City of Asheville turns to cloud technology to back up essential systems

The City of Asheville’s IT Services Department has found a new home for some city emergency backup applications, using a cloud technology platform provided by CloudVelocity and Amazon Web Services.

The development, announced in May, ensures that two of the city’s important, but previously unprotected systems – the point-of-sale system for the U.S. Cellular Center and the city’s Water Resources asset management system – can function properly even in the case of a hardware failure, power outage, or natural disaster.

“Utilizing the cloud platform allows us to restore these functions quickly and without experiencing loss of information or time due to a system outage,” says the City of Asheville’s chief information officer Jonathan Feldman.

In times of disaster, municipalities rely on backup technology to recover critical operational systems, but often, that backup requires establishing an off-site facility to house hardware and host duplicate systems. From a fiscal standpoint, Feldman says, that was a no-go for these systems. “We didn’t have the resources to develop an entire second facility that was far enough away to protect from regional disaster.”

So the city’s IT Services team migrated those systems into Amazon’s Web Services systems using CloudVelocity’s software. The transition took about a month to complete, and the final product passed an outside security auditor’s assessment before launch.

Having a backup system easily accessible and secure but located, in this case, at a data center on the west coast, is an asset as it means those systems are not impacted by local events. It is a concept known as geographic dispersion.

The information in the city’s primary data center and in the cloud is consistently synchronized so the backup system is ready to be launched at any time. But unlike traditional off-site backup facilities, the cloud-based recovery system is only operating when it is in use or during test runs. That means a greatly reduced operational cost, since the City does not have to purchase backup hardware.

“Instead of capital costs in the hundreds of thousands for a modern disaster recovery center, we pay for automation software, computing, and data storage when we use it, at a tenth of the cost,” says Kevin Hymel, Technical Services Manager for the City.

But perhaps the most important outcome is an automated disaster recovery system that reduces recovery time from 12 hours to two, and one that will remain available in case of any city-wide weather or power related event.

“We will continue to look for opportunities to utilize this technology for any city system that requires disaster recovery,” Feldman said.