Data is a powerful tool for school districts.
In data-driven districts like Broward County Public Schools, data measures students’ progress so they don’t fall behind. Data also drives a digital transformation initiative incorporating personal computing devices and an online curriculum for customized learning.
Data, and particularly surveillance data, is critical for school security too. In 2018, a gunman opened fire at one of the district’s 76 high schools—Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School—killing 17 students, teachers and staff. In the wake of that tragic incident, the district prioritized data protection and governance.
“Our goal was to mitigate the risks associated with data loss by deploying an enterprise data protection solution that would resolve each of the challenges we faced with Commvault—our legacy solution,” said Tamecka McKay, Enterprise Infrastructure Services Manager, Broward County Public Schools.
McKay said one of the biggest challenges was Commvault’s inability to protect fast-growing data. At the time, the district had 3 PB, but data was growing by 27% each year.
Another challenge was slow, unreliable backup and recovery. The backup administrator spent 70% of his time identifying failed backups, rerunning them and trying to recover from them. One of most harrowing recovery scenarios involved Medicaid data worth $21 million in federal funding. He eventually recovered it.
Slow and unreliable recovery led to another challenge: maintaining compliance with federal and state regulatory requirements including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Florida’s Sunshine Law.
“It was time to make a change,” McKay said. “Commvault didn’t provide the functionality required for modern data protection like automatic backup verification, instant recovery and robust monitoring and reporting for preventative maintenance. It also didn’t integrate with our NetApp FAS and AFF-A300 storage systems, and it could only replicate to identical hardware at a colocation center, which prohibited cost-saving cloud-archiving opportunities. We have a responsibility to taxpayers to deploy high-quality, affordable technology, so that’s exactly what we did.”
The district replaced Commvault with Veeam® Availability Suite™.
Veeam mitigates the risk of data loss by providing enterprise data protection and management. Veeam delivers the scalability required to safeguard the district’s fast-growing data and recover it quickly and reliably to maintain compliance with FERPA, HIPPA and Florida’s Sunshine Law. Veeam also provides advanced monitoring and reporting to resolve IT issues before they develop into problems that might impact the district. Moreover, Veeam is flexible. It integrates with any hardware, software and storage, enabling the district to replicate data to Azure Blob and save $80,000 annually in disaster recovery (DR) costs.
“That’s only the beginning of the savings we anticipate delivering to the taxpayers of Broward County,” McKay said. Over a three-year period, we estimate a total savings of $2.3 million in administrative costs, productivity, downtime and hardware and software maintenance—an ROI of 352%.”
McKay said replication to Azure Blob was especially advantageous during Hurricane Dorian, a category five storm that devasted the Bahamas before sweeping through Florida in 2019.
“This was the first time we replicated to Azure Blob,” she said. “We didn’t have a safe replica offsite because the colocation center was in the path of the storm. Veeam offered replication to Azure Blob, so the timing was perfect.”
In addition to replicating, Veeam backs up 4.5 PB across more than 2,000 VMware vSphere virtual machines on-premises from NetApp FAS and AFF-A300 storage snapshots for fast, local recovery.
“Backing up and recovering from NetApp storage snapshots is unbelievably fast and easy,” McKay said. “We have complete confidence that our data is protected in every IT system, including our ERP system that supports payroll for 32,000 teachers and staff. Our district is the largest employer in Broward County, so ERP data is critical.”
Veeam also provides advanced monitoring, reporting and capacity planning capabilities, enabling the IT team to proactively delete old snapshots before they cause problems.
“Sometimes developers leave their old snapshots lying around, so Veeam sends us a report listing snapshots that are older than 48 hours so we can delete them,” McKay said. “This is one more way Veeam helps us prevent against outages and data loss. It’s no wonder Veeam is an industry-leading data protection solution.”
Broward County Public Schools is the sixth largest school district in the nation and the second largest in Florida. The district serves a diverse population of more than 271,500 students representing 170 countries and 147 languages. Established in 1962, the district operates 322 schools and employs 32,000 teachers and staff.
Data is hyper critical to Broward County Public Schools. It drives digital transformation, serves as a source of actionable insight into teaching and learning and helps keep schools safe. As the district’s data grew exponentially, the cost to protect it grew exponentially too, yet backup and recovery were slow and unreliable, making it difficult to restore critical data and comply with federal and state regulatory requirements. The legacy backup solution was becoming a liability, not an asset.