Beating the backup blues at PFD Food Services

A move to the Amazon cloud for data backups is paying dividends for PFD Food Services, Australia’s largest privately owned fresh and frozen food distributor with $A1.5 billion turnover, 2,200 staff and over 65 sites across Australia.

By adopting a solution utilising Commvault Enterprise Backup software, the company claims to have stripped out 34 percent in costs from tape management, media handling, storage and resources due to manual intervention.

PFD’s main data centre is hosted by Telstra in Melbourne, with snapshots taken every hour and transferred to a second Telstra data centre in Sydney used for disaster recovery. More than 6.5TB of weekly full backups that were archived from the DR environment to LTO4 tape are now instead migrated to the Amazon S3 cloud via Commvault.

“Food distribution is a fast and often unforgiving business; there is a narrow window to match supply and demand for customers, while the market is fiercely competitive,” said Richard Cohen, Chief Information Officer of PFD.

“We have to do everything we can to give ourselves that competitive advantage, which means the free flow of strategic business information. Systems downtime is simply not an option.”

“The backup to tape process was taking from midnight to 6 or 7am and we are now a 24x7 organisation so it was unacceptable that we needed to kill tape backups to get system performance back. We needed a more robust and timely system that would cater for our data volumes.”

The move to the cloud is allowing infinite backups instead of the previous 90 or 180 day limit.

Cohen says the business has confidence that if there is a failure in the primary data centre, the data stored in the cloud can be up and running within an hour. Following the success of this migration, the firm’s solution provider Venn IT will help Cohen achieve further cost savings by archiving older files to Amazon’s Glacier cloud storage platform.

Cohen said, “Our goal is to provide the business with a reliable, resilient and risk-free environment – taking a programmatic approach to data management. We have achieved this by harnessing state of the art technology to strip out costs, modernise our information strategy and guarantee durability and protection of our strategic data assets.”

There are more than 1100 users on the PFD network accessing enterprise applications. FD's core business system is MFG/Pro, which it has heavily-modified to suit the food service environment. PFD also uses Kronos workforce management solutions deployed in the Kronos Cloud.

“Our data priorities are driven by our main business system, which can now be brought back up within an hour if it falls over. Our next priority was then email and recovering our Exchange environment, which is a mix of 2007 and 2010. Even four or five years ago email wasn’t seen as such a priority in our business as it is today.”

“The data priorities are driven by the application and the impact on the business should that not be available.”

“If something was to happen to our DR environment now we could just run up the Amazon environment as our production environment.”

PFD is seeking to modernise its data management strategy and information infrastructure. A project to deploy a new intranet will include a document management system that will leverage SharePoint to manage files currently on network fileshares.

“We struggle a bit with collaboration at the moment because half of our sites across the country are on low bandwidth links using Telnet to access our main business system.  A full network refresh will cater for a more Windows GUI oriented applications and document sharing utilising SharePoint,” said Cohen.