Community colleges play an important role in American higher education. They open the door to postsecondary studies, they’re affordable and they reach a diverse group of people. AWC provides all that and more. It transforms lives through education and partnerships to create thriving communities.
To build on its success, AWC created a strategic plan. One of the objectives was an IT transformation to improve the student experience and organizational effectiveness. AWC wanted to further automate student services and eliminate negative findings by state auditors.
Automating student services begins with the registration process. Several documents are required for registration, and for the majority of applicants, that includes a student visa. AWC is seven miles from the Mexican border, so many students cross the border regularly to attend classes. The challenge for the IT team was backing up the server that supports document processing.
“Backups were only successful 20% of the time, and if a backup was successful, recovery could take 24 hours,” said AJ Buchtel, cloud services architect at AWC. “If the server failed and couldn’t be recovered, registration could come to a grinding halt.”
The second task was eliminating negative audit findings. The State of Arizona provides AWC with approximately $3.5 million in funding each year, but only if AWC passes an IT audit. One of the requirements for passing is implementing the 3-2-1 Rule: three copies of data stored on two different types of storage with one copy off-premises. The challenge for the IT team was getting backup copies off-premises.
“Legacy backup didn’t support cloud backup,” Buchtel said. “Cloud backup was the missing piece of the 3-2-1 Rule, and if we didn’t add it the state wouldn’t fund us. State funding is critical because it supports our mission of transforming students’ lives.”
AWC resolved both challenges with Veeam®. Student registration is a highly efficient process and state funding is anticipated for the foreseeable future.
“It all started with a free trial of Veeam Agent,” Buchtel said. “The server supporting student registration was physical. The drive was so full that it was close to crashing, so I installed Veeam Agent to turn it into a Microsoft Hyper-V server. Then I backed up and recovered it so I could expand the hardware. Veeam saved the day and hasn’t stopped since.”
AWC deployed Veeam Backup & Replication™ next. Veeam backs up 90 Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere virtual machines (200 TBs) on premise to Dell EMC Data Domain. Veeam also transfers backup copies off-premises— the missing piece of the 3-2-1 Rule — to Azure (and to Azure Blob for tiered storage). Veeam makes everything about the cloud easy: backup, DR and storage tiering. It’s called Veeam Cloud Data Management™.
“Veeam Cloud Data Management enables us to comply with the 3-2-1 Rule required by the state for funding,” Buchtel said. “It also helped us create the college’s first truly comprehensive business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) strategy.”
The BC and DR strategy contains several components in addition to off-premises backup to Azure. A built-in, automatic-tiering feature called Veeam Cloud Tier offloads older backups to more affordable storage. For AWC, that’s Azure Blob.
“One of the things we like best about Veeam is it’s always on the leading edge of new technology,” Buchtel. “In this case it was tiered cloud storage using native object-storage integration.”
The BC and DR strategy also includes automated backup testing and high-speed recovery. Veeam SureBackup® verifies the recoverability of backups, and Instant VM Recovery® reduces recovery speed from 24 hours to minutes. AWC is prone to flash floods, so another Veeam feature may be required at some point. Veeam Direct Restore to Microsoft Azure will restore on-premises virtual machines in Microsoft Azure.
Buchtel said Veeam provides AWC with one additional benefit: a savings of $50,000 over five years.
“Veeam is so much more affordable than legacy backup that we were able to purchase Data Domain,” Buchtel said. “Veeam and Data Domain integrate well, delivering a dramatically improved compression ratio of 16:1, which will significantly reduce our storage footprint and save money on storage in the long run. It’s really easy to justify purchasing Veeam.”
Arizona Western College (AWC) is a comprehensive community college based in Yuma, Arizona. Founded in 1964, AWC has 12 locations, serves 11,000 students and employs 1,500 faculty and staff.
AWC faced two challenges. Backups failed 80% of the time and transferring backup copies off premise to comply with the 3-2-1 rule was impossible. Both challenges had to be resolved before the state would continue funding AWC.