Rise Services: Time Slice DBA and Disaster Recovery

With headquarters in Arizona, Rise is a nonprofit organization that specializes in home and community-based support services for children and adults with developmental and other disabilities, children with mental health challenges, aging adults and children and families with foster care and adoption needs. For 25 years their purpose has remained constant. They create opportunities for and with the people they serve, their families and for the men and women providing supports to their clientele.

Time Slice DBA

  • Payroll used to take 4 people a week to process. Now done by one person in 2 hours.
  • Billing has gone from 9 people working about 2 ½ weeks to 7 people compiling it in less than a week.
  • Audits used to take 5 FT employees a week. Now gives the auditor read-only access to the resources they require.

Disaster Recovery

  • Previous DR was onsite, local backups & tape backups.
  • DR now includes real-time replicating between two primary offices.
  • Can meet zero losses on databases and 24 hour recovery on all file servers.

The Challenge

Newly anointed CTO Matthew Dee arrived at Rise Services in 2011. “Social Services is not a technology industry,” he explains. “It is a people industry. Everyone has a heart of gold but everyone’s technology is technology challenged. So when I was hired I was kind of coming out of the — I would not say the Dark Ages — but it was still very much a paper based system. And working in the Medicaid arena, we generate a lot of paper.”

Dee began diagnosing the challenge. “We were running SQL Server 2005, and we had begun the process of virtualization but it was very haphazard, we had no high availability functionality within our infrastructure, data warehouse or data center. The system was lacking any meaningful database maintenance strategy, too. The farthest it went was nightly backups –even our critical databases. We were not building indexes on a regular basis, so performance was not good. We were at risk of not being able to recover within what I consider to be acceptable SLAs should there be a problem. We had enough horsepower, but it was not properly allocated, virtualization machines were not configured properly, and we were using tape backups for our offsite backups.”

Dee looks up quizzically. “So should I go on, or is that enough?”

“Basically we needed a large amount of effort from a highly skilled Database Administrator to upgrade our infrastructure, both server and software.” But at a nonprofit, hiring a full-time highly skilled DBA can be prohibitively expensive.

The Solution

Dee was stuck – until ran into Denny Cherry in New Orleans. Having heard Denny speak at Tech Ed, Dee invited him to run a health check on Rise Services’ system.

After Denny Cherry & Associates Consulting reviewed the system and made a few changes, Dee was so impressed he had a new suggestion: he wanted to put DCAC on retainer as their remote Time Slice Database Administrator. This would allow Rise Services to:

  • Keep their costs down to a monthly fee they could afford
  • Upgrade their environment over a period of time
  • Ensure all upgrades conducted were maintained

DCAC’s first challenge was on a time and attendance solution. Dee recalls, “It was a custom solution that we had built by a developer. We were getting terrible performance on it. Denny eventually helped us go in a completely new SaaS solution that has transformed our annual audits — we get audited every year because we’re a non-profit and it used to take 5 or more full-time employees a week of prep. Now we give the auditor read-only access to the resources they require. They can run reports to their hearts desire.”

Once Denny Cherry & Associates brought Rise Services SQL Server database and other mission critical platforms up to speed, Dee asked DCAC to consult on his biggest concern: Disaster Recovery (DR).

“Denny was instrumental so that I can meet zero losses on my databases and 24 hour recovery on all file servers.”

Matt Dee, CTO, Rise Services

 The Results

In terms of the performance tuning, Dee recalls, “With payroll, what used to take us a team of four people a week to process we now get done by one person in two hours. Billing has gone from a team of nine people working about 2 ½ weeks to generate it, to a team of seven compiling it in under a week. I don’t know a better SQL Server performance guy.”

But it’s Denny’s assistance in forming a Disaster Recovery plan that Dee is most grateful for. “His work on the DR plan was priceless. Data protection was really lacking.  Back then we were onsite, local backups only. Now we are real-time replicating between our two primary offices in Phoenix and Oregon. Denny was instrumental so that I can meet zero losses on my databases and 24 hour recovery on all file servers.”

“I have heard stories of companies that were at the World Trade Center when 9/11 happened and because they didn’t have data protection, they just do not exist anymore. They could not recover from the data loss. I would say Rise was probably in that category. We would have had a difficult time trying to recuperate databases to a point in time where we could recover financially. That’s even harder to contemplate when you’re at a non-profit and there are people with disabilities counting on those services.”

Dee admits. “I like knowing Denny is my safety blanket. If you were to ask our CEO, he’d say my two biggest jobs are to keep our data safe and keep us running. Denny has helped with all of that. I’m a big fan.”


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