Cambridge doubles up on data protection

Schools from the University of Cambridge can for the first time store essential research databases to a secure, offsite, replicated data archive

The system, which copies data from existing department-level backup systems to provide secondary storage and protection, gives researchers greater confidence in the security and safety of data held. It also enables compliance with data protection guidelines from UK Research Councils funding agencies.

Designed and integrated by data processing, management, storage and analytics provider OCF, the high performance storage system uses DataDirect Networks [DDN] storage. It also uses IBM’s GPFS file system for data management.

The School of Humanities and Social Sciences and School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Cambridge have combined financial resources to procure the new 400TB system. The system is available to all 20 departments within both schools.

Managed by the University Information Services, the new storage system extracts data from faculty level backup systems on flexible terms set by the technical staff for each school – this could be twice per day, nightly or on a rotational basis. In some departments the new storage system is second or even third level protection. Right now, 11 departments are actively using the storage facility.

For added protection, data is stored and replicated at two sites – each within a mile of each other. The whole system enables greater protection and recovery of essential data in the event of a disaster. Importantly, the system incorporates smaller departments that would otherwise have been excluded from secondary backups due to cost. The system also enables the University to comply with data storage guidance from research councils.

Bob Dowling, Head of Unix Systems Division at University of Cambridge Computing Service, said: “The introduction of a faster network gave us the opportunity to introduce a central storage facility. The schools funded the facility, but we centrally manage it. Right now, we’ve filled around 10% of the storage capacity and its sized to cope with a five-year lifespan. From an IT management perspective, the system has given us confidence in the security of our data, but also compliance with the grant awarding process of UK Research Councils.”