One-click backup and recovery gives small city flexibility as data grows

The City of Mount Dora, Fla., had a data management problem: An aging data back-up and recovery system had reached capacity, making it hard for the city to keep its IT infrastructure running smoothly. 

“As the data grew, so did the problem,” said Johnna Shamblin, Mt. Dora’s IT manager, who pointed out  that restoring any server could take a considerable amount of time because of the volume of data being generated by nine city departments, including police, fire, water, the city manager and public works.

Things got worse when the IT team was unable to back-up data on a mission critical server linked to the back-up system. “We had to back it up using separate manual devices that left us in an unacceptable place,” said Mike Andrews, Mt Dora’s assistant IT manager.

The incident made it clear to the IT team that Mt. Dora’s IT department needed a new disaster recovery system to support critical data requirements of the city, which is located about 30 miles northwest of Orlando with a population of 12,534. 

Shamblin’s team did not want to support separate software and hardware solutions, she said. Instead, they decided on acquiring an appliance-based solution with an easy management interface. 

Appliances are hardware devices coupled with integrated software that provide a specific service or application.  The software is often pre-configured on the hardware, which cuts down on installation time and effort.

After turning to the local information systems association for suggestions, the team chose an appliance from Quorum Inc., which offers appliance and cloud-based disaster recovery systems for small to mid-size businesses and city governments.

Automation and ease-of use were essential factors in the decision, the IT managers said.  “Automation is really important in our environment because we are a small shop with limited resources, Shamblin said. “It is important to have solutions in place that help us with management tasks, so we don’t have to spend time doing manual tasks,” she said.

Quorum bills its onQ appliance as a one-click system offering full data recovery after any storage, IT disaster, system or site failure. While automated backup has been around for a while, Quorum takes the process further by automating the recovery process, said Larry Lang, CEO of Quorum.  

In managing a data recovery, a software agent or app normally takes periodic snapshots of the status of the compromised server and brings them into the appliance. Up to that point the process looks like a regular backup, Lang noted.

However, the Quorum appliance does not just store these snapshots, Lang said. Instead, it constructs a virtual clone of the server. Virtual clones of an agency’s critical systems can run right on the Quorum appliance and take over for failed servers within minutes, Lang noted. The appliance, which is hosted in hardened facility, supports 25 virtual servers in Mt. Mount Dora’s data center, Shamblin noted. 

The city also has several scalable options such as adding another appliance if the city reaches capacity again, deploying archive devices or moving to the cloud. 

“Quorum can virtualize servers, Shamblin said.  “If we do have a disaster [impact] our mission-critical servers, we could be back up and running with a few clicks,” she noted.

The appliance also comes with pre-built processes that make it easier to test whether or not virtualized servers will run smoothly, Andrews said. The prior system required more manual intervention and was very time-consuming, he noted.

It makes sense for city governments to use the appliance, Lang said, as most service disruptions are not caused by hurricanes wiping out a building.  Instead, most disasters are local, such as a hard drive dying or a power supply failing.  So it makes sense to have an appliance with a replica of servers nearby, he noted.

For municipal governments that want to run critical applications in the cloud, Quorum’s cloud platform works in conjunction with the on-premise onQ appliance.  The onQ hybrid cloud synchronizes with the appliance after each update, creating a virtual machine clone in the cloud. This clone can be run in the cloud for testing or after a disaster with or without the presence of the local onQ appliance or image, according to Quorum. 

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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