Case Study: RDB Consulting provides uptime for HSRC databases

RDB consulting posts a case study where they were able to provide the HSRC databases with maximum uptime

September 12, 2011

By RDB Consulting

The Human Science Research Council (HSRC) is tasked with conducting large scale, policy-relevant projects in the social sciences sector, both for public sector users and non-governmental organisations as well as international development agencies. The organisation is responsible for providing cutting-edge research and for disseminating the results of those projects and plays a key role in helping the development of South Africa.

Technology is a core component of the HSRC, since data from all research needs to be preserved, and the IT department supports the entire organisation with the necessary infrastructure. Systems Development, a division of the HSRC IT department, delivers and maintains a variety of in-house systems, including the critical Research Management System (RMS) which hundreds of researchers across the country use daily to manage their projects more easily. RMS provides information on the individuals involved in the research, the start and end dates, time taken and the output and outcomes of the various projects amongst other things.

“The RMS is crucial to the continuity of the HSRC, as it assists us with keeping track of the financial status of the organisation, the research outputs and the various funders and so on. This helps us to prove our sustainability, which is vital in securing funding for much of our research,” says Goodluck Madisa, Acting Head of System Development. “The backbone of the RMS, as well as of the HR system, is Oracle databases, which needs to be up and running at all times to ensure continuous productivity of the HSRC.”

Without a fully functioning Oracle databases the HSRC employees cannot access records from the RMS or from the HR system. These systems are both used continuously on a daily basis, which means that downtime results in lost productivity and lost income that could jeopardise the organisation.

A shortage of in-house Oracle database administration skills combined with the mission critical nature of the databases led the HSRC to seek the help of experts RDB Consulting to provide the necessary levels of expertise on demand.

“Our scope of work simply does not justify hiring a full time database administrator. At the same time, we needed a stable database and someone with the skills to provide this service ‘on tap’. In the past we had attempted to troubleshoot and resolve issues ourselves but this proved difficult and time consuming, causing delays in getting the system up and running again,” says Madisa. “We approached RDB Consulting to take over the administrative role of our databases on an outsourced basis as they have the skills and resources to respond quickly and resolve any issues in short order.”

Quotes for the scope of work were sourced from three vendors, highlighting the requirement for the capability to provide the necessary level of service, reliability and standards as well as an acceptable balance between service levels and costs involved. RDB Consulting came out on top thanks to their competitive pricing and skilled resources as well as high levels of satisfaction with previous services the company had provided to the HSRC.

“RDB Consulting firstly stabilised the Oracle environment upfront to help eliminate as many potential future problems as possible. We are currently providing database maintenance and troubleshooting on demand, with fast response times thanks to our resource base of expert skills. We also check the status of the databases on a weekly basis using a remote monitoring system to ensure proactive response to issues, and are working on skills transfer to enable the IT staff at the HSRC to resolve smaller problems themselves,” says Gerrit-Jan Albers, Service Delivery Manger at RDB Consulting.

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