Cities large and small risk losing data and mission-critical applications in the event of an IT outage.

Last January, Mount Dora, Fla., 30 miles north of Orlando, upgraded its disaster recovery system to protect city data from nine departments including fire and police, according to city IT officials. The data, along with mission-critical applications, is stored on a total of 25 servers. To complete the upgrade, the city installed an on-site appliance by Quorum for recovering data, applications and systems in the event of an IT outage or downtime.

Mike Andrews, the city’s assistant IT manager, said prior to the upgrade, the city was dependent on a disc-based backup solution. When the city was no longer able to back up data from one of its largest servers, they realized they were at capacity and needed a new solution. Andrews said it was important to find a vendor that catered to Mount Dora's smaller size, and offered a solution that wouldn't provide more than they needed.

So far, the city has not encountered an IT outage, said Johnna Shamblin, Mount Dora’s IT manager, but officials opted for a proactive rather than reactive approach to protect them in case an outage occurs in the future. 

Andrews explained that because Mount Dora is located in a central region of Florida, the city’s vulnerability to outages caused by hurricanes or other severe weather is not as extreme as it is for regions along the coast. However, he said it was still important for the city to be able to quickly return servers to a state of production in the event of any type of disaster, whether it be natural, man-made or caused by the failure of one of the city’s servers.

To ensure the servers are functioning properly, the Quorum appliance performs automatic testing at regular intervals.

“We choose not to test all of the servers, but we test our mission-critical core servers automatically every time they’re backed up,” Andrews said. “The device internally will compile whatever its newest backup is, and it will actually virtually boot that machine, wait a specified amount of time and then take a screen shot of it, ensuring that the server has successfully booted.”

A Hybrid Option

Currently Mount Dora only uses Quorum’s on-site appliance for disaster recovery, but the city could potentially connect the appliance with Quorum’s off-site hybrid cloud, Andrews said.

Quorum’s CEO Larry Lang said when IT organizations opt to connect to the vendor’s off-site cloud service, two replicas of the data are created -- one in the on-site appliance and the other in the off-site cloud. In the event of an outage, the replicas can be “booted up.” For testing purposes, the replicas are booted up and results can be sent directly back to the customer. 

Overall, the idea is to have IT back up and running much more quickly than it could be in the past. Lang said that in the event of an outage, traditional backup solutions won't have the IT organization back up and running for a couple of days. 

“That made sense in the olden days,” Lang said. “The assumption was you had to go buy a new computer. Now, with tech like virtualization and the cloud, you have the ability to do backup and be up and running within a couple of minutes.”

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.