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South Nassau Communities Hospital Nurses its Data with FilesX

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November 2, 2004.................... Case study article by - FilesX

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Editor's intro:- This is a backup case study about South Nassau Communities Hospital, headquartered in Oceanside, New York and describes practical problems and solutions related to email backup.

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The South Nassau Communities Hospital (SNCH) serves several south shore communities in Long Island, New York. It has a bed capacity of 400+, affiliations with over 800 physicians and functions as a teaching hospital in association with area residency programs. The hospital provides inpatient, ambulatory, home health, restorative, preventative and emergency medical care and also offers services ranging from cancer and cardiac care to diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and support services to the local communities.

The Diagnosis

One of the core values of SNCH is to provide top quality care to its patients. During the last five years the hospital has undertaken projects to expand facilities and improve their specialized care services. To achieve these goals, the hospital concentrates on effective management of resources and careful forecasting of the growing needs of the community. This philosophy extends to the management and protection of hospital data, the lifeblood of any medical organization.

Connor Brosnahan, Network Manager at SNCH, is responsible for the health of the hospital's network. In mid-2003 he started looking for a system that would enable him to quickly restore different types of data across his network, in particular Microsoft Exchange data. As he describes his search, "I was looking for something that would let me recover Microsoft Exchange data quickly. It's common knowledge that if you lose something in Exchange, or inadvertently delete something, it's difficult to restore the information. Some packages simply can't backup the data quickly or frequently because of the large amounts of data. And if the data outage happens at a certain point in the data backup schedule, there's the potential to lose large stretches of data."

After posing his dilemma to business friends and performing an intense search on the Internet, Connor determined that no product met his requirements.

Nearly a year later, in the spring of 2004, Connor resumed his search and found the FilesX Web site. The FilesX system seemed to suit his needs, and he moved quickly to examine the product suite more closely.

"About four months ago I went online again and I came across the FilesX Web site. The product capabilities seemed to match what I wanted, so I called them and asked for more information. FilesX demonstrated their product capabilities over the Web, and the Microsoft Exchange recovery features were just what I was looking for. We arranged for a 30-day trial. The FilesX staff installed the server software on a machine I had in my development area. We installed their client software on a couple of my servers, set the snapshot schedule, and started to test the system."

"The implementation went pretty smoothly; today we run the FilesX system and it backs up servers in multiple networked segments. The server that runs the FilesX Xpress Manager software is a development machine with one terabyte of RAID that I had bought to test new software. The FilesX system has been in place for several months, and I've added more machines to the backup schedule. Everything is running well, and at this point my intention is to budget for additional FilesX servers so I can backup more servers and schedule more frequent data snapshots."
Steps to a Cure

Connor was looking for a system that would allow fast data restoration for Microsoft Exchange, but was immediately interested in the FilesX product suite's capabilities to store and recover additional types of data. SNCH relies on a disparate network of servers located in both the hospital and in outlying physicians' offices to maintain patient and administrative data.

Connor describes how the FilesX system is used to protect the hospital's data. "How frequently a particular server is backed up depends on the system. I weigh what the server is used for and then determine the frequency of snapshots. People don't realize this, but if you lose something, you may be able to restore data from yesterday's backup, but what about everything you did today? If the worst-case scenario is less than half an hour instead of half a day, then that's less painful for everyone."

"One of the most critical systems that I snapshot is the Local Area Network Therapy Information System (LANTIS) for the Radiation Oncology department. The LANTIS system is designed specifically for Radiation treatment to capture and manage all patient-related information. There is also a system called "Meditab" which is used by the Surgical Oncology department. Their goal is to go paperless so it's vital that their data is protected and recoverable. The Bariatrics department is going to deploy the same system. Critical systems are snapshot as frequently as possible, roughly every half hour, to minimize the effect of any data loss."

"For the systems that aren't as critical, the snapshots are scheduled every one or two hours. The hospital's Microsoft Exchange email system is backed up every hour, and despite the huge amount of data the FilesX system handles the snapshot schedule efficiently."

"Other data that is protected by FilesX includes the financial system that is used to do budget forecasting. We also snapshot some of the SQL servers, and the server used by the Engineering department that is used to handle work order requests is backed up every night."

"Every day I look at the overall data banks and see what I can add to the FilesX backup list. The server that hosts the FilesX system currently stores 500 gigabytes of data. FilesX makes recovering data a routine task even as we've increased the number of servers and the frequency of scheduled snapshots. The system is completely worth the investment."

"When I describe the concept of the FilesX system and how we've deployed it, everyone says 'prove to me that it works'. All you need is one real-world test, no matter how small, and the FilesX system delivers what it promises. That one small test is a sign of how the system will handle a server crash or other big event where the cost of fast data restoration can't be measured. It's a great product, and proves that if you listen to what people need and build a tool that works, you'll have people knocking down your door."
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Minor and Major Threats to Well-Being

The art of anticipating disaster is often built in response to close calls, and the hospital was recently struck by power failures of different scales. As Connor recalls, "During the Northeast Blackout the hospital was affected, though our systems were not compromised. We get our power comes from Rockville Centre, which has its own generators. The hospital was down for about four hours, but we were running off our own backup generators. The hospital is a high priority for restoring electricity, so compared to other businesses the impact was minimal."

"We have had some issues because of construction projects around the hospital. Data has been protected, but you have to keep in mind thatbackup batteries only last for so long and a lot of times you can't get to every machine and shut it down properly. You need to be prepared for any situation."

The FilesX system has been in place for several months, and its unique ability to restore data quickly and easily is revealed in a less dramatic situation. As Connor describes his response to a recent data restoration task, and compares it to the previous process, the distinction becomes clear.
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"Late one afternoon there was a relatively minor request. My boss came in and said that someone in our HR department had accidentally deleted a file, and he asked if we could recover it. I accessed the repository via Windows Explorer and navigated to the folder that listed all versions of the file. I choose the most recent one, copied it into the shared drive and the HR person simply copied it onto his machine. I was also able to narrow down the time frame of when the file was accidentally deleted. It took less than five minutes."

"If I had to use tape to retrieve the file, I would have had to call someone in the office at the hospital – or walk over there myself – and find the correct tape, mount it, wait a half hour for the computer to read the tape, and then find the file, assuming that the tape is read correctly. Not to mention that in the best case scenario, the latest version of the file would be from the previous night. The time and labor expenditure is much larger."

Healthy Systems at a Reasonable Cost

Connor describes the benefits of the FilesX system in terms of time and money, two topics dear to any manager's heart.

"At a high level, the financial benefits are easy to summarize. Particularly in healthcare, there is so much data that needs to be tracked and stored. The goal is always to minimize what is lost if a server crashes, and to streamline the recovery process to reduce the time it takes to get data back online. Our former process allowed us to backup data twice a day, and we would have to rebuild the system from the point of data loss to the present. The difference with the FilesX system is that we can restore information up to the last half hour. The data is recovered and restored to the system in less time with less effort and fewer mistakes – the impact of data loss is minimized across the board and the costs associated with data restoration are reduced."

"When you look at data loss and recovery from a hands-on point of view, the FilesX system saves both time and labor for both the staff that depends on the data and the technical team that restores the data. Prior to installing FilesX, if data needed to be restored I would normally call someone in that particular office, and they would restore the data from the original backup. The process would run along the lines of find the tape, read the tape, build the catalog from the tape -- to get this far could take hours. Then you need to find the file and restore it, and monitor the process and make sure everything runs smoothly. That's time wasted whether I'm doing it or someone else is. With FilesX the recovery process can be handled through the FilesX server and restored remotely, or it can be delegated – it saves a huge amount of resources in terms of the time to recover data, as well as the level of effort required. And the staff and the patients that depend on the data are able to access it much faster."
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