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Veeam data protection aids users with secure restores

From 'nothing worked' to 'it just worked': How Veeam Software helped a Florida city out of a troublesome predicament with its legacy data backup platform.

After Herminio Rodriguez started work as director of IT for the city of Sarasota, Fla., he discovered an issue with the city's backups.

"Nothing worked," Rodriguez said of the backup jobs, in an interview with SearchDataBackup at last week's VeeamON user conference.

It was time to make a change. He made it just in time. A few months after switching to Veeam data protection, in early 2016, the city's IT infrastructure was hit with a ransomware attack.

"They saved the city," Rodriguez said. "I wouldn't have the job and we certainly wouldn't have our data if it wasn't for Veeam."

'It just worked'

Rodriguez hadn't heard of Veeam when he found he needed to move on from the "legacy product," which he declined to name. A new co-worker suggested trying it out. The city, which has a population of 55,000 that increases to 120,000 in the winter, looked at other products, including Dell, which didn't provide the tape support that Rodriguez needed.

The IT team installed the Veeam data protection software on its own, without needing to call tech support.

"We had our first full reliable probably the next day," Rodriguez said. "It was like putting on a glove. It just worked."

The city uses Veeam Backup & Replication and Veeam Backup for Microsoft 365 to protect 90 TB of data, including financial and human resources data. The Backup for Microsoft 365 protects 22 TB, a number that has grown steadily in lockstep with the use of collaboration tools due to the COVID-19 pandemic and remote work. The city also uses Dell EMC Data Domain for deduplication.

They saved the city.
Herminio RodriguezIT director, City of Sarasota, Fla.

Veeam data protection helps with compliance and simplifying the retention and recovery process, which is critical for municipal governments, according to Rodriguez. He said he likes Veeam's ability to archive backups and the ensuing search functionality, which provides greater efficiency and saves on time.

"Back in the day, you had to restore a whole virtual machine just to be able to get some files off," Rodriguez said. "And now I can actually do a scan and I can only grab the file that I want. You don't have to mount the whole machine."

Rodriguez said he also likes Veeam's automated restore testing, which he does every week.

"You have that peace of mind that the backup actually works," he said.

However, Rodriguez voiced concerns with some specifics of the Veeam platform. He said his team is not keen on Veeam's new licensing model, which he believes will lead to less predictable pricing.

Rodriguez has been hoping for multifactor authentication for a while and was happy to see a demo at VeeamON of Backup & Replication version 12 that included MFA.

"Backups are prime targets now," Rodriguez said.

Still, he cautioned Veeam against focusing too much on security because he feels it could weaken the core platform. Veeam -- and other data protection vendors such as Rubrik -- have added more security features as ransomware attacks continue to wreak havoc on IT teams.

"My recommendation is, don't have too many bells and whistles," Rodriguez said. "Stick with what you do best, which is backup, and make sure that works."

'Everything is gone'

Veeam's backup successfully saved 12 TB of the city's data that Locky ransomware held up in 2016 for about $34 million in bitcoin, Rodriguez said. Before the restore, the city was in a frightening position, with that data seemingly lost.

"That's probably the worst issue that I've had in my professional career," Rodriguez said. "It's like if you're sitting in front of your house, and your house goes through a sinkhole -- everything is gone."

The city was down for about 12 hours, but never had a conversation about paying the ransom.

"We took it as a disruption, and we just immediately went to DR. And we got everything back," Rodriguez said. "We told everybody, 'You lost about a day of work.'"

In a similar way, Kasikornbank in Thailand uses Veeam Backup & Replication for ransomware protection. The bank restores from backup into Veeam DataLabs to make sure data is clean from ransomware before deploying it back into production, said Tawan Jithavech, CTO of Kasikorn Business-Technology Group. Veeam DataLabs enables users to create isolated environments to verify backup recoverability.

The bank backs up 2 petabytes with Veeam data protection.

"To gain and to retain customer trust, security is at the heart of our operation," Jithavech said in a general session at VeeamON.

A photo of Tawan Jithavech, CTO of Kasikornbank in Thailand, and Nikki Jennings, a vice president at Veeam, at VeeamON
Tawan Jithavech, left, CTO of Kasikornbank in Thailand, speaks to Nikki Jennings, a vice president at Veeam, during a general session at VeeamON.

Enhanced immutability in Veeam Backup & Replication v12 helps with the difficult task of fast ransomware recovery, said Christophe Bertrand, practice director at Enterprise Strategy Group, a division of TechTarget. 

"The real issue in the market based on our recent ransomware research is the fact that traditional disaster recovery is morphing into cyber recovery, which is a complex effort because of the many shapes attacks can take," Bertrand said. "One clear issue has been that cyber criminals go after key IT components, not just the data, including backups. Overall, recoverability from ransomware is not good at all across the board."

Rodriguez said the city hasn't suffered a ransomware attack since 2016, but he knows it could happen again.

"It's not if, it's when," Rodriguez said. "We haven't gotten hit yet. But if we do, I'm comfortable. We're as confident as possible."

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