BidAir Cargo, a wholly owned subsidiary of the BidVest Group, offers an express cargo airline service from airport to airport to 37 destinations in Southern and Eastern Africa.

When the company split off from BidAir Services, which was sold out of the Group in 2020, all BidAir Cargo’s co-hosted servers needed to be redeployed and network infrastructure had to be reconfigured.

The outdated backup system that was in place also needed to be replaced, and the company turned to Data Management Professionals South Africa (DMP SA), who recently joined forces with Gabsten Technologies, to deliver a modern, automated and more effective solution.

Learning from past mistakes

“The backup system we inherited backed up our physical server on site to a NAS device, and from there the backup was manually replicated onto hard drives that were then placed into rugged cases and physically shipped off to Metrofile on a daily basis. It was incredibly labour intensive, requiring a significant amount of human intervention, which always creates the potential for error,” says Hans Goosen, IT manager for BidAir Cargo.

“In addition, prior to the split, we had been the victims of a ransomware attack that had encrypted all our data, which had required us to completely rebuild our servers and redeploy from backups. We had to format the servers, reload the operating system and software, physically obtain the backups from storage, and then manually restore the data.

“The entire process took nearly three days and we were completely offline for the duration. We also lost a day of data due to the encrypted backup. We had to prevent the possibility of this type of downtime from occurring again, so a new backup system was essential,” he adds.

Better, faster, cheaper

After being referred to DMP SA, the teams met to discuss the best solution to meet BidAir Cargo’s requirements, including a complete backup of physical servers, hosts and virtual machines.

Ultimately, the decision came down to cost in relation to functionality, and the quoted solution from DMP SA was under budget while meeting every requirement.

From beginning discussions to completed implementation took less than two weeks, including migration of all servers into a local datacentre with physical host servers and virtual servers, as well as interconnects and third-party integrations.

“With our new backup solution, we can restore our full server back to the time of the latest snapshot. We have twice daily backups going back 90 days, monthly backups going back for a year, and annual backups for the past five years, more than meeting best practice standards and our minimum requirements,” says Goosen.

From days to minutes

The automated backup and recovery system ensures that business critical data is always available and downtime is minimised. Each morning, BidAir Cargo receives a status report confirming the health of backups and detailing any errors that occurred and that were fixed. BidAir Cargo has tested the system as well as experienced real scenarios that required data to be recovered, and all incidents met the required recovery time objectives.

“We have challenged the system with a complete shutdown like we experienced during the past ransomware attack, and instead of three days to recover, it took just 46 minutes from the report being logged to being completely back up and running with a full copy of the latest backup data,” says Goosen.

In addition, at the beginning of October 2021, corrupt critical folders linked to several websites caused the sites to be inaccessible. The incident was detected and within a few minutes DMP SA had remotely restored the folders, seamlessly, minimising downtime and thus impact to customer service. BidAir Cargo has also performed three quarterly disaster recovery tests for audit purposes since the system went live, and each was a complete success.

Offsite backup for added peace of mind

The recent rioting and looting caused concern within the BidAir Cargo IT team about the ability to recover data should something happen to the physical data centres, and the company began to investigate out of country backups as well.

DMP SA recommended Microsoft Azure cold storage in Europe, and within 24 hours of receiving the request and costing approval, had integrated the new solution.

Ultimate peace of mind

“The data hosted on our servers are critical to our business. Without access to this data, we cannot function. Our backup and recovery solution from DMP SA has revolutionised our disaster recovery strategy and vastly enhanced processes with automated tasks. The risk of human error has been effectively eliminated, compliance and auditing are far simpler prospects, and previously time-consuming tasks can be completed in a matter of minutes,” says Goosen.

“The biggest mistake businesses make is waiting until something goes wrong before updating their backup and recovery strategy. We had the unfortunate experience of knowing exactly the impact of an outdated solution, and we knew that we needed to address the issue urgently. Now we have complete peace of mind that our data is protected and available, which in turn protects our business continuity and our reputation,” he concludes.