IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

How Will AZ Dept. of Education Back Up Data for 500 Years?

The state of Arizona mandates the retention of historical records for centuries, leading the state Department of Education to partner with data backup company Veeam and rewrite some old applications.

Cloud computing concept laptop close up with white clouds coming out of the computer indicating online storage and internet connection.
Due to the stringent requirements for data retention in a nearly decade-old state law, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) has been working with the IT software company Veeam to back up and protect files indefinitely.

The state’s Library Statute from 2014 requires the retention of historical records — such as those that document a controversial issue, substantial change, prominent people or an event that garnered media attention — for 500 years. Because superintendents serve as public officials, all records surrounding them fall into the requirements of the statute, so ADE needed a way to remain compliant with data stored on both legacy systems and in the cloud.

Chris Henry, infrastructure manager at ADE for the past half-decade, said he’s been working with Veeam and several of its software tools for roughly four years to preserve superintendents’ records, as well as files from other business units that require 75 to 100 years of retention.

The implementation of these systems is a time-consuming process, according to Veeam Senior Director of Product Strategy Rick Vanover.

“This is an exceptional amount of data and must not only be maintained but also accessible,” Vanover told Government Technology in an email. “This becomes a challenge when balancing workloads and data in the cloud and on-premises.”

Henry said it was imperative to implement Microsoft 365 backups, which is one of the services Veeam provides, and the department is legally required to regularly test its disaster recovery strategy and provide reports of the test and its successful completion. Vanover said the department uses eDiscovery for searching and recovering archives when needed.

Henry said a lot of information that needs to be backed up is on outdated software and legacy systems, including the state’s school finance payment system, which tracks more than $6 billion flowing through the agency. If there is ever a legal challenge, Henry and his team must reproduce the information. He said the department has to validate its file recovery system annually.

Henry said that his team is also rewriting applications for school payment systems and meal reimbursement programs, so those files will be stored on newer technology and readily accessible in the event of an audit. Those projects have recently become possible due to funding, he said, and not all older information has had that luxury.

“We are somewhat limited in our legacy environment, as all state agencies (are),” Henry said. “Over time, you’re kind of stuck with certain things until you get funding from the state to rewrite applications.”

Besides the payment system and reimbursement programs, Henry said his staff has rewritten nearly 150 applications already, but there are still many that remain housed on older tech. Vanover said that Veeam’s software suite can support all of the department’s data protection and retention needs, as well as provide assessments of the health and wellness of backups.

“Every school in Arizona is required to track and report thousands of data points,” Vanover said. “Working with Veeam, the (ADE) increased recovery speed by 99 percent to better support legal compliance, increased workload mobility and implemented immutable backups, which offer additional protection against ransomware.”

Henry said that, while there are pros and cons to technology, whether it be old or new, at least one thing about the new way of backing up data is undeniably better.

“Having my immutable backups stored in encrypted storage … there’s a lot of benefits that come with that,” he said.
Giovanni Albanese Jr. is a staff writer for the Center for Digital Education. He has covered business, politics, breaking news and professional soccer over his more than 15-year reporting career. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Salem State University in Massachusetts.