Canadian Blood Services protecting its data against natural disasters with data centre resiliency model

When dealing with blood transfusion and organ transplant services, the safety and availability of critical IT services is absolutely vital, and when all of those services are located in the same region, the risk of losing one or both to something like a tornado was a serious concern for Canadian Blood Services.

“It’s core and fundamental to our mission as Canadian Blood Services as an organization that our critical IT services are as resilient as possible. We understand that the work that we do really matters to all Canadians,” said David Grant, the director of IT operations and infrastructure for Canadian Blood Servies. “And that’s why we need to be sure the IT systems that are our organization relies upon to do their job is secure and as resilient as possible.”

With this in mind, Canadian Blood Services recently underwent a migration into two new data centres with a new data centre resiliency model; thus minimizing that risk. Grant said that they realized in 2016 that the existing cold site DR recovery model would not meet the needs of the digital transformation that the organization was embarking on, so they began planning for a new model based on resiliency.

“We have elements in the cloud. We just haven’t made a full commitment,” says David Grant, the director of IT operations and infrastructure for Canadian Blood Services.

“DR testing had kind of given us a baseline to say we could recover our most critical systems within a day. But it would take us up to six days for everything else. Even a one day outage was regarded as no longer being suitable and meeting the requirements of us as an organization,” explained Grant. “So we embarked upon a strategy review for our data centers to see what we could do to help improve the resiliency and help mitigate against disasters as well. And that’s what led us into the into the data center project that we recently completed.”

Its previous data centres were both located in the Ottawa area; before they moved to new data centres in Toronto and Calgary in 2018 with the assistance of Zerto Ltd., a company that specializes in business continuity based out of Israel.

The need for this new arrangement became all the more validated when tornados hit the Ottawa area September 21, 2018.

“If we ever needed an indication that we were making the right move, it was that during our migrations, before we’d actually completely moved all of our workloads, the Ottawa region… had three tornadoes touchdown,” he said. “Fortunately, they didn’t come near any of our data centers. But there were several of our local facilities were interrupted by the infrastructure loss. But for the grace of God, that could have been one of our data centers that we lost at that point in time.”

And while many other companies are moving towards a cloud model for their data, Grant says that even though Canadian Blood Services has moved some of its non-vital services to the cloud, a migration of its vital data will not be considered until they can be more certain of the safety of a cloud model.

“We will not take risks with the safety and security of the blood services we provide to all Canadians. We have elements in the cloud. We just haven’t made a full commitment. We do want to move what is appropriate into the cloud. And we will take our time to do this so that we know that it’s safe to do.”

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Buckley Smith
Buckley Smith
Staff writer for IT World Canada. Covering the world of technology as it applies to business. Buckley is an avid sports fan who loves travel, food, and music. Can be contacted at [email protected] or 416-290-2000.

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