COVID-19 Pandemic Brings Sharper Focus to World Backup Day for SLGs

“What would you do if you lost everything?” a poster for World Backup Day 2021 asks. State and local governments (SLGs) are developing backup practices to hope they never find out.

After a year of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s World Backup Day brings an increased significance for state and local governments. World Backup Day, which takes place March 31, provides an opportunity for SLGs to reflect on how their backup practices have changed over the past year.

“We all know someone who has lost critical data, whether it was their videos, photos, music, book reports, or personal stuff,” World Backup Day founder Ismail Jadun said in a release. “Hopefully this day will make everyone think about their situation, learn about the various options and get their files backed up.  I hope that World Backup Day sparks conversations about the enormous task of saving our digital heritage for future generations.”

When it comes to backing up data, state and local governments have always been at somewhat of a budget disadvantage, and this past year has just exasperated those disparities, according to Mike Wiseman, vice president, SLED, Americas at Pure Storage.

“The pandemic has only brought greater financial instability. Agencies must allocate resources to focus on long-term changes to sustain and improve mission-critical services to citizens,” Wiseman said. “Having consistent, real-time access to data is critical for state and local governments. In the event of an attack, they must be able to recover data at scale, as quickly as possible. Having the fastest possible recovery time helps governments to avoid significant organizational and financial impacts so they can continue serving citizens.”

The pandemic has also put the need for an accelerated move to cloud platforms in the spotlight, according to Mike Malaret, director of sales engineering for Veritas’s public sector team.

“The last year has forced state and local governments to accelerate change and increase cloud adoptions while introducing the need for Zero Trust and support for BYOD (bring your own device),” Malaret said. “The rapid changes and transition to the remote workforce have brought a heightened awareness for a comprehensive cyber-resilient infrastructure, enterprise-wide data protection strategy, and increased ransomware protection – all of which require a proper data backup strategy.”

While in the past few months universities have found themselves the target of ransomware attacks, Wiseman also pointed to the increase in ransomware and other cyber attacks on SLGs, like the Florida water hack, in the last year as a major effect of the pandemic. He even posited as to why SLGs are being increasingly targeted in attacks.

“Over the past several years, cities and states have increasingly become a target for ransomware attacks because they possess large amounts of personal data they cannot afford to expose,” Wiseman said. “It is critical for state and local governments to invest in solutions that focus on prevention, but also on minimizing risk in the case of an attack. Having the fastest possible recovery time helps governments to avoid significant organizational and financial impacts so they can continue serving citizens.”

All of this brings increased importance to having a resilient data backup strategy both now, as many agencies are still working remotely, and in the relatively near future as agencies look to come back to the office.

“Regardless of telework status, state and local governments must have a clear disaster recovery plan in terms of storage and backup capabilities,” Wiseman said. “State and local governments must have the ability to isolate the traffic that’s being impacted in the network in the event of a cyberattack.”

As SLGs continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and a potential return to the office, both Malaret and Wiseman have advice for modernizing backup practices.

“State and local governments need to consider solutions that offer enterprise-wide reporting and IT analytics with compliance reporting specific to agency-defined policies,” Malaret said. “As agencies continue to leverage cloud services, they must understand the most complete, resilient and cost-effective enterprise plans often include a mix of commercial products to enhance cloud offerings.”

“State and local governments are doing mission-critical work and cannot afford any amount of downtime,” Wiseman said. “State and local governments must invest in rapid backup and recovery, as an event like a cyberattack can take down entire systems. Modern data protection is fast, simple, and cost-effective. This strategy helps prevent the devastating effects of cyberattacks that could reduce productivity, cost millions, threaten mission-critical work, or create a lapse in essential citizen services.”

Lamar Johnson
About Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is MeriTalk SLG's Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.