The business challenges
Smoky Lake County offers countless opportunities for affordable country living, outdoor adventure, agricultural expansion and regional development. The area features majestic lakes, scenic trails, championship golf courses, diverse neighborhoods and a 50-mile stretch of undeveloped land along the North Saskatchewan River. Smoky Lake County provides a small-town feel, a progressive community spirit and modern amenities.
Modern amenities are indispensable in rural regions spanning thousands of kilometers. Residents rely on the county to provide essential services such as oil, natural gas and water. Most residents don’t have piped water systems due to high installation costs and extreme cold weather. Instead, they rely on automated bulk water dispensing systems.
“Water dispensing systems are always vital, but when you live in an area prone to wildfires, they’re a necessity,” said Brian Niziol, IT Technician at Smoky Lake County. “Fire and rescue services are a necessity too. Our challenge was protecting the IT systems supporting these services.”
Smoky Lake County was using Windows Backup to protect the IT systems. Niziol said backup was slow, and he was never sure if every backup completed successfully. Recovery was slow too, and it was unpredictable.
“I had no confidence in my ability to recover from a backup,” he said. “If we can’t recover the IT systems supporting water, fire and rescue services, then we’ve failed our residents. These services can mean the difference between life and death.”
Another challenge was maintaining compliance with the Access to Information Act. It gives Canadians the right to access records held by government institutions.
“We’re required by law to retain information for five years, including emails, but I was worried about being able to recover them from our Microsoft Exchange backups. As it turned out, the solution we chose saved us from losing all of our emails on two separate occasions. Now we know we can’t live without it.”
The Veeam solution
Smoky Lake County replaced legacy backup with Veeam Backup Essentials. Veeam protects the IT systems supporting all municipal services for residents, and it helps maintain regulatory compliance with the Access to Information Act. Veeam also delivered a one-time savings of $27,000 in backup costs shortly after deployment.
“Veeam offers a level of protection that’s indispensable,” Niziol said. “I’m absolutely confident the IT systems supporting our fire, water and rescue services are backed up successfully and can be recovered quickly. Veeam helps us protect our systems and our residents.”
One of the most important systems is a proprietary Geographic Information System (GIS) that maps the location of an emergency and routes emergency vehicles to it as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“Communication between our emergency service operators and the dispersal of their resources depend on Veeam protecting GIS,” Niziol said. “Veeam is mission-critical software for us.”
The county’s GIS has two interfaces. One is used by emergency service operators and the other is used by the public.
“Anyone can access the public portion from our website, including other municipalities,” Niziol said. “They can see exactly where the emergency is located and what services we’ve deployed. They monitor the situation and send their emergency personnel and vehicles if we need them. Wildfires often require the help of multiple fire departments.”
Another critical component is the county’s financial management system, which is supported by Microsoft SQL Server. It incorporates accounting, payroll, cash flow, tax collection and expenditures.
“If we don’t have access to our financial management system, no one can work,” Niziol said. “We don’t worry about that happening because Veeam Explorer for Microsoft SQL recovers anything we need in minutes.”
Niziol relies on additional Veeam recovery features.
“Since we deployed Veeam, we’ve had two catastrophic incidents where we lost all email. On the first occasion, Veeam Explorer for Microsoft Exchange restored individual mailboxes. On the second occasion, Instant VM Recovery restored the virtual machine supporting Exchange. In both cases, we were up and running fast, enabling us to maintain compliance with the Access to Information Act.”
Microsoft Exchange is so critical to the county that the county considered purchasing a backup email server for redundancy, but the cost of the server ($22,000) and mailbox licenses ($5,000) was prohibitive.
“We have complete confidence in our ability to restore our email server from a Veeam backup or replica, so we saved $27,000,” he said. “Veeam helps me be the most efficient administrator I can be. It’s a reliable solution that works every time.”
- Protects the IT systems supporting all municipal services for residents
Veeam backs up and replicates 3 TB across a Microsoft Hyper-V infrastructure.
“Backup and replication are extremely fast and reliable with Veeam, but recovery is what amazes me the most,” Niziol said. “One of my favorite features is Instant VM Recovery, so I’m really looking forward to trying Multi-VM Instant Recovery. If we experience a catastrophic outage, Veeam will likely reduce recovery time by at least half, getting us back up and running in record time.”
- Helps maintain regulatory compliance with the Access to Information Act
“During one of the catastrophic email incidents, Veeam recovered my boss’ mailbox in minutes,” Niziol said. “It’s never good when your boss loses email. Veeam saved my job that day.”
- Delivers a one-time savings of $27,000 in backup costs shortly after deployment
“You can’t underestimate the value of complete confidence,” Niziol said. “That’s why we saved $27,000. We’re so confident in our ability to recover our email server from a Veeam backup or replica that we don’t need to spend money on a redundant backup email server.”