Haven Power uses public cloud for disaster recovery

By Stuart Sumner
07 Nov 2011 View Comments
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Energy firm Haven Power has recently started using Amazon Web Services (AWS) for its disaster recovery (DR) requirements.

The company, founded in 2006, grew quickly without implementing a DR solution, but decided it needed to implement one last year.

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"We realised that as a £100m business with no DR strategy we were exposed to major risk and no recovery mechanisms if we lost the core site," said Paul Armstrong, business systems manager at Haven Power.

The firm considered three types of DR solution, an internally or externally hosted solution and then this public cloud solution.

"We looked at a cloud-based solution, then a traditional internally hosted solution from our owners Drax Group. They have a large datacentre that could have hosted a DR service," said Armstrong.

"We also looked at a relocation service from ICM. They could have provided kit to a satellite office in four hours and we'd have run our system from there."

Armstrong explained that ultimately the cloud solution from AWS was the best fit for the business as he was able to get a solution up and running quickly without worrying that the design would subsequently have to change.

"We liked the flexibility of the cloud solution. The primary driver wasn't cost, but rather the ability to set up the infrastructure even though we recognised the design was changing.

"We could set it up and do our operational acceptance testing without a large up-front investment. Then if our on-site infrastructure changes, we can amend those configurations quickly and easily."

The solution has the added benefit that it makes some network running costs easier to control.

"We've got great control over costs. All environments now only work during the week, they're auto scripted to turn off. So we don't have servers running overnight, but can write exceptions via the main controller when we need it," explained Armstrong.

Controllable costs is one benefit, but functionally Haven Power is using its cloud in other ways too.

Research and development is another area that is benefitting from the project.

"We've now in effect got an infinitely scalable infrastructure we can use for other things," Armstrong noted. "We're looking at doing more big data type projects, hosting the data up in the cloud cheaply and using it for R&D purposes."

As with many organisations, the security of any cloud solution is a consideration, so to help analyse the issue Haven employed chartered accountants Grant Thornton to conduct an audit.

"Security was a board-level concern, so we built the infrastructure and then had independent external auditors to check that they were happy with the security procedures.

"Once we had a clean bill of health then we started hosting our data in the cloud."

However, while the firm may have been satisfied that the solution itself is secure, it was still wary of hosting services in the US, partly thanks to the infamous Patriot Act.

"We opted for a solution in Europe, using a datacentre in Dublin. We're a UK-based organisation, we didn't want our data going across to a datacentre in the US."

The solution, which costs £5,000 per month, passed its final acceptance testing last month.

Armstrong explained that he was able to ramp the project up quickly.

"We started the selection process in January, made the selection by end of February, and had the initial infrastructure in place and operating in April. Last month, we completed the final operational acceptance testing and handover."

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