The business challenge
People across the County of Northumberland, in the Northeast of England depend on Northumberland County Council to provide health and social care, emergency response, housing and other vital government services.
Almost all the local authority’s activities are supported by digital technologies. As the council continues to launch new e-government services, the volume and velocity of data is set to increase. As a result, protecting these key systems from cyberattack or unplanned downtime is a top priority for Northumberland County Council.
“Local governments are tempting targets for cybercriminals looking to cause damage to critical national infrastructure,” said Paul Williams, ICT Service Support Manager at Northumberland County Council. “To reduce the risk of downtime, we have been working tirelessly to strengthen the security of our mission-critical systems and the data that powers our services.”
As well as a range of custom-developed applications, Northumberland County Council relies on a variety of proprietary applications — including Microsoft 365.
“All our departments and over 6,400 employees use Microsoft 365 to collaborate,” said Williams. “In many ways, Microsoft 365 is the backbone of our operations. Without access to their email, productivity software and collaboration tools, our teams simply wouldn’t be able to do their work, impacting services for local residents.”
Initially, Northumberland County Council relied on the built-in backup and recovery tools of Microsoft 365 and hadn’t yet configured third-party backups of the data held in its Microsoft systems.
“While we trust Microsoft solutions, Microsoft makes it clear that they do not offer a comprehensive suite of backup services,” said Williams. “If, for any reason, Microsoft servers were to go offline, we would lose access to our Microsoft 365 systems and be unable to restore important data. To avoid this single point of failure, we set out to find a different approach.”
As well as increasing control over its data, Northumberland County Council was keen to accelerate and simplify the recovery process. If a user accidentally deleted a file, IT users were forced to trawl through terabytes of data to find it — a process that could take up to two hours. If a file had been accidentally deleted for longer than 30 days, it would automatically be deleted, increasing the risk of data loss.
The Veeam solution
To better protect its Microsoft 365 environment, Northumberland County Council invited multiple vendors to demonstrate their data protection solutions. Veeam® Backup for Microsoft 365 stood out from the crowd.
“We aimed to simplify our approach to backups, recover quickly from cyberattacks and, crucially, make our most important data immutable and always available,” said Williams. “The solutions provided by Veeam met our requirements and provided value for money
Northumberland County Council decided to deploy the Veeam solution on Amazon Web Services (AWS). “We selected AWS because it was cost-effective and we already had a strong relationship with Amazon,” said Williams. “Moreover, deploying on AWS gave us the added data protection of a multi-cloud environment.”
To improve business continuity, Northumberland County Council now backs up critical data at two on-site locations and keeps a third backup off-site. To ensure that backups always contain the most up-to-date information, the organization backups up every user’s data in OneDrive for Business, Microsoft Teams and SharePoint every night.
Northumberland County Council worked closely with experts from Veeam and AWS, delivering a best-practice approach to the implementation.
“We were incredibly pleased with the support we received. Veeam and AWS worked together as though they were one team, helping us to find the optimal configuration of the Veeam solutions for our needs. Working closely with Veeam, we rolled out Veeam Backup for Microsoft 365 quickly and effectively,” Williams said.
Currently, Veeam backs up over 20 terabytes of data from the local authority’s Microsoft 365 solutions. Looking ahead, Northumberland Country Council is considering expanding its use of Veeam solutions to other parts of its environment.
“Our recent project has been a true eye-opener to the potential that Veeam solutions have to offer. We look forward to developing our use of Veeam as we continue to strengthen our cybersecurity posture in the years ahead,” Williams said.
- Boosts availability for Microsoft 365 applications, helping the council to keep public services running smoothly 24/7 all year round:
“Since deploying Veeam, we haven’t experienced any unplanned downtime for our Microsoft 365 services,” said Williams. “If we ever run into an issue, we are confident that Veeam will help us to restore our core applications quickly and effectively.”
- 99% faster recovery of deleted files boosts productivity across the organization:
Veeam Backup for Microsoft 365 makes it easy for IT teams to restore specific files and folders from terabytes of data, freeing personnel from time-consuming tasks and reducing the risk of accidentally deleted files being permanently removed.
- Streamlines software testing with robust data reuse capabilities:
“We use Veeam to create copies of production data for our test environments, helping us to make sure that patches and upgrades work properly before we deploy them into production,” Williams said.