Sep 29 2015

Feds Rely on the Cloud for Disaster Recovery

Smaller agencies can perform all their computing in the cloud, while larger organizations can set themselves up as a service bureau.

With 200 offices dispersed throughout 25 countries, the International Trade Administration can’t afford to operate a local network in each location.

“For us, the Internet is the network,” says CIO Joe Paiva. “All the computing I have runs over either Office 365, or Amazon Web Services, so that really puts a new perspective on disaster recovery.”

If there’s a natural disaster in Washington, D.C., or any other location around the globe, staff will still have access to their data and applications in the cloud — an improvement over the past, when all agency servers and applications were stored in headquarters and required a separate DR facility.

“If there’s a flood in D.C. and people can’t get to work, they can access all our cloud applications from home,” Paiva says. “And if Salesforce or Office 365 goes down for any length of time, we have much bigger problems than the computing at the ITA. I see why many organizations would be interested in Disaster Recovery as a Service, but in many ways we have bypassed the need for DRaaS.”


Percentage of organizations that use Disaster Recovery as a Service in some form; 40% either plan to use DRaaS or are interested in using it in the next 12 months

SOURCE: Enterprise Strategy Group, “The Evolving Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Landscape,” Fall 2015

Paul Hughes, IDC program director for storage and data management services, says DRaaS reduces costs and improves access to data and applications. “Many DRaaS providers offer self-service tools that provide high visibility and are easy to use, so it makes both business and economic sense for organizations to run DR in the cloud.”

Likewise, Jason Buffington, a senior analyst for the Enterprise Strategy Group, notes that midsized organizations require better resiliency and can’t afford to build redundant facilities.

Understanding the USDA’s Service Approach

In 2007, the U.S. Department of Agriculture determined it could save taxpayers millions of dollars and significantly enhance its overall security posture by investing in a DR site.

Richard Coffee, acting deputy CIO for operations in the Office of the CIO, says USDA runs 17 agencies and another 18 offices and divisions. The vast majority of those agencies and offices obtain DR services over a private cloud from the Primary Enterprise Data Center managed by USDA’s National Information Technology Center.

NITC offers DR services for many of its offerings, including Infrastructure as a Service, mainframe services, managed hosting and Platform as a Service. The specific DR setups for each service are slightly different, but for the most part, the basis of the DRaaS offering for Linux, mainframes, Unix and Windows systems runs over a similar environment at the enterprise data center using replicated data.

The USDA agencies that are hosted at NITC are encouraged to participate in DR services to protect their systems, consistent with Federal Information Security Management Act guidance.


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