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Data protection and IT resilience for the UK’s most iconic venue

February 2022 by Marc Jacob

The world’s leading figures in music, dance, sport and politics have appeared on stage at The Royal Albert Hall since it opened in 1871. Now over 1.7 million people enjoy live experiences at the venue every year, with millions more experiencing events through broadcasts, recordings and new media channels.

The Challenge

Crispin Gray is the Head of IT for The Royal Albert Hall:

“It’s a fascinating place to work. From Cirque du Soleil, to Adele to The Proms, there are amazing things happening almost every day.”

As such a high profile venue, the organisation deals with numerous Business Continuity challenges.

“From a data and IT perspective, our top priorities are our ticketing systems. Some of the events we hold are phenomenally popular and sell out very quickly but there is always activity at any time of day. We need to make sure that we minimise any potential downtime to those systems and ensure that our data is protected at all times, with RPO’s as short as possible.”

The Royal Albert Hall’s existing Managed Backup contract was up for renewal and Crispin was seeking to make improvements.

“We wanted to enhance to our IT resilience. As an organisation, we need to meet an expectation for uptime, so our primary objective was to reduce our recovery times for key systems.

“We went out to the market to review Backup as a Service and Disaster Recovery as a Service providers.

“Our preference was to find a single supplier that could provide managed data backup and continuous replication and wrap that all up under an IT Disaster Recovery service. We considered a number of different offerings, including using private data centres. However, we are increasingly moving our on-prem services to the Cloud and this project presented a great opportunity to move this aspect of our IT provision to Microsoft Azure.”

The Solution

Royal Albert Hall selected Databarracks to provide Backup as a Service (BaaS) and Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS).

“The technologies we chose were Commvault for Backup and Zerto for Disaster Recovery. During our engagement with Databarracks we evaluated several different options.

“On the Backup side, Commvault met our needs. We have an onsite appliance with local copies of data in addition to off-site backups in Microsoft Azure.

“We considered a number of replication tools from different vendors but ultimately opted for Zerto, partly due to the longer journal and recovery windows it offered. Cyber threats now mean you may need to revert back to an older copy than if you were recovering from a hardware failure. Zerto gives us more flexibility and more granular RPO’s.”

Databarracks deployed the Resource Planner tool to assess The Royal Albert Hall’s infrastructure.

“We were able to scope out which workloads needed DRaaS and which needed BaaS. Databarracks worked with us to help identify which servers and systems to categorise as P1 or P2. That also gave us estimates for our likely Azure costs which helped alleviate some of our concerns.

“We were really impressed with the effort that Databarracks put in to assess our requirement and design a solution that met our objectives for risk, recovery and cost.

“Databarracks brought a range of BC skills to the table which proved invaluable, as was their experience of delivering comparable solutions in Microsoft Azure. We spoke to current Databarracks DRaaS customers using Microsoft Azure to find out about their experience of the service. The overwhelmingly positive responses we received from other customers ultimately helped us to select Databarracks from our shortlist.”

The Benefits

For The Royal Albert Hall, one of the unexpected benefits was the improvement in testing.

“We now test the solution on a bi-annual basis and the process has improved every time. We operate a hybrid environment across the Public Cloud and our on-premises infrastructure. A lot of our planning is centred around how we can recover and reconnect our ticketing systems quickly with as little downtime as possible.

“We love how easy it is to schedule a test without big additional expense. Testing in Azure has also been an easy way to become familiar with the platform and introduce it to the team here. On the people and process side, we appreciate the little things such as how Databarracks will use different engineers each time we test so knowledge isn’t siloed.

“The team at Databarracks have really impressed us. Across the board from their sales, presales engineers and project managers to the tech team we deal with every day, everyone has been fantastic.

“In 2021 we celebrated our 150th anniversary and recently completed ‘The Great Excavation’ - a two storey basement to increase space and facilities within the Hall. With so much going on at all times, the highest praise I can give, is that the service helps me sleep better at night.”




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