College Success Foundation (CSF) provides a unique integrated system of supports and scholarships to inspire underserved low-income students to finish high school, graduate from college and succeed in life. CSF serves thousands of underserved students — those from low-income families, foster youth, students of color and firstgeneration college students — throughout Washington State and the District of Columbia. CSF has supported 9,500 students to graduate from college and continues to change lives through education.
Data loss can be devastating for nonprofits. It paralyzes operations, stalls programming and impedes fundraising. To avoid data loss, CSF sought to maintain availability and control of data without making a massive investment in its on-premises IT infrastructure.
College Success Foundation serves thousands of students in Washington State and the District of Columbia. Data plays a huge role in their work. It facilitates programming, assessment, accountability and fundraising. Data also helps demonstrate credibility. It shows program participants, partners and donors that CSF is delivering real, tangible benefits.
Data is critical to CSF’s mission. That’s why the organization deployed Microsoft Office 365, Azure storage and Azure Virtual Machines.
“The effort involved in maintaining an on-premises environment consisting of multiple Windows servers was intense before we moved to the Microsoft cloud,” said Alasdair Thomson, IT Director at CSF. “We have a small IT staff, so keeping servers patched, updated and running smoothly was expensive and time consuming.”
CSF embraced Microsoft Office 365, Azure storage and Azure Virtual Machines to decrease its data center footprint and optimize cloud storage, which ultimately saved time and money. However, as CSF moved to the cloud, it needed a data protection solution that was willing and able to embrace its cloud-first approach.
“If we lose data, we can’t deliver on our mission and support our scholars,” Thomson said. “Our data must always be available, whether it’s in our data center or the cloud.”
CSF worked hand-in-hand with Veeam® on its journey to the cloud. Embracing a cloud-first approach using joint solutions from Veeam and Microsoft saved significant time and reduced IT infrastructure management costs by 58 percent.
CSF is taking advantage of the Veeam Availability Platform to decrease its total cost of ownership. The first solution deployed was Veeam Backup & Replication™. CSF configured its architecture to archive backups of 25 VMware vSphere virtual machines to Azure.
“I had used Veeam at other jobs before I joined CSF, so I knew from experience that you sleep better at night when Veeam is protecting your data,” Thomson said. “I also knew from experience that Veeam is a massive timesaver because you can restore items from a backup in minutes.”
Saving several minutes each day adds up quickly. The IT team saves more than one week each year thanks to fast and reliable data recovery.
“That may not sound like a lot of time, but it’s a huge time savings for us,” Thomson said. “Extra time enables us to be proactive rather than reactive. Instead of spending hours restoring items after a software update goes wrong, we can spend that time meeting with our colleagues to see how IT can support future programming for scholars.”
Restoring data after a software update goes wrong is one thing, but restoring data after cyber criminals launch a malware attack is something entirely different. Thomson said he has complete confidence that Veeam will restore data from a backup if ransomware strikes, and CSF won’t have to pay the exorbitant ransom. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, ransomware soared to a $5 billion industry in 2016, up from $850 million the year before.
Protecting data is the ultimate goal for CSF. That’s why the organization acquired Veeam® Backup for Microsoft Office 365 next.
“We’re responsible for protecting our Exchange Online data, so we wanted to make sure we have access and control of it,” Thomson said. “Email is fundamental to the success of our organization.”
Email data is also fundamental to regulatory compliance. CSF is required to retain seven years’ worth.
“Veeam lets us set our own long-term retention policies so we don’t have to rely on anyone else for that,” he said. “And, when we used Veeam’s eDiscovery technology to find and restore Office 365 items, there was no learning curve because Veeam’s restore functionality is the same in every solution.”
Before deploying Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365, CSF had to decide whether to back up email data on-premises or to Azure storage. A cost comparison revealed CSF could save 58 percent by continuing its cloud-first strategy and placing email data inside Azure as well.
CSF further continued a cloud-first approach by building and running applications in the cloud on Azure Virtual Machines. The IT team discovered Veeam could protect these systems too. CSF deployed Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows to back up cloud workloads to Azure storage.
“When you use Veeam, it’s less about where data sits and more about visibility, access and control,” Thomson said. “That’s why we love Veeam — we can ensure availability of data on-premises and in Microsoft’s cloud. Combining Microsoft and Veeam is a win-win all around.”