Secure back-up and hosting

IT services firm Ignition introduces a local hosting service in Cayman to complement its offshore data centres in Curacao, Bermuda and Nova Scotia. The data centre facility will provide high-availability secure hosting for clients’ critical data, applications and business continuity infrastructure. 


Backing up business data is an important part of ensuring business continuity. The traditional approach of backing up data and production systems to tape and other storage devices has inherent risks, for example if the tapes get destroyed or do not work. Backing up data and applications via an encrypted Internet connection in a secure, hurricane resistant, data centre ensures the replication of systems and longer term storage of data.  

Ignition’s new Cayman service offering will come in addition to the network operating centres maintained by the firm in Hamilton, Bermuda, servicing the Bermuda market, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, providing fast, direct connectivity with minimal latency to Europe and a third centre in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles, servicing clients in the Caribbean. “We have clients in Cayman, Trinidad and Jamaica that put their data into Curacao,” says Ignition CEO Graham Pearson. Although Ignition already maintains this network of hosting centres in the region, Pearson believes there is also a market for a data centre in Cayman. “There are a number of Cayman companies that want to keep their data in Cayman but they still want to keep it secure,” he explains the firm’s strategic investment decision.  

The new service offering gives Cayman clients the option of keeping their data securely backed-up locally. For clients that are looking for additional off-island redundancy, the local service can be combined with encrypting and transferring the data to Curacao. But it is not just the data that can be backed-up and stored securely. Ignition hosts data as well as client applications to enable fast access and the restoring of both after a disaster. 

“In the event there is a localised disaster, the problem is if you lose your data and you lose the servers and the applications, you cannot do anything with your data. That is why clients will subscribe with us to replicate their applications as well,” Pearson says. 

How quickly a local disaster, and not just a hurricane, can strike shows the example of one of Ignition’s Bermuda-based clients. 

“Last year one of our clients, a major car sales and paint shop, lost everything, when the paint shop went up in flames. They even kept their tape back-up in the same room as the servers,” explains Pearson. “Now they cloud everything with us and have moved to the private cloud. We host them in Bermuda and we have a copy of that data sitting in Hibernia.” 

Ignition aims at a range of small and medium sized companies with its service, says Pearson. “We try to make it attractive for the SME market, whether it is a two men office all the way to 200 persons.” 

Really large organisations generally already have their own disaster recovery systems in place. “They tend to be international companies with operations abroad and they do their own back-up within their own operation.” Smaller and medium sized companies, in turn, have not always effective solutions in place. 

“They might use a removable back-up drive and they take it home with them,” he says. “The problem is if you try to restore from those, it takes forever and it can fail.” 

The requirements for clients to use the local hosting are minimal as simply a software package has to be installed on the client’s servers, desktops and laptops to automatically back up data at pre-determined intervals, mostly overnight. If the data needs to be recovered, it can be done from anywhere. Even if clients are travelling and cannot access a particular file from their office, they can access it from the back-up servers. “So from a travel perspective it gives them a solution as well,” says Pearson. 

The recovery process can start through a web browser. Given that most companies still largely work with Microsoft Office products such as Word, Excel and standard accounting packages such as Quickbooks, recovery is easy, he says.  

Microsoft Exchange for email hosting and Sharepoint for file management are the back bone applications of the service. In addition clients such as small trust and fund companies may have their own applications that can be hosted by Ignition in the secure data centre.  

For many clients the hosting service also solves a compliance problem. “They are being asked by their clients: What is your DR plan? We can provide a solution without them having to reinvent the wheel. So it is a compliance issue as much as a practical matter for most of these companies,” says Pearson. 

Ignition is offering a 90 day free data back-up trial period for companies to test the service. The cost of the service is based on the how much room is needed for the data and the number of applications that are run.  

Essentially disaster recovery solutions are all about tolerance for risk and how much you are willing to pay, Pearson says. “How much risk you are willing to accept? Most people look at their business asking how long can I afford to be down?” 

While some can afford to go down for a week or ten days, others could not afford to go down for an hour, depending on what business they are in and the applications they need.  

“Most of the time there are a few core people in an organisation that have to come back up fast. So even if you start with a company of 30 people you want to bring up six or seven of those,” he says. 


The data centre 

After comparing the various local options Ignition decided to use the DART facility at Camana Bay for its hosting services. The Camana Bay data centre is a hardened facility for the storage of servers and other IT equipment. It offers dual or triple redundancy in the form of multi-level uninterruptible power supplies, 500 KVA back-up diesel generators, air condition and fire suppression and is therefore always operational, even during and after a natural disaster like a hurricane.  

The data centre itself is a very tightly controlled area with CCTV cameras monitoring the space and limited access only for designated representatives from user companies such as Ignition. Ignition will maintain its own racks in the facility stored in individual lockable cabinets. The servers will be monitored out of the firm’s central network operations centre and maintained by local support. 

Connectivity with the centre is guaranteed through two separate telecommunications providers.