Asigra's online backup and recovery software is being deployed by Datastore365 for Northampton Saints RFC. Datastore365 carries out automated backups on a continual basis for Northampton Saints, to protect the Club’s sensitive and critical data, including video analysis (researching the opposition’s tactics and training the players), retail data from the two stadium shops, emails, all files including players’ contracts and medical records, and accounting data.

About the Saints

Northampton Saints is one of the most well known names in English club rugby. Founded in 1880 the club has been home to many world class players including England 2003 World Cup winners Ben Cohen, Steve Thompson, Matt Dawson and Paul Grayson. One of the most famous players in the world, Carlos Spencer, is a member of the current squad.

The Saints won the Heineken European Cup in 2000 and reached the semi-finals in 2007. In 2006/07 the club achieved a 95 percent plus stadium occupancy rate for home matches and made a profit of £283,000 from a turnover in excess of £11 million. In professional rugby Northampton Saints has consistently been one of only a few clubs to turn a profit.

Its Franklin’s Gardens facility is also the pre-eminent conference and banqueting venue in Northamptonshire. Redeveloped between 2000 and 2002, and then extended in 2005, the ground now boasts 48 hospitality boxes and several bars and restaurants.

Change of direction from tape

Having experienced a major data loss in 2006 that directly affected the Club’s business, the Saints needed to ensure that in the event of a systems failure this information would be protected and quickly restorable to allow for business continuity.

Brian Facer, head of Marketing at Northampton Saints, said: “Nobody ever believes a disaster will happen to them, but when it does it can cripple your business and you need to be ready. We experienced a major IT disaster first hand in 2005 and lost data critical to the running of the club, which spurred us on to move from corrupt and manual tape-based backup – which had proved to be unreliable, slow and open to human errors – to online backup with Datastore365 using Asigra’s software which is automated, reliable and we can restore our data within minutes if needed."

Datastore365 is backing up 120GB of stored data from three Windows 2003 servers, including an Active Directory server, a Microsoft Exchange SQL server and a general file server. The datacentre is based in Brackmills industrial estate in Northampton. For additional protection of the data, the data is mirrored to a second Datastore365 datacentre based in the old US Airforce base at Greenham Common, Berkshire, just in case the primary datacentre should fail. The data is generated from four different locations in and around the stadium, due to the diverse nature of the business, so it is advantageous that the backup is centralised.

The level of granularity the software allows in the restoration of the data suits Northampton Saints. A backup set for instance can include a whole server, share/volume, directory or even a single file. Should the Saints just lose just one email for instance, this can be restored individually without having to restore an entire server.

Eran Farajun, Asigra's EVP, commented: “Asigra Televaulting speeds backup and restore processes by only including unique data that has not been previously stored, saving time, costs and storage needs for a more efficient means of disaster recovery and by providing a copy of the backup on local storage.”

How the backup works

At Northampton Saints’ headquarters, Franklin’s Gardens, a single Asigra Televaulting DS-Client discovers all servers, desktops and laptops connected to the local network, and automates the backup of all local data assets.

The software is totally agentless, requiring no additional software to be installed on any machines to enable backup. Before the backup data set is transmitted to the Datastore365 datacentres, the Asigra Televaulting software analyses the data, finds new and changed file blocks from the previous backup, eliminates duplicate files and further compresses the residue bytes to ensure the backup set is as compact as possible.

The software then encrypts the data before sending it over an IP- WAN connection to a centralised Asigra Televaulting DS-System server, located in Datastore365’s primary datacentre, which consolidates the backup data. Data is encrypted in-flight and at-rest.

The Saints also benefits from Asigra’s bare metal restore (BMR) solution, which will allow Datastore365 to quickly recover lost, damaged or corrupted data in a highly streamlined fashion to any bare metal system without having to manually reinstall operating systems or to configure hardware prior to use. Datastore365 can restore the complete system on new hardware – regardless of manufacturer - including local data, user profiles, registry/system state, service pack files and encrypted files.

Facer said: "Datastore365 – working with its local partner, acs office solutions – now supports us in every area of IT and every time we have given Datastore365 a task it has been fulfilled, giving me the peace of mind and freedom to enjoy and focus on my core role for the Saints.”

Looking ahead

Ali Hepher, European Cup winning player and now head of Technical Analysis at Northampton Saints, said: “Being a household name but operating as a relatively small business it is inevitable that our systems will malfunction from time to time, but we need to be able to protect the data that resides on these systems as it is critical to serving our fans and business partners."

"With the Datastore365 backup service we no longer have to worry about our data and can concentrate on our jobs without interruption. Furthermore, we are moving more and more of our processes from paper to digital, particularly in our analysis and player monitoring. I feel confident now about moving towards additional digital automation because of the data protection system we have in place with Datastore365 and Asigra.”