Asheville, located in the metropolitan center of the western North Carolina mountain region, is home to one of the first hybrid cloud disaster recovery systems.

Before the new system was put into place, the city’s disaster recovery center was located just two blocks from the primary and backup data centers. Jonathan Feldman, the city’s newly appointed CIO, felt that was not an acceptable distance, nor was it an effective mitigation of risk.

Like other cities across the country, Asheville faced a limited budget and only had the capacity to protect certain applications under disaster recovery. Asheville’s IT service department had to develop a solution without large upfront costs.

Feldman started by looking at regional disaster recovery providers and quickly realized that their business model relies on over-subscribing their data centers. This means that resources may be delayed or unavailable in an emergency event due to the sheer number of users. “In an event like a fire in your building, you’re probably ok because not everyone’s having a fire,” said Feldman. “But if there’s a regional disaster like Hurricane Katrina — you may be out of luck.”

That’s when he turned to the cloud. Leveraging cloud computing as part of a disaster recovery solution offered several benefits including reduced upfront costs, a pay-as-you-go approach and on-demand availability.

Around this time, CloudVelox, a member of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Partner Network, approached Asheville with a hybrid cloud solution that offered high levels of automation. Automation is key to disaster recovery as it allows system managers to secure, ongoing updates between the primary data center and the cloud. This ensures the data and resources will be there when its needed.

Ashville decided to implement a pilot program. The city saw substantial results almost immediately, and was able to:

  • Extend protection to apps previously unprotected, while staying within the budget 
  • Enter disaster recovery mode for a couple days for a few hundred dollars, compared to ongoing hardware costs of a physical data center
  • Improved agility and allowed more regular testing of disaster recovery systems
  • Achieve extraordinary geographic diversity through the cloud, rather than a dedicated facility two blocks away from its data center

The cloud offered Asheville a secure, cost-effective approach to disaster recovery that ensures protection of critical apps and business continuity during an event. The disaster recovery solution was also recently recognized by Amazon Web Services as a City on a Cloud award winner for best practices and innovations in state and local cloud computing.

Looking ahead, the city plans to extend disaster recovery to more applications over time. 

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