning and investigating how they can restore the work of multiple offices at the same time. However, it can already be said that backup and restore are many times easier than they used to be. Kalpoe: ‘Employees used to have to see for themselves how they could restore an environment. It was only escalated to Jukic if it didn’t work. Now restoring is the only job left for Jukic.’ Jukic adds: ‘It all speaks for itself now.’