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Arkansas Purchases Secondary Data Center for Backup, Recovery

The backup data center in Little Rock eliminates the need to outsource failover and recovery testing.

Most government officials would say it’s critical to always have a plan B. For the Arkansas Department of Information Systems, plan B includes a new state data center.

On Oct. 30, the Information Systems Department announced the purchase of a secondary state data center that will provide backup of critical data, which will allow for immediate conversion, or failover, of computer systems if the state’s primary data center is compromised in some way.

The new $2.1 million facility, located in Little Rock, Ark., will house secure, public-sector cloud services as well as backup and recovery for state government, local government and education entities within Arkansas. According to the official announcement, testing recovery services will begin Jan. 6, 2014, and the facility is expected to be in full production by next February.

Prior to the purchase of the secondary data center, failover and recovery testing was outsourced through a contract with a private, out-of-state software and technology services company. By purchasing a data center in-state, Arkansas will eliminate out-of-state travel expenses that were incurred when employees conducted disaster recovery exercises.

According to state CTO Claire Bailey, the state’s IT team traveled twice a year to the contractor's facility in the Northeast in order to perform the exercises.

“It was basically anywhere from a 24-hour to 72-hour restoration process. So with highly available solutions, the failover can happen seamlessly,” Bailey said. “There may be up to a 20-minute delay when you’re failing over from a primary to a secondary facility.”

Bailey said the new data center purchase represents a long-term benefit for Arkansas -- an investment in physical assets versus paying to use a facility that’s been outsourced.

But Arkansas isn’t the only government entity pulling out of private-sector contracts to bring its disaster recovery site closer to home.

Mount Dora, Fla., recently deployed a new on-site appliance by Quorum to perform disaster recovery for the city’s data and mission-critical applications.

According to a report by Budget Analyst Harvey Rose released earlier this year, San Francisco may sever ties with Philadelphia-based SunGard, which supplies a data center for the city’s backup and recovery, and move its data to a facility in California.

The report said a proposed two-year agreement with the California Technology Agency’s would allow the city to house its recovery data in a state data center located in Rancho Cordova, roughly 100 miles from San Francisco, reducing costs by $209,526 annually. In May, the Board of Supervisors' Budget and Finance Committee approved the agreement.

Rose wrote in the report that San Francisco's current agreement with SunGard “does not provide sufficient safeguards to restore city information and communication technology services in a timely fashion following a natural or human-induced disaster.” 

Sarah Rich is a former staff writer for Government Technology.