When it comes to providing labels used in a pharmaceutical company’s clinical trial of a new drug, it’s not really a question of just putting a piece of paper on a container. Drug development is so expensive – a single drug can cost one billion dollars or more to bring to market – that nothing can be left to chance, including the labels. That is why Clintrak Clinical Labeling Services, LLC, a subsidiary of Thermo Fisher Scientific, has become the key source of labels for drug trials used by major pharmaceutical companies, clinical packagers and contract research organizations around the world.
For more than 15 years, Clintrak has been called on to meet the often complex and rigid labeling requirements of each multi-million-dollar test, where a mistake can undo years of work. In turn, Clintrak relies on Acronis® Backup & Recovery™ 10 software to protect several mission-critical Windows® 2003 servers.
Two years ago, the company was reviewing its ability to recover six physical servers quickly in the event of a disaster in its Bohemia, NY data center. These include a domain controller, a financial database server and the company’s all-critical RIPit® Server, which creates master dies required to make plates for the often complex multi-page labels the company produces at a rate of 20 million a year.
Don Kurfurst, Senior Network Engineer, says that tape-based recoveries were judged far too slow to meet the 15-minute recovery times the company set for its most important servers. “These applications are critical and need to be on line at all times. It would take too long to recover from normal tape backup, where we’d need a day or so to rebuild an OS and then restore data from the tape,” he explains.
Evaluating a solution
Kurfurst polled his Thermo Fisher colleagues about how they protected mission-critical servers and they all came back with the same answer. “Everybody was using Acronis.” Kurfurst himself had prior experience with Acronis disk imaging solutions as a satisfied user of both Acronis home PC products and Acronis business products at a previous employer. However, Clintrak is also an EMC product user, and they decided to combine the advanced imaging capabilities of Acronis Backup & Recovery 10 Advanced Server software with EMC’s Enterprise-level RecoverPoint appliances, as other Thermo Fisher groups had done.
In the time since Acronis was first installed, Kurfurst has been using it to create a backup disk image of each server, including operating systems, applications, settings and SID. These images are saved on a centrally located EMC SAN vault. RecoverPoint then replicates them to an SAN at the company’s Allentown, Pennsylvania facility to provide offsite data protection. “If our Bohemia building is struck by a disaster, we’ll have the images of the physical boxes on the SAN. Rather than having a physical server at the recovery end point, we can take the Acronis image and convert it to a VM. This allows us to meet a 15-minute recovery time objective.”
“Prior to getting Acronis, we would have to rebuild an OS and restore from tape, which would take a day or so. Now we pop in a bootable CD and let Acronis do its thing.”
Donald Kurfurst, Sr. Network Engineer
Failed server saved by quick recovery
When a system-level failure does occur, Kurfurst knows Acronis can handle it. “Time is a big issue because a failed system will cost the company revenue if a job is late.” While Clintrak invested in Acronis primarily for disaster recovery, the product pays for itself in routine assignments. For instance, if there’s a problem in an upgrade, the company can roll back to the previous working version in moments and stay productive while an administrator troubleshoots the problem. This happened recently with a domain controller that also hosted a finance database. An attempt to update virus protection was unsuccessful, so Kurfurst took an Acronis image from a weekend backup and recovered it quickly on the machine. “Once all the data wasrestored, we booted up and were back in business,” he says.
Pointing toward greater efficiency
While Clintrak employs Acronis exclusively for its most important physical servers, where saving an hour of downtime can potentially pay off the investment in Acronis software, it’s beginning to consider how it may be applied to enhance recovery times in a virtualized environment. Kurfurst is intrigued with a system-level recovery feature called Acronis Instant Restore built into Acronis Backup & Recovery 10 products. It creates a copy of a machine-critical machine and places it in a local and/or remote location, where it is updated every five minutes. In case of a machine failure, or even a data center disaster, the standby copy can be launched instantly. Such a capability would permit faster recoveries of some of the company’s most critical machines.