Bradford Grammar School gets continuously protected

FalconStor CDP

Bradford Grammar School is an outstanding UK secondary school. Few schools of its type are so well fitted out and provide such a rich set of facilities for education. It was founded in the 15th century, 1548 to be precise, and became a chartered Free Grammar School in 1662 when King Charles II was on the throne. The school became a dirtect grant school in the 60s, an independent school in 1975, and fully co-educational in 1999.

The school can teach just over 900 pupils, 30 percent of whom are female, and the teacher:pupil ratio is 1:15. Its motto is Hoc Age, meaning ‘Do this’, which its pupils do, attaining truly excellent examination results with a 98 percent pass rate for GCSE (Grades A*-C) in 2006.

It recently built a multi-million pound Sixth Form Centre and there is a large theatre, funded by the artist David Hockney’s brother. Paintings by Hockney, who was a pupil at the school, can be found on the school’s walls. Other ex-pupils include the composer Frederick Delius, archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler and Sir John Harvey-Jones, ex-head of ICI and well-known for the BBC’s TroubleShooter programme. The school offers very good facilities for the study of languages, science, music and the theatre as well as having first class sporting facilities.

Bradford Grammar School has over ten IT suites and all pupils have access to the Internet and e-mail. They can also access their files and e-mail from home, using a remote login method. Sixth formers have their own IT room, usable at any time, with a printer.

As is becoming common for schools now, the IT facilities underpin many scool activities, both administrative and educational, and have become, in the jargon, mission-critical.

The majority of the school’s files and data are stored on a storage area network (SAN) infrastructure utilising IBM and Dot Hill SAN storage with a backup to tape. This is a full daily backup amounting to 4.5TB.

Simon Marriott, the school’s IT Manager, said: “Information technology is pervasive throughout the school – it’s used to teach virtually every subject and its use increases continuously. Students also submit crucial coursework electronically, and we must treat it as irreplaceable. In such circumstances, a school’s IT infrastructure is not a luxury, but is as mission-critical as it might be in a commercial environment.”

This means that the data protection facilities need to be fit for that purpose. Tape, with its interval backup, meant that files, including pupils’ data, could be lost if the system went down or files were mistakenly deleted, between backup runs. Recently the school reviewed its data protection requirements and decided to embrace continuous data protection technology. It bought FalconStor’s Continuous Data Protector.

The IT department makes use of three components in the FalconStor product:-

- Continuous Data Replication (CDR) ensures that a remote target disk is an exact copy of an identified primary disk and is kept continually updated with data changes. In the event of a primary disk failure at the school, the remote copy can be accessed to maintain data integrity.

- Snapshot Agents ensure active data stores are protected. Complete data and transactional integrity is attained through a robust and automated process that takes snapshots of the data stores for point-in-time copy purposes, third-party backup applications, and disaster recovery planning. It means that the data store copy can be brought online without going through any lengthy rebuild process to roll-back partial transactions. This will save a lot of time in the event of a disaster.

- A TimeMark option provides the school’s IT manager with the ability to instantly recover a single file or an entire volume back to a known good point in time. It creates periodic, scheduled or on-demand point-in-time delta snapshot copies of data volumes. These delta snapshots contain only data changes and therefore do not take up a significant amount of disk storage space. Up to 256 delta snapshots can be maintained per volume.

ANS Group installed the FalconStor software. Scott Fletcher, ANS Group chairman, said, “It’s impossible to overestimate how important IT infrastructure is in education nowadays. The ability to protect data is clearly essential because IT is used to such an extent in the teaching and administration of schools and because student coursework, which directly contributes to their academic qualifications, is all securely stored by the school.”

Marriot, commenting about the need to preserve data in the school’s mission-critical IT environment, said: “(It) makes the decision to deploy enterprise-grade data protection the only sensible course of action, and FalconStor delivers the reliability we need at an affordable price.”

The need to preserve and safeguard the school and its pupils’ information has not changed one whit through four hundred and sixty years of experience and teaching success has depended on it.

Since good King Charles’ golden days paper has been the bedrock medium of education, and paper records and paper essays and paper exam results were vital. No more. Now it is digital information that undepins everything and that needs continuously protecting. FalconStor software sees to that for Bradford Grammar School.

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