Securing and ensuring fast access to critical data at the coalface

Thursday, 01 October, 2020

Australia is the world’s largest exporter of black coal, iron ore, alumina, lead and zinc. With more than 233,000 employees, representing nearly 20% of the workforce, mining also contributes more than 6% to Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP), with revenues having been projected to hit a record $400 billion in fiscal year 2019–2020. That revenue growth will bring more than 20,000 employees into the mining workforce over the next four years.

Mining’s digital transformation

Over the past decade, mining companies have seen how new technologies can help them improve productivity and maintain their competitive advantage. Today, electrification of mining sites, Internet of Things (IoT) deployments and automation have transformed mining operations, increasing efficiency, productivity and safety.

One of the many challenges for most mining companies is that their personnel are typically third-party contractors, not employees. Nearly every one of these individuals, from field engineers to analysts, scientists and production managers, must be able to capture, back up and quickly recover their data, no matter where they may be — otherwise, operations are impacted and productivity may stop.

Challenges from HQ to the face

Ransomware attacks are on the rise because hackers see mining as a soft target with remote sites and a mobile workforce — as well as the vulnerabilities any business faces, such as social engineering and phishing.

Then there are natural disasters like cyclones and fires. Finally, remote sites by their very nature can be difficult to secure. Today many operators rely on USB drives to store data. They are notoriously unreliable, can be misplaced or lost, and are easily broken or corrupted.

While remote mining sites bring their own challenges to data security, even secure offices have vulnerabilities. Today data is critical for more than just operations. Compliance with health and safety and human resources documentation requirements means stored data must be available whenever needed.

All of these risks make data security a huge challenge for mining companies to overcome.

IT pressure points

IT professionals already have their hands full managing, storing and securing their companies’ data. Remote mining sites add more complexity to their jobs, while time and resources are usually limited by tight budgets. With mining already a labour-intensive business, the pressure to limit IT expenses means tech visits to remotes sites must be minimised.

With a mobile workforce it is also critical that mining IT teams can ensure that all of the company’s data generated by mobile workers and at remote sites is backed up and secured. With little or no bandwidth in some locations, it becomes even more problematic.

Solving mining’s IT headaches

Addressing all of these challenges can be overwhelming. This is where OneXafe scale-out object-based network-attached storage (NAS) can help.

OneXafe is the ideal solution for file server and backup data storage, including larger sets of unstructured data, from 3D surveys to designs and project documentation. OneXafe is also the optimal solution for mining companies with multiple or global offices that need data quickly for analytics and workflows.

Meeting a mining operation’s ever-growing data needs is easy with OneXafe. That is important because projects can generate terabytes to petabytes of data over years of planning, construction and operations, with huge drawing, design, survey and other data files being constantly added and updated.

OneXafe can be deployed very quickly and is up and running in minutes. Its scale-out storage platform makes it simple to seamlessly add more drives, nodes or clusters, without any configuration changes to the application. With built-in powerful data reduction technologies, including inline deduplication and compression, OneXafe cuts both storage and operational costs.

Simplified operations, powerful data protection and recovery

Because OneXafe can also be deployed as converged storage solution, it allows IT professionals to manage and combine all storage and data protection requirements on a single, converged data platform. As a result, silos can be eliminated and workflows dramatically simplified. Once enabled, OneXafe’s built-in enterprise-class data protection is easily configured.

The recent successful attack on logistics giant Toll Group, which forced the company to shut down some of its systems after ransomware made its way into its network, makes it clear just how critical it is to protect company data.

OneXafe protects data from cyber attacks with continuous data protection (CDP), taking frequent, space-optimised, immutable snapshots of the data that can’t be altered or deleted, and can be easily restored. If disaster does strike and any data is compromised, onsite or remote, with OneXafe, mining companies can easily go back to the time of their choosing and instantly restore any compromised data from a snapshot. Snapshot frequency can be set to meet any company’s recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO).

StorageCraft ShadowXafe, which can be used together with OneXafe, protects both physical and virtual machines with image-based backups that can be taken as often as every fifteen minutes.

ShadowXafe also makes recovery easy by letting IT spin up a virtual machine (VM) in milliseconds, with the flexibility to recover to dissimilar hardware or virtual environments so there is no waiting for specific resources.

Both OneXafe and ShadowXafe include OneSystem, an intuitive, cloud-based or on-premise management platform for anytime, anywhere real-time monitoring, reporting and visibility. OneSystem makes it easy to manage an entire infrastructure, whether one location or many, simply and securely. That makes it easy to manage work orders, track work performance and monitor operations from HQ or a remote location.

OneXafe Solo for remote sites

Because so much data, such as dragline maintenance data, is both generated and used in the field, making sure that it is secure and recoverable is imperative. That is where StorageCraft OneXafe Solo is a perfect fit. Designed for smaller, simpler environments, it is a plug-and-protect appliance that is easy to deploy and manage at remote sites.

OneXafe Solo streams data directly to StorageCraft Cloud Services. This ensures 100% business continuity for mining operations with a complete, orchestrated virtual failover to the cloud in case of disaster, while eliminating the need for additional infrastructure at the site.

It also offers the ability to store and protect data locally (NAS, optional internal drive, third-party cloud, etc). OneXafe Solo includes OneSystem’s simple cloud-based management. Solo is the perfect onsite and remote site backup appliance because it can be deployed in a few simple steps, and configured remotely: just plug it in, connect to the internet, and start protecting data in minutes.

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Top image credit: © Dragunov

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