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USGA deploys IBM services for disaster recovery

The U.S. Golf Association signed over offsite data protection to IBM services, but not for every application.

The U.S. Golf Association (USGA) decided to supplement its homegrown tape-based backup tools for data protection a little over a year ago and deployed three IBM services for sending data offsite and maintaining a disaster recovery (DR) facility. But the USGA is not embracing cloud storage services for every application.

Jessica Carroll, managing director of IT for the USGA, said the association uses IBM Corp.'s Disaster Recovery Service, Remote Data Protection Express cloud backup based on the technology IBM acquired with Arsenal Digital in 2007, and E-Mail Management Express for Microsoft Exchange server failover.

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The disaster recovery service allows the USGA to maintain a secondary site at an IBM facility in Sterling Forest, N.Y., with servers and personnel ready to recreate the organization's environment if necessary. Approximately 500 GB of mission-critical data goes to the cloud backup service, and IBM's email service protects Exchange. The USGA still uses homegrown backup tools for the rest of its Microsoft applications.

For Carroll, the use case for cloud services and disk-based data protection was always a selective one. All apps are also still backed up to tape as an additional precaution, and the organization wanted to keep costs low by limiting the apps designated mission critical to anything needed to run the network, such as domain controllers, email, and a database of membership records.

"This is something anyone in IT should be considering," she said. "But not every app fits cloud computing."

Application classification and dependencies are often a challenge to administrators designing a DR plan, but Carroll said it was simple in the USGA's environment. "I've been with the USGA 20 years -- I am familiar with how the business operates and what's most important to make it operate."

USGA didn't seriously evaluate any alternatives to IBM, Carroll said, but did spend about a year negotiating with them to find the right services and optimize the environment before finally deploying the services last year. One issue worked out during this negotiation was consolidating local snapshot images onto a proxy server in the USGA data center before sending them over the wire to improve backup performance over the WAN.

There's still at least one outstanding item on Carroll's wish list for IBM's backup service.

"The one thing I really need more information on is how to ensure we have detailed reporting on those backups," Carroll said. Right now the reporting tools integrated with the software portal show how much data total has been backed up. "I really want to dig deeper on what folders and what files have been backed up from what servers."

An IBM spokesperson sent an email to that said the vendor is working to improve its backup reporting.

"We will continue to make reporting improvements to our portal, and offer an expanded set of reporting capabilities that can be customized for a client who requires additional granularity for their data protection operations," the spokesperson wrote. "Based on our partnership with the IBM Tivoli team, we will also continue to expand our management and monitoring tools for the service."

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