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USGA hooks into IBM cloud

USGA signs on with Big Blue for disaster recovery services

By , Network World
May 18, 2009 12:03 AM ET

Network World - Business resiliency was the main driver for the United States Golf Association when it recently chose the IBM cloud for e-mail and data protection services.

Jessica Carroll

Jessica Carroll, managing director of IT for the nonprofit governing body of golf, says her existing backup and disaster-recovery plans were well designed for business conditions five years ago. But they were no longer adequate for today's world in which companies can't afford to be down for even brief periods of time.

The USGA has close to 70 servers — most based at headquarters in Far Hills, N.J., with some at a backup site 20 miles away, and others in Colorado Springs, Colo. The organization has about 350 employees, roughly 225 at headquarters and the rest scattered at remote offices across the country.

The USGA had traditionally done storage and backup internally, Carroll says. In the event of a total disaster, the USGA would have ordered new equipment from its vendors, set things up in a backup location and retrieved backup tapes that had been stored offsite. In that scenario, it might have taken a week before key data, such as 4 million membership records, would have been available again.

That type of delay might have been acceptable once, but it doesn't make the cut, Carroll says.

She looked for a better option and found a cloud-based business resiliency service from IBM. "IBM's reputation and the services it was offering were enterprise class," Carroll says. "I knew right away this was the way to go. The product was so strong."

Even so, the conservative Carroll did her due diligence. "We were back and forth for almost a year," she says, before the final contract was signed.

The agreement with IBM Information Protection Services has three components. First, there's an IBM-hosted hot site, with servers set aside and ready for the USGA to use in case of a disaster. That service has nothing to do with cloud computing, Carroll points out.

The second service is a cloud-based e-mail continuity service in which IBM automatically syncs up with the USGA's onsite e-mail servers. "If I have a disruption, if a machine is down, at the flip of a switch, we flip over to the Web service," Carroll says.

E-mail is a critical application for the USGA, which generates 150,000 messages a day. "It's really been on my mind," Carroll says. E-mail communication between the USGA and its members is "necessary to run to business."

She adds, "Last summer the phone system went down for a couple of days and nobody blinked an eye. If e-mail is off for 30 seconds, the help desk phones are ringing."

Carroll says testing and implementation of the Outlook e-mail service was completed last fall.

The other cloud service is a nightly backup of 2TB of mission-critical data. She says the USGA had two implementation options — it could have had every server perform a full backup over the WAN to the IBM cloud. That would have taken eight hours every night.

Carroll says she went with the second option. Software agents placed on each server take snapshots of the data. Those snapshots are funneled into a server in the USGA data center, then backed up to the IBM cloud. That option cost a bit more, but Carroll says it was worth the extra expense.

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