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Case study: How NIWA survived a supercomputer hack with its disaster response and recovery

Sathya Mithra Ashok | July 17, 2014
National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research's GM of IT, Arian De Wit, talks about the organisation's disaster response and recovery plan and 'evolutionary culture'.

The near future

As the organisation grows and develops, the IT team is constantly challenged and has to move in parallel to the needs of the business.

"One of our big challenges is the data growth that kind of outstrips our financial capacity to handle it. I do see a day coming when we will need to make a major step change so part of next year's work is looking at how we do storage and backup, and analysing if there is a better way to do it. That's an ongoing one.

"Data management and systems for cataloguing data sets is another area of interest. We want to make all the scientific data easily accessible, understandable and reusable for people with their particular use in mind. That's stuff we have to think about a lot more than some other organisations," says De Wit.

De Wit says the team has already done a lot of work on data management tools, and also enabling services that allow people external to NIWA to access and use the organisation's data.

"A lot of the work we have done have been around fostering collaboration at a distance and making that really easy. Beyond internal collaboration there is collaboration with our partners outside. We might be doing a project with a research institute in the States or a university in Europe. And so collaboration across global distances is also important and video conferencing has helped with that. Some of the new screen sharing tools and capabilities are much easier inside Lync than it used to be," says De Wit.

Besides looking at storage more seriously, De Wit envisions certain hardware upgrades as the capex consuming elements for next year.

As for moving to the cloud, it is a case-by-case basis for the NIWA IT team.

"I am looking for a service that would be safe to just try in the cloud — a bit like putting a toe in the water. What I am always after is what gives the best total value proposition for NIWA in any particular service. Whenever we are looking for a refresh on something or deploying something — like a new CRM — we think is this sensible to go cloud first or is it better in terms of integration to keep it in house?

"One thing we might do when we do our next renewal of our Microsoft agreement is consider putting email in the cloud. But then again our email is massive. So maybe it might be too expensive," says De Wit.

 

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