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Fabrice Laruelle, System and Network Manager at Landbouwkrediet, spoke to us at the bank’s head office. "Currently I manage 500 servers in our two data centres. These data centres are thus the heart of our activities. This is where our customer database is located. All our customers’ transactions take place via the data centre and are also stored there: cash withdrawals from an ATM, transfers, Internet banking transactions, direct debits, etc. So this really is a function of vital importance to the bank. Without a data centre, quite simply, nothing would work.”
All these data are therefore optimally protected so that they are always available, including in unexpected circumstances. ‘We have a lot of protective mechanisms in place. Some of them are even legally required. For example, we have two data centres at different locations. If one of them fails, the other one can take over all of its counterpart’s transactions, immediately and almost automatically. And we make backups too, of course.
It’s in connection with these backups that Merak comes into the story. ‘All our data are copied on tape. These backups are checked and collected every day and then stored externally in heavily secured warehouses. The idea is that we always have a copy of all our data outside our own buildings. Suppose a disaster happens that completely destroys a data centre. The externally saved copy will not be lost, and we will be able to immediately retrieve all data and put them back into use. Why tape? Simply because it’s a reliable data carrier that’s easy to store elsewhere. Saving our data online is not as fast or reliable, for technical reasons and because the data storage is far less secure online. Moreover, Merak is nearby and we can always go there quickly to check our backup, which is important if a problem arises.’
‘Merak was already providing storage for our legally required annual backups,’ says Fabrice Laruelle. ‘And once we had decided to outsource the management and storage of our daily backups, they were naturally the first people we asked. We needed maximum security and daily collection of the tapes from our two data centres, at a time of our choosing. And, in the event of problems, the immediate return of those tapes, at any time. We had stringent requirements for the warehouse: it had to be fire-resistant, resistant to explosions and even plane crashes, with protection against possible demagnetisation, heavily secured access via biometric control, and storage of the tapes in safes... Merak meets all these tough criteria. And on the premises? Merak employees deliver our backups without the slightest problem. At one of our data centres, they also take care of the data transfer to these tapes themselves, without us having to do anything.’ Landbouwkrediet also relies on Merak to take old tapes permanently out of circulation. ‘Our customer data are, of course, highly confidential.When we take old tapes out of use, they must be demagnetised and destroyed. This is done according to formally established procedures. We can be confident that every last piece of information has been permanently deleted.’