Disaster Recovery Service Guards Blood Donor Info

By Maggie O'Neill Print this article Print
disaster recovery service

A blood services provider selects a disaster recovery solution to protect its IT infrastructure and ensure fast data recovery of its blood banking operations.

The urgent need for disaster recovery services at LifeShare, a blood services provider, became glaringly apparent after Hurricane Katrina in 2005: The Shreveport, La.-based nonprofit had to shut down several of its donor facilities and began to struggle with blood supply donation and demand.

LifeShare, which serves Louisiana, east Texas and southern Arkansas, stores data that includes financial and payroll systems information, as well as donor information that's essential to its blood banking operations. Its donor roster numbers 150,000, and it collects health care information on each person.

Donor data is collected at the nonprofit's seven permanent locations. They are networked to the Shreveport headquarters, which functions as the organization's data center. "If the Shreveport center goes offline because of a disaster—or because of difficulty with our AT&T communications coming into the building—the other blood centers can't function," says CIO Ric Jones.

LifeShare uses its data to track information about the quantities and types of blood it has available. Its Website hosts information about the types of blood collected, what is in critical or stable supply, and what is needed. Because the center functions as a round-the-clock supplier of blood, it's important that they be able to quickly locate and dispatch blood from its locations.

Finding a disaster recovery services vendor for its IT systems and infrastructure became a top priority after Katrina, and a solution was chosen and implemented. Then, more than two years ago, LifeShare began experiencing data backlogs—sometimes lasting six to eight hours—and started having difficulty scheduling annual testing to ensure server failover.

"We wanted to get away from [the existing DR] vendor as soon as possible, and get going with a stable, reliable vendor," Jones recalls.

When evaluating possible DR vendors, Jones and his staff used Gartner research. At the top of their priority list was finding a vendor that could supply them with a failover recovery hot site.

After the evaluation process was concluded, Jones and his team chose Sungard Availability Services' Recover2Cloud. They signed a contract in March 2012, and Sungard immediately backed up several of LifeShare's servers. The DR vendor also updated the VMware infrastructure in its Philadelphia data center to accommodate applications and data from the nonprofit's servers.

A mirror copy of LifeShare's data systems was replicated in Sungard's data center, which enabled the nonprofit to protect its critical applications, while ensuring constant backup of data. After the system was deployed, LifeShare's IT staff was able to view real-time data and statistics about the data backup of its 12 severs. That was enhanced by a network capacity upgrade from 6MBs to 10 MBs.

The contract with Sungard provides an additional function of enabling LifeShare to stay compliant with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Association of Blood Banks regulations. They call for a secondary data site that provides robust data protection and replication.

With a reliable disaster recovery system in place, the IT staff is free to focus its attention on other important issues, including management of its 800 workstations.

"We could have an offsite location and do the backup ourselves," says Jones. "But it's much better to use the limited resources in IT for doing things that Sungard can't do, and to use the experts in this area to manage our offsite back-up."

This article was originally published on 2014-10-06

Maggie O'Neill, a Baseline contributing writer, has worked as a news reporter for more than 10 years.

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