State And Local Government Data Backup And Disaster Recovery: Why It's Important And What Features To Look For

The importance of data backup and recovery for state and local governments.
Arturo Bello
May 24, 2023

State and local government agencies face unique challenges when it comes to data protection. They sit in the centre of a complex web of data collection - everything from constituent records, contractors, employee and public worker data, tax records, and much more besides. This data is integral for helping to improve public services and allocate funds, but it is also often split across different systems, meaning it is at risk of loss. On top of this, the sensitive nature of much of this data makes it valuable, which puts it at higher risk of being targeted and compromised by cybercriminals.

Implementing a robust data backup and recovery solution is essential for state and local governments to ensure that data collected locally or in cloud-based applications is protected against loss, tampering or compromise. In this article, we’ll cover why data backup and recovery is important, and what key features to look for in a data backup and recovery solution.

Why Data Backup And Recovery Is Essential

Data loss is a common challenge across all types of organizations, public and private. But the challenge is particularly acute for local and state governments, who all too often lack the security and data protection resources that private enterprises collecting similar amounts of data would have in place.

In 2016, a major ransomware attack hit Sarasota City Hall in Florida, encrypting 160,000 files. Cyber-criminals demanded up to $33 million USD worth of Bitcoin to unlock them. Fortunately, swift action and forward planning from the local government’s IT staff meant that all of the affected files were recovered from the city’s backup archive. This example highlights just how important implementing a backup and recovery solution can be for local and state governments.

Cyber attacks are one of the most common ways in which local and state governments can experience data loss. State and local government networks are prime targets for cybercriminals, particularly ransomware groups. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that more than 4,000 ransomware attacks have taken place every single day since 2016 - and governments are prime targets. Ransomware attacks can debilitate the everyday workings of governments, shutting down key processes and forcing them to incur sometimes massive financial costs to rectify if there is no backup and recovery solution in place.

Natural disaster and technology failure can also lead to data loss, corruption, or deletion. These factors are outside of the control of IT teams, but nevertheless it falls under their responsibility to ensure that systems can continue to operate smoothly, and data can be recovered.

You may also be required by law to create backups for data protection and compliance purposes. There are many different federal and state data protection rules in the U.S. governing the deletion of government records, with differing requirements on data backup; in some states, employees deleting emails and records can also lead to legal consequences.  But whatever your state laws say regarding the deletion of data by an employee, it’s generally a good idea to have strong data backup and recovery in place to ensure your data is accessible for legal compliance purposes if required. It is important to note that state and local governments must also demonstrate compliance with federal data regulations such as HIPAA, COPPA and FERPA, which must be adhered to when dealing with related data such as healthcare, educational records.

Many local and state governments are also more commonly working with cloud-based services. SaaS applications hold data in the cloud, rather than in your local network, but it’s important to note that they work on a "shared responsibility” model. While cloud services are responsible for keeping your data secure, they are not required to back up your data; if it is deleted or lost, or the company closes or merges, you are responsible for storing the data you need access to.

The best way to deal with the above scenarios is to implement a robust, third-party data backup and disaster recovery solution, which can enable you to restore records quickly and efficiently so that data cannot be lost, and operations can continue as normal.

Features To Look for In A Data Backup And Recovery Solution

State and local governments should look to implement a comprehensive data backup and recovery solution that provides automated secure data backup, recovery, and policies. A strong backup and recovery solution will include the following capabilities:

Automated point-in-time backups

Implementing automated, point-in-time backups is essential for protecting your data from loss or corruption. 'Point-in-time' backups create copies of your data at regular intervals, so that you can always restore it to a previous point in time if something goes wrong. This is especially important for government services that rely on data to operate, as it can help them to minimize downtime and avoid costly data loss.

Rapid data recovery

The speed of data recovery is another important consideration to look for in a backup solution. This means that you should be able to restore your data quickly and easily, even if it has been lost or corrupted by ransomware, natural disaster, or human error. A good backup solution should offer a variety of recovery options, so that you can restore your data to the exact point in time and location that you need it, and in the right format.

Role-Based Access Controls

Role-Based Access Controls (RBAC) allow you to control who has access to your backups and what they can do with them. This is important for protecting your data from unauthorized access. A good backup solution should offer a variety of role-based controls, so that you can manage who has access to backups, monitor account activity, and configure access policies.

Granular search

Granular search allows you to search for specific files or messages within your backups. This can be helpful if you need to restore a specific piece of data, but don’t know exactly where it is located or when it was saved. A good backup solution should offer a powerful search engine, so that you can easily find the data you need within certain applications or time frames.

Data sovereignty

Data sovereignty is the concept of controlling where your data is stored. This is important for businesses that need to comply with data privacy laws, as it allows them to keep their data within their own borders. A good backup solution should offer a variety of data sovereignty options, so that you can choose the one that best meets your needs.

Flexible restoration options

Flexible restoration options allow you to restore your data to a variety of locations. This can be helpful if you need to restore your data to a different server, user or if you need to restore it to a previous point in time. A good backup solution should offer a variety of restoration options, so that you can choose the one that best meets your needs.

FedRAMP compliance

The Federal Risk and Authorization Management (FedRAMP) program standardizes security authorizations for cloud services. This is not currently a requirement state and local governments must follow, but it is a helpful guideline when choosing a backup service. A good backup solution should be FedRAMP compliant, so that you can be confident that your data is secure.

Flexible retention periods and storage limits

Flexible retention periods and storage limits allow you to control how long your data is stored and how much storage space you use. This is important for businesses that need to comply with data retention laws, or that need to store large amounts of data. A good backup solution should offer flexible retention periods and storage limits, so that you can choose the ones that best meet your needs.

Security controls

Security controls are important for protecting your backups from unauthorized access. A good backup solution should offer a variety of security controls, such as event logging, alerting, MFA, and encryption. These controls can help to protect your data from unauthorized access and can help to minimize the risk of data loss.

Easy deployment

Easy deployment is important for businesses that need to get their backup solution up and running quickly. A good backup solution should be easy to deploy, so that you can start protecting your data as soon as possible, without impacting day-to-day government operations.

Introducing CloudAlly

Data backup and recovery is crucial to ensure data is protected, and government services can continue to operate in the event of data loss or ransomware attack. Constant Edge has partnered with CloudAlly, a market leading secure backup and SaaS data protection platform, which is trusted by more than 16,000 global customers to provide cloud backup and recovery to state and local governments.

CloudAlly offers secure backup and restore solutions for cloud-based SaaS applications, including Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, DropBox, Box, and Salesforce - with unlimited data retention. The platform conducts automated daily backups for all Microsoft 365 users, with easy, non-destructive restores. CloudAlly can be used to back up SharePoint and OneDrive, including Teams, and Google Workspace, including Gmail, Google Drive, Contacts, and Chat. Records can be restored individually, or in-bulk across organizations and teams, with a granular search console for admins to search-for and find the data they need to recover.

Backups are all end-to-end encrypted, including record meta-data, and can be restored anytime, from anywhere. The service offers OAuth and MFA/2FA support and is ISO 27001, HIPAA, and GDPR compliant. You have full control over data sovereignty, and data is held in your choice of global data centres across North America, Europe, the UK, and Australia. However, it is important to note CloudAlly is not currently FedRAMP compliant.

CloudAlly also offers a comprehensive user management portal, enabling admins to fine-level control over the permissions and access levels of your users. This includes updating account settings, managing user permissions, viewing account activity, and managing backup services.

CloudAlly offers exclusive discounts to state and local governments looking to implement secure cloud-based backup and recovery. Enquire with Constant Edge today to get your discounted pricing quote and start a free 14-day trial.

Avoiding Data Loss With Constant Edge

If you represent a state or local government looking for a robust backup solution, we can help. Constant Edge has a team of data protection specialists who understand the critical importance of backup and can help advise you on the best solution to meet your organization’s needs. Get in touch with our team to learn more.

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