Thursday, 15th April 2021
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Hackney Learning Trust enhances business continuity strategy with Zerto

Meridian IT helps Trust protect critical infrastructure supporting its mission to improve standards and IT systems across 75 schools within the Borough.

Zerto has provided details of a successful business continuity project with Hackney Learning Trust to dramatically improve the business continuity of its virtualised applications and reduce the recovery time in the event of a datacentre incident.


Hackney Learning Trust is a department within Hackney Council’s Children and Young People’s Service and is responsible for Hackney’s children’s centres, schools and early years and adult education. Hackney Learning Trust is committed to improving standards for Hackney’s 27,000 children in 75 schools and also trade services with schools in and out of the borough. In late 2014, the Trust turned to Meridian IT to complete an infrastructure refresh of servers, storage and fabric in order to meet new business demands. The new upgrade would increase use of virtualised applications and anticipate increased demand for core IT including Microsoft SQL Server, Exchange and Oracle databases that support the student body, staff, schools and colleges within the Borough of Hackney.


Hackney currently uses two data centres located in the Borough; a production site and a disaster recovery site with a 100Mb communications link between each building. As the team examined the requirements for the infrastructure upgrade, it became clear that the current BC/DR solution would not meet new service levels the Trust would require or for planned future growth. The Trust also needed a new solution which would not dramatically alter their carefully architected applications.
Within these constraints and following a detailed evaluation process, the Trust turned to Zerto to offer a new approach to business continuity and disaster recovery that given its growth in virtualisation, would scale and deliver enhanced RPO and RTO improvement. Significant advantages included the Zerto Virtual Replication (ZVR) platform’s ability to reduce ongoing configuration maintenance while finally providing a non-disruptive test process to demonstrate to the organisation that it did not have any exposure from a data centre event.


The BC/DR solution also needed to fit within a wider strategy to benefit from the Trust’s expanding use of VMware technologies. As John Crook Head of IT Services for Hackney Learning Trust explains, “The previous BC/DR solution did not allow us to fully realise the benefits of VMware. We had to limit or carefully orchestrate our use of VMotion. With Zerto (Virtual Replication), it is virtual aware, so we can use all the features of VMware and we do not disrupt our BC/DR processes at all.”


Working closely with Merdian IT, the Trust implemented Zerto allowing Hackney Learning Trust to fully exploit the new infrastructure by having production VM’s at the DR site replicating to the production site and vice versa. With his cross site approach, the Trust is able to fully utilise the systems at both sites whilst enjoying full protection.


Additionally, Hackney Learning Trust did not want to update their networking capabilities, and after the data was seeded at both sites, replication commenced it was clear that the 100Mb link is more than adequate to support the corporate LAN as well as replication between sites. With Zerto, the Trust has created and is able to continually and non-disruptively test sub 10 second RPO and RTO of minutes due to the WAN optimisation built into ZVR.


Zerto has also helped the Trust reduce operational costs by simplifying the process associated with configuration management of target VM’s required to maintain failover readiness as well as manual configuration intervention during failover and failback. Zerto tracks all the vMotion and Storage vMotion changes while IP address changes for failover and failback are all pre-configured, these operational complexities are eliminated whilst failover and failback delays are minimised as a result of this automation. “We have realised a higher return on our VMware investment with Zerto (Virtual Replication) and the simple migration maximises the investment in our new infrastructure,” adds Crook.


Finally, the new solution has improved confidence that disaster recovery testing can take place with one click combined with testing reminders and validation reports to reassure auditors. According to Crook, this is in stark contrast to the legacy solution which was resource intensive, time consuming, and didn’t really show that recovery from a data centre issue would be possible.

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