Asahi Shipping Co., Ltd.

Asahi Shipping's mission-critical systems used to run on servers installed on its own office premises, so in the event of a server failure or a natural disaster, the company could have ended up losing its data. As part of its business continuity plan (BCP), it urgently needed to establish a data backup system. Having compared several backup solutions, the company decided to adopt PlateSpin Forge. With its new setup, its administrative operations take less than an hour to recover from an equipment failure.


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Our accounting system used to run on a PC with a stand-alone environment, so if anything happened to that PC, we could have lost our data, but thanks to PlateSpin Forge, even if there is an equipment failure, the risk of losing our data has been eliminated.Mr. Yuji OgataGeneral Affairs Group Leader, Asahi Shipping Co., Ltd.

About Asahi Shipping Co., Ltd.

Asahi Shipping has two main lines of business. One is marine transportation consisting mainly of shipping raw materials for steelmaking plants and coal for generating electricity, using its own ships and those of other vessel owners. The other is vessel management for clients including Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK Line). The company strives to contribute to the growth and development of Japanese industry by living out its core values. Those values focus on being worthy of the trust of its customers, its consigners and its shareholders, on anticipating its customers' needs, providing them with information and raising their productivity, and on demonstrating good corporate citizenship by upholding its corporate ethos and addressing environmental safety issues.

Challenge

Asahi Shipping is engaged in two main lines of business: marine transportation and vessel management. In recent years, it has been focusing particularly on expanding the vessel management services it delivers to other vessel owners, while also managing its own vessels. Obviously, operating vessels safely and efficiently, with careful attention to environmental issues and assiduous risk management, is a vital part of delivering these services. This made it essential for Asahi Shipping to enhance its IT environment.

Mr. Tetsuro Fujii, Director and Technical Group Leader, explains the situation. "The servers running our mission-critical administration systems, our email system and other systems vital to our business were installed on our office premises," he says. "This meant that a natural disaster or an equipment failure could have wiped out our data. We realized that we needed to take action, such as moving the servers to a data center as soon as possible."

Meanwhile, as the company took on the management of more and more vessels, it also had to deal with increasing volumes of emails and other data. This posed another problem: it was running out of server resources. "If we had continued with our old setup," says Mr. Fujii, "we would not have been able to fulfill our aim of expanding our business to the next level. Then the Great East Japan Earthquake struck. Implementing our BCP, which included having employees work from home, was also important in our response to that disaster."

"Vessel management today," says Mr. Yuji Ogata, General Affairs Group Leader, "involves handling a myriad of requests from vessel owners. Unless we can swiftly accommodate their requests, we will not retain their confidence. Vessel—owners will not entrust the management of their vessels to a company unless they have confidence in that company, so one of our main tasks is keeping vessel owner as satisfied as possible. We realized that using up-to-the-minute IT is essential for performing that task."

Our Solution

In October 2010, having considered proposals from several system integration (SI) partner companies for migrating its email system and formulating a BCP, Asahi Shipping adopted a proposal put forward by Yume Technology (working with Cal Japan Premium at the time the solution was introduced). Asahi Shipping decided to transfer its email system to a cloud email service and to introduce PlateSpin Forge as a solution for backing up the servers running its mission-critical systems.

"We first heard of Yume Technology through the SI partner company whose vessel management system we had introduced," explains Mr. Fujii. "Based on Yume Technology's proposal, we started out in late 2010 by moving our email system to a cloud-based email service. Next, we introduced PlateSpin Forge at our data center, and in May 2011, we launched the full-scale backup operation."

PlateSpin Forge was installed at the data center and connected to the servers at Asahi Shipping's own offices via an Internet VPN on which its mission-critical systems were running. The changed files are backed up daily, using overnight processing. This new setup ensures that, even in the event of an equipment failure or a natural disaster affecting the crucial servers, the company can switch over to the virtualized server images backed up by PlateSpin Forge. That way, Asahi Shipping's mission-critical systems can operate without interruption.

"We did a verification of PlateSpin Forge while moving our email system," says Mr. Fujii. "Because the backing-up was going to be performed via an Internet VPN, we looked particularly hard at how much of a load it would impose on the network. Also, we have ships all over the world, sailing 24 hours a day, every day of the year, so finding a good time to take the first backup was a challenge in itself."

Results

Describing the benefits gained by introducing PlateSpin Forge, Mr. Fujii has this to say: "Before relocating our offices in October 2011, we suffered a server failure. However, by switching over to PlateSpin Forge, we were able to keep our operations running without interruption. Switching over to PlateSpin Forge also enabled us to stay up and running during our office relocation. We were able to prove that, even without mirroring or other extra wherewithal, we can cope just fine with PlateSpin Forge alone."

Even in an Internet VPN environment, seamless performance is now ensured. "The changed files add up to between 100 and 300MB of data," says Mr. Fujii, "but the backup operation is finished in about 30 minutes. "For the moment, we are backing up the two servers running our accounting system, our vessel management system and so forth. We plan to start including our other administrative servers in this backup process at a later date."

Looking back at the process leading up to the company's adoption of PlateSpin Forge, Mr. Fujii says "lacking a dedicated systems department of our own, we needed a backup solution that would be easy to operate. Rather than focusing on utilizing IT, we wanted to be able to concentrate on our core business of vessel management. Having compared several backup appliances, we decided to go with PlateSpin Forge."

The ease of the restore operation was a major factor in this choice. "There were plenty of products offering easy backup," explains Mr. Fujii, "but the product with the easiest restore operation was PlateSpin Forge. With other products, you have to restore the OS on a spare server and then install your applications, but that way, it takes more than a day before your system is up and running again. With PlateSpin Forge, the switchover takes less than an hour."

The ability to back up various administrative systems without buying extra backup software is another benefit gained by introducing PlateSpin Forge. "The upfront cost was a bit more than we originally planned to spend," admits Mr. Fujii, "but looking at the total cost of ownership (TCO), we expect it to save us a fair amount of money." Systematizing the backup and restore operations also makes it possible to reduce operational errors.

However this is not all. "Our accounting system used to run on a PC with a stand-alone environment," notes Mr. Ogata, "so if anything happened to that PC, we could have lost our data. But we have now migrated our accounting system to one of the servers that get backed up by PlateSpin Forge, so even if there is an equipment failure, the risk of losing our data has been eliminated. We used to have to swap out the backup tape every morning, but we do not need to do that anymore, so we have more time to concentrate on our actual work."

Going forward, Asahi Shipping also plans to use PlateSpin Forge as a migration tool. "By using PlateSpin Forge to back up a virtualized image of each server," says Mr. Fujii, "we will be able to switch over to the required virtualized image and access it from anywhere in the world."

When the company sets up an office overseas, for example, local staff members will be able to access corporate administration systems via an Internet VPN, rather than having to install servers on-site.

"By using virtualized images backed up by PlateSpin Forge, we aim to move towards thin-client computing and cloud computing as well," says Mr. Fujii. "In the future, we plan to use PlateSpin Forge to back up all of our administration servers."

Transportation and Shipping

JapanAsia Pacific

  • Rapid BCP now in place
  • Backup operation now takes less time
  • Improvements in work efficiency and productivity

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