The Bucks County Intermediate Unit (BCIU) provides teaching and learning opportunities for more than 100,000 teachers, administrators, students and their families.
Classes and workshops help teachers and administrators maintain certification requirements. Specialty learning programs close the achievement gap for children with disabilities and developmental delays, and services such as Head Start and Early Head Start help low-income families prepare their kids for school.
“It takes a lot of data — 15 terabytes — to make all of this happen,” said Dan Lezoche, supervisor of technology services at BCIU. “Our challenge was keeping it available because backup and recovery were slow and unreliable.”
Lezoche said the IT team spent at least eight hours each week chasing down and rerunning failed backups because the legacy solution struggled to back up VMware vSphere and several operating systems. Recovery could take days.
“Taking days to recover is insane,” Lezoche said. “Data must be available immediately, especially in our communications system.”
The communications system collects and integrates data across schools and districts to keep teachers, students and families informed. It announces school closings and delays during inclement weather, and it can be used to communicate during a crisis, such as an active-shooter situation. “If data in our communications system isn’t available, we might not be unable to provide clear, accurate information to stakeholders during an emergency,” Lezoche said.
BCIU replaced legacy backup with Veeam® Backup & Replication™. Data in all critical systems, including the communications system, is now available all the time.
“We’re 100% confident in our ability to back up and recover quickly and successfully,” Lezoche said. “That means we’re 100% confident our communications system will deliver notifications to teachers, students and their families.”
Lezoche said Veeam is paving the way for BCIU’s most comprehensive business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) strategy ever.
“This is the first time we’ve been able to back up and replicate all workloads — virtual, physical and eventually cloud — to multiple locations under a single pane of glass,” he explained. “We have local copies of data in two data centers, and soon we’ll have another copy in Microsoft Azure. If both data centers fail for some reason, I can do a direct restore to Azure and we’ll be fully operational in minutes. Veeam Cloud Data Management gives new meaning to resiliency.”
Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows backs up and replicates physical servers. Veeam DataLabs™ verifies the validity of all backups and replicas.
“With Veeam you know you’re covered — critical data is always available,” Lezoche said. “We can validate BC and DR on the fly.”
Having a comprehensive BC and DR strategy ensures BCIU complies with state and federal regulatory requirements including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects the privacy of students’ education records, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which protects students’ medical information.
“We can easily demonstrate that data falling under FERPA and HIPAA is always available,” Lezoche said. “We have full access and control.”
BCIU’s next step is to extend full access and control to data in Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and OneDrive. The IT team is considering Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365 to protect data from accidental deletion, security threats and gaps in retention policy.
“BCIU’s retention policy for email is seven years,” Lezoche said. “If we’re unable to retain or recover emails, we could be in violation of Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act and Right to Know Law. Historical emails play an important role in legal disputes too. I can’t express enough how critical it is to have historical Exchange data available.”
Preserving historical SharePoint and OneDrive data is equally important.
“Having the ability to quickly recover data that staff inadvertently delete or overwrite is priceless,” Lezoche said. “That white-glove service goes a long way. At the end of the day, those wins demonstrate the value of technology in Bucks County.”
The IT team is always looking for ways to improve technology. Projects include replacing computers in all school districts and implementing a new HR management system.
“One of the reasons we’re able to devote more time to these projects is because of the eight hours we save each week with Veeam,” Lezoche said. “Backup and recovery are fast and reliable, and using a single console to manage data availability across all workloads is invaluable.”
Established in 1971 by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, the Bucks County Intermediate Unit is an educational service agency providing cost-effective, management-efficient programs for more than 270 public and private K-12 schools in 13 districts. The nonprofit organization employs 1,300 people.
As an educational service agency, the Bucks County Intermediate Unit works closely with schools and administrations to provide all children in Bucks County with the very best educational opportunities. Data supporting these opportunities must be readily available, but backup and recovery were slow and unreliable, putting data in danger.