The Business Challenge
MSM is a catalyst for change. Recognized as the top institution among U.S. medical schools for its dedication to the social mission of education, MSM is committed to eliminating health disparities among people of color and underserved urban and rural populations. Its mission is to improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities, increase diversity among medical professionals and address health issues through education, research and service.
MSM’s Office of Information Technology (IT) empowers and supports this mission by providing best-in-class technology solutions to enable students, faculty and staff as they work to improve health equity. Solutions include the Banner Student Information System, REDCap (a web-based application for research) and two electronic health record systems: Practice Partner and Epic. Not only do MSM’s faculty teach, conduct research and contribute to public policy, but they also provide exceptional patient care in clinics throughout Atlanta and at a local hospital.
There is no question that MSM is committed to improving health equity, but that doesn’t resonate with cybercriminals. Ransomware is so lucrative that attacks against universities increased by 100% between 2019 and 2020. The average cost of a ransomware attack was $447,000 among the 2,700 universities surveyed in 43 countries.
“It’s not a question if a ransomware attack will happen — it’s a question of when,” said Mark Dean, Senior Systems Administrator at MSM. “Ransomware protection has never been as critically important as it is right now.”
MSM decided to take a proactive approach to defend against ransomware, but legacy backup wasn’t capable.
“Our two solutions (Backup Exec and VMware Data Protection) were unreliable, difficult to use and expensive,” Dean said. “I wanted to learn more about Veeam, so I attended VeeamON. It was like the clouds cleared and the sun shone brightly again. Veeam is the only product I’ve ever used that does exactly what it says it will do — every single time. It’s precisely what we needed to boost our disaster recovery (DR) strategy.”
The Veeam Solution
MSM replaced both backup solutions with Veeam Availability Suite to modernize data protection and take proactive, preventative steps against ransomware. Veeam strengthens the DR strategy by laying the cornerstone for the 3-2-1-1-0 rule, and Veeam is more affordable and efficient than the legacy solutions, saving $75,000 in backup costs and 500 hours in IT management each year.
“Veeam supports our mission for health equity by helping us protect against cyberattacks,” Dean said. “Like most education institutions, we experience a high rate of phishing attempts. It only takes one student, faculty or staff member clicking on one phony link to give cybercriminals free reign for destruction. Veeam lets us create air-gapped tape backups, recover from them quickly and avoid paying ransom. That’s priceless.”
Veeam backs up and replicates nearly 1 PB across more than 400 virtual machines (VMs) on-premises and to a private cloud, while also monitoring and reporting on the efficacy of each backup job. Next Veeam copies backups to tapes that are stored off-premises, making them air-gapped so MSM can follow the 3-2-1-1-0 rule (3 different backup copies on 2 different media with 1 copy offsite, 1 copy air-gapped, immutable or offline and 0 backup recovery errors). To ensure recovery is always possible, Veeam verifies recoverability of backups and replicas (called SureBackup and SureReplica).
Veeam also backs up VMs in Azure Active Directory, which enables students, faculty and staff to sign in and access resources such as Microsoft Office 365. MSM is considering Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365 to eliminate the risk of losing access and control of 365 data.
“Azure is a critical resource for us, so knowing Veeam backs up our VMs in Azure and gives us the ability to restore our on-premises VMs to Azure in the event of an emergency are big benefits,” Dean said. “Veeam Explorers for Microsoft Active Directory and SQL Server are also beneficial. They make our job easier because they help us recover granular items like tables and fields fast.”
Prior to Veeam, MSM used Quest’s Active Administrator to back up Active Directory on-premises and in Azure, but it was expensive. During that same time, MSM used legacy backup to protect SQL Server, but that was expensive too.
“Active Administrator was licensed per object, so we paid $50,000 in licensing fees each year,” Dean said. “We paid another $25,000 in storage to house SQL exports because we didn’t trust backups. Veeam backs up everything reliably and saves $75,000 annually. It’s also easy to use, freeing up 500 hours each year. Veeam is remarkable.
- Protects against ransomware and supports MSM’s mission for health equity
“Ransomware attacks aren’t going away, and no one wants to be the next victim,” Dean said. “You have to fully protect your IT infrastructure, and Veeam makes that easy.”
- Strengthens the DR strategy by laying the cornerstone for the 3-2-1-1-0 rule
To follow the rule, we needed air-gapped backups, so Veeam copies our backups to tape, and we archive them off-premises,” Dean said. “Tapes will help us recover data if we get hit by ransomware.”
- Saves $75,000 in backup costs and 500 hours in IT management time annually
“We chose Veeam because it’s the best solution to protect against ransomware,” Dean said. “Saving money and time are bonus benefits.”