After experiencing a catastrophic database server failure several years ago that brought the departments most crucial student account management software to a screeching halt for more than half a day, Czeizinger knew he had to find a way to keep the system running, regardless of hardware or software issues.
Although the department didnt lose any data, Czeizinger also knew he had to do something to improve recovery time, and he learned about disaster recovery software while having a conversation with his Dell account manager, Annette Perry.
Czeizinger says he and Perry have a great relationship and that he consults with Perry and Dell systems consultants regularly to discuss issues and problems he is having. It was at one such meeting that he brought up disaster recovery.
"When we were discussing how we had recovered from [the catastrophic database server failure], we came to the realization—especially with our pupil accounting system—that 3 to 4 hours was too much time to take to recover from a database failure.
"At [about the same time], I had a talk with our Dell sales representative. I remember saying, Its nice we do backup and we have redundant servers, power supplies and stuff on servers, but the one thing we dont have is an easy way to recover from server failure," Czeizinger said.
According to Czeizinger, Perry suggested that he try Double-Take, a product that other Dell customers were using successfully to keep critical systems in operation.
In fact, Double-Take Software, formerly NSI Software, of Southboro, Mass., and Dell have had a successful partnership for five years, according to Rob Dutkiewicz, inside technical sales representative for Dell at Double-Take. Dutkiewicz said Dell called Double-Take in this instance to act as subject matter experts around disaster recovery for the Delaware Department of Education sale.
"In this particular situation, with the Delaware Department of Education, [Dell] called us and got us on the phone with the customer to be the subject matter experts for high-availability disaster recovery," Dutkiewicz said, explaining that Dell asked Double-Take to provide guidance for the customer.
"They said, Were the hardware experts, but you guys are the high-availability [and disaster recovery] experts, so tell us what fits best in this type of environment," Dutkiewicz said.
At that point, according to Dutkiewicz, Perry invited the Double-Take sales team to make a presentation to the Delaware Department of Education. "Annette and Dell came to us and said, Weve got this opportunity, and it seems like a perfect fit. Go in there and talk to them."
Dutkiewicz and the sales team met with the Department of Education and explained how the technology works and how it would best fit the departments requirements.
The Delaware Department of Education is based in Dover. The 30-person Department of Technology Management and Design—seven of whom deal with networking issues—is responsible for maintaining data on 116,000 students across 19 school districts encompassing 120 schools.
Approximately 8,500 teachers and administrators access the eSchoolPlus pupil accounting system on a daily basis, according to Czeizinger.
The system tracks such information as statewide student identification numbers, school profiles, school report cards, statewide student testing data, teacher schedules, attendance, report cards and more. Any time this system goes down, it brings school administration to a virtual standstill, and the pressure to get it back and running can be intense, Czeizinger said.
"If the system goes down, there is a lot of pressure from the school districts and the higher-level officials in the Department of Education, and thats besides the loss of reputation [we face]," Czeizinger said. "School districts in Delaware expect a pupil accounting system thats up and running, and they dont want excuses that we had a hardware failure. They expect it to work consistently, and thats our goal."
To achieve this high level of service, Czeizinger began shopping for disaster recovery software, concentrating on two applications: CAs BrightStor High Availability and the Double-Take product.
Czeizinger said he visited both vendors for a product demonstration, then actually bought a copy of each one and ran the two packages on separate servers to get a feel for how they worked (although actual systemwide implementation would prove more complex and require the help of an installation consultant).
After putting each package through its paces, and working with each companys help desk, Czeizinger and his colleagues decided that the Double-Take software suited their needs better, mostly because the company offered better support and documentation.
"[Both products] did what they were supposed to do," Czeizinger said. But with CAs product, Czeizinger said if the software didnt work according to plan, he needed to call the support desk so staffers could walk him through the recovery. It was an unsatisfactory approach, he said.