Using a private cloud for healthcare data

2020 Government Innovation Awards

Fast, accurate disaster recovery delivers access to critical services

If there is a lesson to be learned from 2020, it’s to be prepared. Oregon has taken that adage to the next level with the AzureGov Cloud DRaaS (disaster recovery as a service) system that ensures eligibility information for critical health and human service programs is accessible in the event of an outage. “It was important to have a disaster recovery solution in place, particularly in this time in which we live,” said Bryan Nealy, the state’s service support manager, who was brought in to lead the project in collaboration with Deloitte.

Cloud-Based Disaster Recovery Implementation for Integrated Eligibility System

Oregon Department of Human Services

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What makes the DRaaS system so important is that the eligibility data it protects can be accessed outside of Oregon within 24 hours of a system failure -- with no more than one hour of data lost. For Oregonians who rely on state food assistance, healthcare and/or employment-provided daycare, they can rest easy knowing their eligibility for these services will not be in question if the system is down.

“If something were to go horribly wrong like a natural disaster or a hardware fail,” said Nealy, “this disaster system allows us to bring up that production system in another Microsoft data center government cloud in another state.” That is no small feat when talking about backing up a complex system of 160 servers without compromising capacity and performance, he said.

While the system only recently started to roll out, Nealy is already thinking about next steps. The team’s focus will shift to “gluing” DRaaS with other disaster recovery solutions, such as payment systems that get Oregonians the money and services some of the programs provide. “Eligibility is one thing, but the actual issuance of the benefits is another step,” he said. “There is still work to do to connect all these environments.”

For now, the disaster recovery system in place has already allowed Oregon to overcome some major obstacles, including the biggest one: having a recovery system at all. Other benefits include cost and timeliness; Oregon’s Department of Human Services was able to save approximately 50% by using the DRaaS system instead of building a solution in-house, and it was designed and delivered in under six months.

When asked why Oregon’s DHS made developing a disaster recovery system such a high priority, Nealy said it is a federal requirement to have a plan in place and they decided to do it right. He also said it’s not a year to leave things to chance: “It’s 2020. It’s a disaster recovery system. Is there anything else we need to know?”

About the Author

Suzette Lohmeyer is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Va.

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