Information technology

Data storage solution saves terabytes for West Yorkshire NHS IT services


Customer profile The Wakefield Health Informatics Service (HIS), Wakefield, West Yorkshire, UK
  • 2000 desktops and laptops
  • 60 servers
  • Windows operating system
  • CA  BrightStor Data Availability Suite
  • CA  BrightStor Storage Resource Manager
  • CA  Cleverpath Portal
Key benefits
  • Expected to deliver 40% saving over three years
  • Estimated 4TB reduction in unnecessary data
  • Cuts data restore times from hours to minutes
  • Saves up to three days a month on data backup administration time
  • Reduces daily backup period by 50%
Key IT processes
  • Automates many data storage management processes
  • Enables self-service functionality
  • Key business information delivered through a portal
  • Delivers technical information in a clear and easy-to-use format

The Wakefield Health Informatics Service (HIS) is a shared provider of IT services to a group of NHS organisations comprising of the Eastern Wakefield PCT (Primary Care Trust), Wakefield West PCT and the South West Yorkshire Mental Health Trust, as well as, 42 general practices (GPs) in the Wakefield area in NE England. Wakefield HIS provides a range of services including server and network operations, software deployment and end-user technical support to 4,000 NHS users across 150 locations.

Wakefield HIS centrally manages all of the data coming out of these NHS organisations. One key issue the NHS as a whole is facing, and therefore Wakefield HIS as a service provider, is how best to manage their increasing reliance on IT to improve healthcare provision.  Wakefield HIS is working to ensure that their IT environment is able to deliver applications being developed under the National Programme for IT — which aims to transform the way the NHS works through IT.

The increased reliance on IT as an enabler of improved healthcare services has resulted in an increase in the amount of data that needs to be managed. Currently the volume of data doubles every 12 to 15 months. These issues were also putting pressure on resources associated with managing and storing data.

Gareth Bridges, IT systems manager for Wakefield HIS, said, “Demand from our customers for more complex applications, exponential data growth and increasing mobility meant our existing data management capability was simply coping. For example, we had six different data backup servers running three different kinds of tape which was complex and time consuming to manage. It required, one person, full time to deal with backups alone.”

Wakefield HIS contacted a number of other NHS trusts to find out how they had dealt with these problems and found that several organisations were using technology from CA to enable a more centralised and intelligent approach to data storage and management. Wakefield HIS, which had used some of CA’s tools in the past, looked at the company's BrightStor suite of products, carried out its own product benchmark and concluded that CA’s products offered more innovative features and was considerably faster.

Bridges said, “CA BrightStor is a very cost effective and scaleable solution because it offers pretty much the same functionality for small business needs right up to large enterprise. Whereas to get similar functionality from the other products we looked at would have meant buying the very expensive enterprise versions from the start.”

Wakefield HIS is using the CA BrightStor Data Availability Suite to manage all the processes involved in a complete data storage solution, including data backup and restore, for the entire region covered by Wakefield HIS. Backup takes place overnight, and if there are any problems, alerts are sent to an engineer who is able to access the system and fix them remotely. “Traditionally we haven’t had many problems, but it’s reassuring to know that jobs can be restarted and completed overnight rather than having to wait until the following morning where the working day would be impacted,” says Bridges.

BrightStor Storage Resource Manager (SRM), which is one part of the Suite, enables the reporting on storage and backup activity such as on the type and age of files. It enables Wakefield HIS to manage data better by indicating how much storage is left for a specific user or on a specific server and the age and status of archived files. This information is fed to the CA Cleverpath web portal providing NHS business managers with easy-to-read storage information. The portal is updated every eight hours so that managers can access up-to-date information.

“What’s good about the portal is that non-technical business managers can access this information in a clear and meaningful way and thereby more effectively manage end-user activity,” said Bridges.

The new system will also help Wakefield HIS support mobile workers. It is currently rolling out a facility in the CA BrightStor software that enables laptops to carry out local backups while disconnected from the network. When re-connected either directly or remotely, the software automatically backs-up to a server. Because of this, each laptop user will also be able to carry out their own restores. This will significantly reduce the amount of restores — around 88 restore requests a year — that Wakefield HIS will have to perform on behalf of its users.

Improving healthcare service delivery

"The benefits we get from using CA technology are helping to develop an environment where we can manage and even reduce the rate by which the volume of our data is increasing. This helps to ensure that we have an IT environment capable of supporting and delivering new healthcare applications and one which supportive of mobile working,” says Bridges.

Wakefield HIS estimates that it has saved as much as four terabytes of unnecessary data by removing old and duplicated files. Bridges says, “CA BrightStor gives us a much better idea of how storage is used and has enabled us to deploy a more intelligent policy where we’re making considered decisions rather than just throwing more storage capacity at the problem.”

“In addition, CA is helping us to improve customer service. We’re now able to reduce the time it takes to find and restore a file from around two hours to just a few minutes and that means users get a much better service and the Wakefield HIS isn’t wasting time running around dealing with menial tasks,” says Bridges.

The CA technology is saving Wakefield HIS up to three days a month by making the data management and storage process simpler and easier to control. Wakefield HIS estimates that CA BrightStor has helped to save as much as 40% of data management costs over three years compared to its previous approach.

Bridges says, “CA BrightStor has helped to make a number of processes much simpler, to the extent that users can do these for themselves. Although it’s nice to know the support is there, our customers don’t want to have to rely on IT. It’s much quicker for the user and it means that we no longer need to baby sit backup jobs and can concentrate on other activities that deliver more value to customers.”

CA’s innovative approach to licensing its data storage software has dramatically simplified administration for Wakefield HIS. Instead of having to licence each storage device, it is now based simply upon volume of data which cuts out a lot of administration time. “It’s the first time I’ve seen this approach to data management software tools and it shows that CA has a fresh and innovative way of thinking,” says Bridges.

Computer Associates Ltd is exhibiting at Storage Expo 2006 the UK's largest and most important event dedicated to data storage, now in its 6th year, the show features a comprehensive free education programme, and over 90 exhibitors at the National Hall, Olympia, London from 18-19 October 2006

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