Feb 15 2016

Census Bureau Explores Backup and Recovery Options for Virtual Environments

Federal IT departments run both in-house and cloud-based backup and look for products that run well in virtual environments.

Given its data-intensive mission, backup and recovery is a mission-critical function for the U.S. Census Bureau.

As agencies virtualize systems, they need backup tools that support their new environments and offer recovery capabilities that can anchor a disaster recovery plan. The agency also looks for deduplication features in backup tools to enable more efficient use of disk space.

Jan Dickerson, chief of the enterprise backup branch in the bureau’s Computer Services Division, says by using multiplatform, commercial off-the-shelf backup and recovery software, the Census Bureau has expanded existing IT policies and operations in virtual environments and the cloud while also incorporating more automated backup and recovery tools for virtual networks.

Dickerson says the agency has shifted its back-end storage toward a greater reliance on deduplicated disks, with high-performance tape providing an additional layer of fast, portable disaster recovery storage. The Census Bureau also runs in-cloud backups of application servers that are in the cloud, but it does not offload onsite backups to the cloud.

“The volume of onsite data makes offloading too cost-prohibitive,” Dickerson says.

However, the Census Bureau does have a presence in two different cloud platforms. In one platform, it uses the same off-the-shelf software as its onsite backups to provide services familiar to users. For the other cloud platform, Census uses platform-specific backup and recovery software to take advantage of the software’s storage features and minimize utilization costs.

Jason Buffington, a principal analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group, says most backup tools now support virtualized environments and no longer require the hand coding they did in the past.

“We’re at a point where for about 99 percent of the applications, there’s no longer any reason to write scripts,” Buffington says. “Without question, your backup solution today should be able to back up virtual machines, and come with embedded technology to back up VMs.”

Justice Department Emphasizes Backup and Recovery 

While support for virtualized technology is important, agencies also need to heed the basics. The Justice Department makes backup, restore and recovery a priority within its IT operations.

“Restore point objectives and recovery time objectives are critical for our mission-essential systems,” says CIO Joseph Klimavicz.

“These objectives require discipline and purposeful use of application and data architectures,” he says, adding that the agency selects backup and recoveryto achieve its architectural and price point objectives.


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