Connecting state and local government leaders

How an Interstate Deal With Massachusetts Is Helping Keep Connecticut’s Data Safe

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Connecticut’s CIO discussed the disaster recovery arrangement at an event in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.

WASHINGTON — A partnership with Massachusetts is helping the state of Connecticut keep data and services from becoming unavailable for long periods of time in the event of a disaster.

Connecticut finalized a deal last year to lease space in a state data center in Springfield, Massachusetts. The arrangement is meant to provide disaster recovery protection for Connecticut’s computer systems. It is saving Connecticut money, and has improved the state’s ability to limit disruptions caused by disasters, or other calamities, that might disable, damage or destroy in-state computers, according to state Chief Information Officer Mark Raymond.

“For less money than we were spending before we’ve increased...our ability to recover and provide backup services for citizens,” Raymond said during a panel discussion Wednesday at the National Association of State Technology Directors annual conference.

The idea with this sort of disaster recovery program is that if, say, a hurricane knocks out computer systems, there’s a backup system in place allowing for the flow of electronic information, and the state services that depend on that information, to be restored as quickly as possible.

A paper from Raymond’s agency, the Bureau of Enterprise Systems and Technology, which is housed within Connecticut’s Department of Administrative Services, offers further background on the state’s deal with Massachusetts. Posted online by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, it explains that even though the state’s primary data center had withstood extreme weather events in recent years, officials still believed Connecticut’s disaster recovery capabilities were in need of upgrades.

One possibility initially considered was for the state to build its own new data center for disaster recovery, but this option was deemed to be too costly.

Previously, the state’s disaster recovery program depended on an outsourced service with the process to get some computer applications up and running again expected to take two or three days. The arrangement with Massachussetts makes it possible to cut that time down to a few hours.

Among the other benefits of leasing space in the facility in Massachusetts: it was designed specifically to meet stringent standards for public sector use; and it was already set to be regularly audited by federal agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration.

The annual savings from using the center, according to the paper, are about $50,000.

Setting up the agreement that allows Connecticut to use the data center was not entirely straightforward. “There was a lot of legal ground that we needed to cover,” Raymond said. “At one point we thought we may need Congress to ratify an interstate compact.”

“Fortunately we didn’t need to do that,” he added.

One interesting aspect of getting the arrangement established, Raymond said, was the conversations that came up with agencies and “trying to explain to them why we were putting our data into some other state.” Given Connecticut’s relatively small size, he noted that it would be hard to shield data from disasters if it were kept strictly within the state’s borders.

“It’s not geographically far enough away to protect it,” Raymond said.

Bill Lucia is a Reporter at Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Washington D.C.

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