Cloud Storage Case Study

East Bay Regional Park District Plans for Continuity Safely in the Cloud (Cont'd)

About East Bay Park District

East Bay Park District Facts

Business Needs

Provide cost-effective off-site data storage for park district applications

Networking Solution

AT&T Synaptic Storage as a Service, a cloud-based data storage service

Business Value

Simplified, low-cost geographically-separate storage of critical information; no capital investment in new hardware or facilities

Industry Focus

County agency

Size

Two counties east of San Francisco that encompass 112,000 acres in 65 parks. Park communications and functions supported by an IT staff of 8.

The East Bay Regional Park District spans Alameda and Contra Costa counties east of San Francisco with more than 112,000 acres in 65 parks. There are more than 1,200 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and nature study. The Park District is responsible for managing all lands, public programs and the park fire and police departments as well as redeveloping lands for public parks.

Situation

The IT organization of the District operates a number of organization-wide applications including payroll, email, mapping and public safety systems. While some of the applications are hosted off-site, the District runs a number of systems in its own data center, and maintains data storage and conducts nightly backups directly in District facilities. IT management needed to assure that certain data would be protected even if facilities were compromised due to equipment failure, fire or natural disaster.

Solution

To provide backup for some application data and to complement its on-site storage, the IT team opted for AT&T Synaptic Storage as a ServiceSM, which provides on-demand cloud storage at AT&T data centers. Because the on-site storage is geographically diverse from copies stored in the AT&T cloud, District data can be protected from local problems. The District regularly pushes selected data to AT&T Synaptic Storage over high-speed connections without the costly investment in equipment or long-term commitment for storage space.

Open Spaces, Cultural Heritage and Recreation

Formed in 1934 with three parks across 2,000 acres, the East Bay Regional Park District now has more than 1,750 square miles of public land under management. Located on the east side of San Francisco Bay, it is one of the largest regional park districts in the country.

With AT&T I could essentially use as much storage as needed, when I needed it. It was simpler and more flexible."

Jim Tallerico, IT Director, East Bay Regional Park District

The District’s resources are unusually diverse. They include 100,000 acres of mostly undeveloped and natural grassland, shrubland, woodland, forest, lake, shoreline, riparian and wetland environments. These provide an essential habitat for a diverse collection of wild plants and animals, including a number of rare and endangered species.

In addition, the District is also responsible for preserving the rich cultural history of the East Bay, including archaeological, historical and scientifically valuable sites, areas and objects. Within the regional parks are some of the finest remaining Native American sites in the Bay Area, as well as historic features, including buildings, corral, springs and foundations. These serve to educate citizens about the early culture of the East Bay.

For public recreation, East Bay parks offer residents and visitors swimming, boating and fishing areas, 235 campsites, golf courses, education centers, and even banquet and wedding facilities.

The District also handles specialized work for state agencies, such as the development of the East Shoreline along the Berkeley corridor, where District teams are helping to turn former oil company and shipyard areas into public lands under the guidance of the State of California.

IT Needs for Public District

Similar to large government districts, the East Bay Regional Park District relies on a complex IT and communications infrastructure. East Bay’s IT Director Jim Tallerico manages an IT staff of seven, who are responsible for standard enterprise-type applications, a data center and a high-speed network connecting 45 parks to voice communications and an internal microwave transmission system.

“In addition to systems such as payroll accounting and email, we also provide records management for our Park Fire and Public Safety Departments,” said Tallerico. “We make extensive use of GIS, Geographic Information Systems, which we need for creating everything from the park and trail maps for our visitors, to the maps we use for managing our lands and facilities.” Tallerico’s team also manages more than 650 individual computers used by staff throughout the district.

To meet the operational needs of specific applications, the District retains certain information locally. It also relies on externally hosted services for other applications, mainly to insure that critical data is available in the event of an earthquake or other local emergency.

Data and Disaster Recovery

Tallerico estimates that with current systems, his data storage needs total about ten terabytes, with email being the single largest storage element. “A typical email user’s account is about two gigabytes, which includes everything from the usual office documents to photos. Quite a lot of photos, actually.”

In the past, Tallerico and his team relied on conventional storage capabilities. “For the data we stored here on site, we used tape backup and then sent the tapes offsite for storage. About a year ago we started using a backup and disaster recovery system provided by an outside vendor where we replaced the tape with local disks.

“At the time, we also built out a second data center in one of our parks near Brentwood. We began making nightly backups and pushing them to the second location via microwave.”

But even having data stored at two separate sites left Tallerico with a concern. “Our two facilities were only about five miles apart. A major event such as an earthquake or natural disaster would likely take them both out. That’s why we looked into AT&T cloud storage.”

Moving to the Cloud

“I had been approached by many vendors about cloud storage solutions,” said Tallerico. “I understood the technology and the rationale. But the services they proposed to me were much too involved for my needs and required too much commitment. AT&T Synaptic Storage as a Service was much more attractive.”

As Tallerico pointed out, AT&T Synaptic Storage would allow him to test the waters by sending specific data to the cloud and only paying for the storage capacity he used. “I could see that it would be easy to ramp up, once we decided on the type of data to store in the cloud and what our back-up process would be. With AT&T I could essentially use as much storage as needed, when I needed it. It was simpler and more flexible.”

In addition, Tallerico noted that his vendor already offered an interface directly to the AT&T solution which simplified the initial connectivity as well as everyday management. “We can do everything through our portal. Our AT&T cloud storage appears as a virtual server, where we just push our back-up data or pull back the data to recreate it. Managing back-ups is very simple.”

The Value of Planning

Tallerico began by sending about 10 percent of his data storage to the AT&T cloud solution, mainly to backup user email accounts. “We also tested recovery of data to see exactly how it all worked,” said Tallerico. “It worked well.

“The District is now in the process of establishing a formal document retention policy, while we refine our own data recovery procedures, using both our own on-premises systems and AT&T Synaptic Storage as a Service,” added Tallerico. “Now that we have seen exactly how well the AT&T solution performs and meets our requirements, we will be moving more and more data to the cloud. For us it’s a very cost-effective way to enhance our recovery systems.”

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