Scottish banking organisation does double take

Ten thousand Scottish bankers rely on Double-Take replication between their chartered institute's data centres for disaster recovery.


Bankers know that they need to provide trustworthy services to the public. It's vital. Organisations for bankers also know that they too need to be dependable and rock-solid in their services. IT systems, for example, must be resilient and recover from disasters.

Ten thousand bankers in Scotland belong to a professional institute, the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland (CIOBS). It was established in 1875 and promotes education amongst bankers. It offers a range of services and educational courses to its members, ranging from regulatory qualifications to professional ones, such as the recently launched Chartered Banker qualification.

The Institute received Royal Charters of incorporation in 1976 and 1991. In July 2000, approval was received from the Privy Council to confer Chartered Banker status upon qualified members who participate in the Institute's Continuing Professional Development programme. This is seen as a major step forward for the Institute and its members who qualify to use the title.

The CIOBS is the only Institute allowed to confer this unique designation.

It maintains a database of 25,000 contacts, using a total of ten Windows servers to maintain the Institute’s IT systems.

What happens if the datacentre housing these servers fails? A disaster recovery site has been in existence for some time and it was kept up to date, well, almost up to date, by an overnight transfer of backup tapes from the primary centre. These days such a process is simply not good enough. It's slow and it means up to a day's worth of data is lost. Things had to change.

Mark Hill, the CIOBS IT manager at CIOBS, was aware of this: “We needed to ensure that the investment we had made in IT was fully utilised and able to cope in the event of a disaster or break in business continuity.”

CIOBS needed to ensure the integrity and availability of its IT systems so that it could maintain high quality tools and resources for its own staff and deliver a level of service that its members are used to in their professional lives.

The organisation has gone through many changes in recent years and has become more reliant on technology for its day-to-day running. In particular, the Institute has started to encourage its members to use its web site so that they can take control of their own details online.

CIOBS has now enhanced its original tape back-up solutions and IT system management and as a result is able to maintain an up-to-date copy of a wide variety of data offsite for immediate use.

Double-Take Software’s data replication product, the eponymous Double-Take, is used between CIOBS’ two Scottish offices: its main site where the majority of the IT infrastructure resides; and in the Disaster Recovery site where the backup servers are found. The organisation now has a system in place that is both robust and flexible, enabling it to provide a professional service to members and staff.

The software detects all disk I/O writes and sends them across a network link to the disaster recovery site. There they are written to the reserve server's storage so that these servers can be used with up to date data if the main site has to shut down or crashes for any reason. It is very simple and very effective software.

Hill said: “Double-Take addresses our needs in so far as it means that in the event of a system failure on any of our main systems, we are able to transfer work to an up-to-date copy of the system almost immediately, reducing down time."

The speed increase is much appreciated compared to the previous nightly back-up on tape: "which simply wasn’t good enough for the quality of service we aim to provide.”

It was also remarkably cost-effective: “Double-Take has allowed us to make the improvements we wanted, without a vast outlay in additional resources and hardware. It has also provided us with a system that could cope with any potential risks we may face in the future and allowed us to make best use of the hardware we had already invested in.”

There was a side benefit concerned with taking the main servers down: "It has given us the confidence that our infrastructure is robust enough to cope with the daily routine and challenges that all businesses have to deal with. We are also better able to plan maintenance and upgrades to our systems, knowing that Double-Take can help to keep our key IT systems available while doing so."

Hill is clearly pleased with the product choice CIOBS has made: "“In my opinion, Double-Take has proved to be a reliable and flexible solution and is quite clearly a more stable and advanced product than some of its competitors. It was flexible enough to be able to cope with the different types of system that we wanted safeguarding, and it was possible to ensure that the software was designed around our needs, rather than us having to change to match Double-Take."

His IT department knows it can provide a trustworthy service to the rest of CIOBS which, in turn, can provide a more consistent, reliable and professional service to its 10,000 members.

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