SBA frees its managers from daily backups

By moving its data backup and recovery operations to a secure Web application, the Small Business Administration transformed the process from a time-consuming and inefficient chore to a quick and painless one.

'In the past, we had to constantly remind people to back up their data,' said SBA's CIO, Larry Barrett. 'Most people treat backups as a second thought.'

SBA, as part of an agencywide systems upgrade, recently hired Iron Mountain Inc. of Boston for storage services using software from LiveVault Corp. of Marlborough, Mass.

SBA awarded Iron Mountain a one-year contract; the agency will pay between $30 and $50 per gigabyte of data stored. SBA stores about 200G.

The agency had been relying on its 90 offices around the country to do nightly backups to digital tape, Barrett said. Now IT managers don't have to worry about nightly backups and can spend more time on training and system maintenance, said Sherry Hill, SBA's project manager.

SBA connects to Iron Mountain's facility through a T1 line. The system transfers data using tunneling technology, a virtual private network that incorporates digital signatures and encryption to protect the information, said Dave VanDerEems, Iron Mountain's corporate technical engineer manager in charge of operations and support of e-vaulting.

Once SBA's initial data dump is finished, changes to information are updated in real time. VanDerEems said byte changes are sent through the Internet and matched to the information on LiveVault's servers.

Safe data

'It takes very low amounts of bandwidth once the first sync happens,' he said. 'The communication is driven from SBA's server, and we use 192-bit encryption to protect the data.'

VanDerEems said that even if a hacker could gain access to the data being transmitted, he only would see byte changes, making the information useless and incomprehensible.

Data is stored on two sets of DATs, which Iron Mountain keeps in separate facilities.

Via the Web, SBA instructs the LiveVault system to back up network files automatically whenever a change occurs, Hill said.

'The original document and every byte-level change are saved,' Hill said. 'We also can tailor our requirements to tell the system how often to back up certain files, such as at every change or every few hours or once a week.'

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