How will the A to Z Department of Education back up data for 500 years?

Because of the strict data retention requirements in state law nearly a decade old, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) is working with IT software company Veeam to back up and protect files indefinitely.

The state’s 2014 library law requires that historical records—such as those documenting a controversial issue, fundamental change, notable people, or an event that attracted media attention—be kept for 500 years. Since admins act as global administrators, all records around them fall within platform requirements, so ADE needed a way to stay compliant with data stored both on legacy systems and in the cloud.

Chris Henry, director of infrastructure at ADE for the past half decade, said he’s been working with Veeam and many of its software tools for about four years to maintain admin logs, as well as files from other business units that require 75 to 100 years of retention.


Implementing these systems is a time-consuming process, according to Rick Vanover, senior director of product strategy at Veeam.

“This is an extraordinary amount of data and it must not only be maintained, but also accessed,” Vanover said. government technology in a letter. “This becomes a challenge when balancing workloads and data in the cloud and on premises.”

Henry said it was necessary to implement Microsoft 365 backups, which is one of the services Veeam provides, and the department is legally required to regularly test the disaster recovery strategy and submit test reports and successfully complete it. Vanover said the department uses eDiscovery to search for and restore archives when needed.

Much of the information to back up is in legacy programs and systems, Henry said, including the state’s Schools Payment System, which tracks more than $6 billion flowing through the agency. If there is any legal objection, Henry and his team must reproduce the information. He said the department should validate the file recovery system annually.

Henry said his team is also rewriting applications for school payment systems and meal payment programs, so those files will be stored on newer technology and easily accessible in case of an audit. Recently, he said, these projects have been made possible because of funding, and not all old information had that luxury.

“We are somewhat constrained in our ancient environment, as are all state agencies,” said Henry. “Over time, you kind of get stuck on certain things until you get state funding to rewrite the applications.”

Besides the payment system and payment software, Henry said his staff has rewritten nearly 150 applications already, but there are still many outdated applications. Vanover said the Veeam software suite can support all of the department’s data protection and retention needs, as well as provide assessments of the health and wellness of backups.

“Every school in Arizona is required to track and report thousands of data points,” Vanover said. Working with Veeam, (ADE) increased recovery speed by 99 percent to better support legal compliance, increase workload mobility and implement persistent backups, which provide additional protection against ransomware.

Henry said that while there are pros and cons to the technology, be it old or new, at least one thing about the new way of backing up data is undoubtedly better.

“Having my static backups stored on encrypted volume… there are a lot of benefits that come with that,” he said.

Giovanni Albanese

Giovanni Albanese Jr. is a writer at the Center for Digital Education. He has covered business, politics, breaking news and professional football over a 15-year career as a journalist. He holds a BA in Journalism from Salem State University in Massachusetts.

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