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Action Cancer protects patient data with Arcserve’s OneXafe immutable storage

Image: Adobe Stock / Connect world

Someone will receive a cancer diagnosis every hour of every day in Northern Ireland. Although cancer rates are increasing, survival rates are improving, thanks to early detection and improved treatments.

Action Cancer plays a vital role in helping to save lives and support people across Northern Ireland through digital breast screening, health promotion and therapeutic services, provided to less privileged communities that might not otherwise have access to these services.

With thousands of patient scans taken every year, it needs to ensure they are stored securely and safely. Working in partnership with Leaf IT, the charity rolled out Arcserve OneXafe 4412 storage appliances to protect its scan images. Thanks to the solution’s immutable snapshots and rapid recovery capabilities, Action Cancer can reduce the risk of data loss – not only protecting scans, but also patient diagnoses.  

Action Cancer

Action Cancer provides a vital public service, with its digital breast screening, health promotion and therapeutic services, saving and supporting hundreds of lives across Northern Ireland. The charity’s Big Bus visits 235 locations across the country every year providing prevention, detection and support services to less privileged areas.

By diagnosing cancer earlier, Action Cancer helps save lives and increases survival rates. The charity is reliant on public funding and provides all of their services for free. These much needed funds to run the services are raised through its fundraising activities and retail stores which sell pre-loved furniture and clothing.

The challenge

Action Cancer takes approximately 10,000 patients scans a year with its sophisticated tomosynthesis 3D digital scanning technology. This advanced solution can recognise signs of cancer from the size of a pinhead, enabling rapid and early treatment.

Each scan can incorporate up to 400 image slices per patient and has to be kept for a minimum of 10 years as a legal requirement. This vast and growing volume of data must be protected against accidental deletion, corruption, hardware failure, ransomware attacks and other threats.

“If we lose a set of x-rays before it is reported, that client will need to be x-rayed again, and that is an unnecessary additional dose of radiation (which carries risks), but also it could delay a cancer diagnosis. Early detection is crucial to save lives and get the best possible treatment for the client… any delay can detrimentally change that person’s outcome,” explained Joanna Currie, Consultant Radiographer at Action Cancer

Hugh Blair, ICT Manager at Action Cancer added, “We have to comply to the same level of security as a hospital to safeguard our images against data loss.”

Following ransomware attacks on other healthcare organisations, the charity recognised it needed to boost its data management and protection capabilities while maximising scalability.

The solution

To help identify and deploy a storage solution to protect its scan images, Action Cancer turned to long-term partner Leaf IT. The two organisations chose Arcserve 4412 appliances, due to their ability to protect against ransomware with immutable snapshots and reduce the storage footprint with in-line deduplication and compression.

Leaf IT was responsible for implementing, configuring and testing the appliances. “With an internal IT team of just two people, we rely on Leaf IT to supplement our skills and resources,” explained Blair. “It’s a great relationship – they are always there for us when we need them and nothing is ever too much trouble.”

Approximately 40 terabytes of x-ray data are now stored on two OneXafe 4412 appliances deployed in two different server rooms, with data replicated from one to the other. “Regular immutable snapshots means that in the event of a ransomware attack, hardware failure, accidental deletion or corruption, we can easily and very quickly rollback and restore data,” commented Darryl Heanen, Technical Director at Leaf IT.

Following its success with the first two appliances, Action Cancer is planning to rollout out a third OneXafe appliance that will be located in Leaf IT’s data centre as additional offsite storage.


In the event of an incident, Action Cancer can now recover its x-ray images in a matter of minutes, reducing the risk of data loss and protecting patient outcomes. “The Arcserve appliances are a great solution,” added Heanen. “They’re very easy to set up, manage and maintain, so we can spend our time adding value, rather than just managing backups.”

The appliances also offer the scalability needed to store the increasing volume of scans, and with the immutable snapshots protecting against ransomware attacks, the combined Action Cancer and Leaf IT team can rest easy. “We now have confidence that should the worst happen, we can keep our critical patient xrays safe, which helps us all sleep better at night,” concluded Blair.

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