Backup appliances the hot topic for Pas-de-Calais fire brigade

by Jeremy

Every day the Pas-de-Calais (PdC) fire brigade receives call recordings from the police and courts. Such emergency calls are all recorded and must be retained for 15 years. But the optical media used to store them had become increasingly demanding to utilize. Not least among the limitations was that it was incredibly time-consuming to find and recover information from 10 years ago or more on a collection of CDs.  So, the time had come to move to a more scalable and accessible method of backup and archiving.

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The brigade has about 5,000 employees and volunteers. There are 1,400 professional firefighters and up to 3,500 volunteers, with 300 administrative and technical staff. Its HQ is at Arras, with three datacentres that run 140 VMware virtual servers on 16 Cisco UCS blades. Apart from Microsoft Office 365, nothing runs in the cloud. The force uses electronic vaulting services to meet its legal obligations regarding digitized invoices and other legal documents.

Victim files held for ten years

A little over a year ago, the PdC fire brigade decided to get two StorageCraft OneXafe data protection backup appliances with 12 disks of 10TB. Capacity totals 120TB raw power installed in two server rooms.

The OneXafe series is built on scale-out NAS storage with the company’s ShadowXafe backup software onboard.

OneXafe boxes offer scale-out file access storage onto an underlying object store, with a single parallel file system across all instances. The StorageCraft product is the latest in an emerging class of backup appliances that merge backup software with storage hardware but scale-out capability. Unlike standalone backup appliances, backup appliance nodes can be built out into grid-like clusters of backup/secondary storage capacity. Key players are Rubrik and Cohesity, with established backup software makers CommVault and Veritas also getting onto the bandwagon. A vital aim of the purchase for the PdC fire brigade, apart from getting good value, was that it would be scalable in the face of growing data protection requirements.

“With the coming of the pandemic, we started doing a lot of video-conferencing calls, which we had to record,” said Frederic Van Camp, CIO at the brigade. “That would include meetings around tender processes, the results of which could be contested, and so the proof is required. The company also wanted to digitize medical reports, which need to be kept for ten years. There is also drone footage. So, one of the advantages of StorageCraft appliances is the ability to accept any drive, no matter its capacity or speed. Van Camp highlighted other factors that motivated the brigade’s buying choices. First was that OneXafe runs on a Dell chassis, which meant his team could benefit from Dell hardware support, which was reassuring. So, for example, if the brigade runs into an issue, it can call StorageCraft’s 24×7 support, and if it is a hardware problem, a Dell technician is sent out within four hours.

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