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Individual IT Heroes PART II

  • January 18, 2015

This is the second part of my blog on some of the current challenges facing IT professionals, and the individual IT heroes that go the extra mile to find creative and professional solutions to the demanding problems they are so often faced with.

Safeguarding any company's huge volume of data is a formidable challenge for an IT professional. “Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data – by some estimates that’s one new Google every four days and the rate is only increasing,” according to venture capitalist Peter Levine of Silicon Valley firm Andreessen Horowitz. It is often hard to absolutely guarantee security of rapidly growing data, but good training and advice, together with clearly communicated policies should go a long way to ensure staff behave professionally in taking care of the data that they are responsible for.

Data that is vulnerable is not just a theoretical problem, but a real-life issue that affects us now: actual attacks are growing in complexity and severity too; the more critical data is stored digitally, the more irresistible a target it becomes. The adoption of cloud computing and the more stringent approach by governments for regulating data privacy has created further complications.

Dr. Andreas Gerdes, Leibniz University IT Services (LUIS), Hannover, had the initiative to take a comprehensive look at Backup and Restore solutions that met his IT departments' security requirements. “We considered products from other vendors, but in the end, Bacula Systems emerged as the clear choice”. The process of deploying Bacula Enterprise Edition was included into the overall reorganization process of the data center (including renaming RRZN to LUIS), where all services are standardized along ITILv3 guidelines.

The University used Bacula Enterprise Editions to implement the following security advantages:

  • CRAM-MD5 password authentication between each component (daemon)
  • Configurable TLS (SSL) communications encryption between each component
  • Configurable Data (on Volume) encryption on a Client by Client basis
  • Computation of MD5 or SHA1 signatures of the file data (default)
  • Verification of files previously cataloged, permitting a Tripwire-like capability (system break-in
  • detection)

Andreas and his team are heroes because they possessed the ingenuity to build a solution that would both increase security and cut costs – all at the same time.

One of the reasons NASA decided to use Bacula Enterprise Edition was because it provided encrypted backup that is compliant with U.S. Federal Information Processing Standards. But as IT professionals know only too well, there is usually a whole range of selection criteria for a new software solutions to meet before getting to the implementation stage. At NASA, this was indeed the case, and it needed an IT team with knowledge and initiative to find the correct solution. Gustaf Barkstrom, Systems Administrator at SSAI (NASA Langley contractor), had to find a backup solution that would leverage the IBM HPSS hierarchical storage manager (HSM) to provide migration to and from tape media. “Because Bacula Enterprise does not place small metadata files unnecessarily in the disk storage structure of a virtual tape volume device directory – unlike some competitors – Bacula can be deployed easily within an IBM HPSS environment” said Mr. Barkstrom.

Of course, data backup and restore is not just about technology. It is about having the right security policy, developing a security culture and building effective security operations. But it is also about having a team of individual heroes in an IT department - whether it is NASA, Swisscom, or the University of Hannover, and many of our other fabulous customers - that have the initiative, courage, determination and vision to make change for the better.

Frank Barker, CEO, Bacula Systems

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