Today WhippleHill backs up critical data using a public cloud backup service from Zetta. The company had been backing up those files to disk and storing them in a different building on the corporate campus, Smart says. "We decided that really wasn't offsite enough for data like our source code, documentation and Wikis. We needed to get those out of here, and Zetta made it easy," he adds. He points out that Zetta helped WhippleHill write automated backup scripts and that it offers Windows sync capabilities and support for a wide variety of file system protocols -- including Secure Shell FileSystem, which WhippleHill uses for Linux server backups.
Still, Smart says he's not ready to entrust highly sensitive data, such as human resources information or credit card numbers, to cloud storage. And he wouldn't change his mind on that before thoroughly investigating Zetta's policies and procedures for ensuring that its customers can meet mandates such as the those of the PCI Security Standards Council. "Frankly, I haven't talked to Zetta about encryption on its end, because it hasn't been important for what we've got out there now," says Smart, noting that the data is encrypted across the wire and protected by passwords.
Local government alleviates risk
Brian Moynihan, IT director for Clinton, Mich., a small town 20 miles northeast of Detroit, faced similar data storage decisions.
"Of course, we do the industry-standard backups, with multiple copies on RAID drives and online storage in vaults. But ultimately we realized the township in and of itself is a centralized location. No matter how many copies of data I have in buildings around the township, in the face of a natural disaster, we still have a single point of failure in terms of our stored data," he says.
A year and a half ago, Clinton's steering committee began exhaustive discussions about how best to address that problem. It eventually decided to turn to public cloud storage, but at that time the most readily available options were consumer-oriented offerings from Carbonite and Mozy, Moynihan says.
"We began investigating what it would take for us to do honest-to-goodness cloud-based offsite storage but didn't initially find anything that provided a real good fit for what we wanted to do, which was to have an archived, easily accessible offsite copy of our data," he says.
Then officials discovered AT&T Synaptic Storage as a Service, a pay-as-you-go storage option that was particularly attractive to the revenue-strapped municipality, Moynihan says. Although the township hasn't yet begun using the Synaptic service (Moynihan says key municipal decision-makers move at a glacial pace), it intends to rely on it for daily system backups and operational backups of financial management applications and other systems used on a day-to-day basis. Later, it will use Synaptic for long-term archiving of documents such as death records and property deeds that must be accessible, essentially, forever.
With the daily system and operational backups, Moynihan says, compliance isn't an issue. But the steering committee has concerns about the archiving. While the Freedom of Information Act requires that much of the township's historical data must be readily accessible, "that doesn't mean we want to publish everything openly on the Web," he says.
When choosing a public cloud storage provider, Moynihan says, officials had to consider where in the world the data might be kept. "For emotional and political reasons, people here don't want our data across borders," he explains.
For example, he had to rule out Google's cloud storage offering, because the company couldn't guarantee that the township's data would be stored on domestic servers. AT&T, on the other hand, identified the specific data center that would hold Clinton's data -- and it said the information would be encrypted.