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The popularity of cloud computing and virtualization is no longer viewed as a trend, but a resourceful way to operate business processes. CA Technologies recently released a survey of 434 North American and European IT professionals at leading companies, and more than 80 percent of those polled said they have at least one cloud service, while 52 percent are using more than six. C-stores are also embracing the cloud in greater numbers to streamline technological operations while developing secure, efficient approaches to time management.
“Through the use of virtualized systems and redundancy engineering, we have realized continued systems improvement through business continuity planning, a continuously vetted disaster recovery plan, our remote data center solutions, regularly scheduled failover tests and rigorous backup/restore testing processes,” Kevin Wilson, vice president of strategic initiatives and corporate development for the Evansville, IN-based Heritage Petroleum told CSNews Online.
Three years ago, a dedicated IT staff was brought onboard at Heritage. The team recognized a gap in the company’s knowledge base and identified the need for growth in its information systems. At the time the company was running all of its critical information technology (IT) services on a five-year-old server, and all of the networking was being handled on consumer grade switches, which were insufficient, Wilson explained. Additionally, the inadequate and aging storage capability of the existing infrastructure was an impediment, and there were no scalable growth capabilities.
“After a comprehensive review was performed and reviewed with management, the IT team laid out a plan to solve the company’s existing inadequacies,” said Wilson. “After discussing the current needs and envisioning the desired operational level for the foreseeable future, the need for a scalable and redundant virtualized environment was the clear choice.”
Heritage’s discovery process included soliciting advice from a number of sources including larger businesses in its area who had already upgraded their systems and infrastructure. “After an extensive internal review and strong recommendations from several outside sources, we made the decision to move forward with Clear Stone Solutions,” said Wilson. “This process probably only lasted 30 days since much of the legwork and research was conducted prior to hiring the initial IT resource.”
Approximately forty-five days after signing with Clear Stone Solutions, the preexisting server responsible for all IT services suffered a catastrophic failure and the existing backup system was not functional.
“The server architecture was extremely outdated with no hope of successful replacement,” Wilson explained. “What this meant for the enterprise was no e-mail, no ERP/accounting, no billing, no file/print services and no access to historical data.”
It was advantageous that Heritage engaged Clear Stone Solutions when it had, because the process of infrastructure evaluation and systems triage was already underway, and prevented them from losing all the data.
“Part of this comprehensive vetting process was a systems integration phase whereby existing Heritage Petroleum systems went through the virtualization process and were running in tandem with the existing system,” said Wilson. “When the legacy systems failed, the proof of concept model was converted to production. This obviously facilitated an extremely accelerated project timeline and Clear Stone Solutions, through careful project management and assistance from the company’s staff, was able to leverage its skill set to successfully navigate through the disaster.”
The Heritage Petroleum’s data centers now use approximately 35 virtual machines on three dedicated hosts and backup via a Symantec disk to disk Visioncore vReplication. Despite needing to restore one month of lost data, Wilson said business procedures were not interrupted nor was a downtime event experienced. While this was a significant event, it brought into focus the importance of not only operations, but also security.
“Heritage Petroleum has always been extremely concerned about both the integrity of its data and the security of its systems that house it,” Wilson noted. “A move to cloud presented quite a challenge to move the mindset of corporate data secured behind the traditional onsite brick and mortar model. Today we task our IT group to continuously test our systems and provide regular review sessions to constantly improve our capabilities and ensure that the integrity and security of our data is not compromised in any way.”