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University Heeds Its Learning Experience

Pace's heavy reliance on the Web means forging ahead with backup plans

When a university teaches students remotely over the Web, campus IT becomes a lot more like business IT. Data flows constantly, and there's no room for downtime.

At Pace University in Briarcliff, N.Y., it doesn't matter what causes a breakdown in the data flow. Officials are concerned that poor planning could tarnish the university's reputation. That's why chief technology officer Frank Tramontano is putting the finishing touches on a plan to improve backup, recovery, and overall business continuity. And unlike other organizations that witnessed top management back off from business continuity plans when they saw the price, Pace's president is encouraging the IT department to forge ahead, even though it could triple IT costs.

Pace had offices in the World Trade Center and lost Internet access for a week following Sept. 11. "We couldn't get E-mail in and out," Tramontano says. So he called on service provider Xand Corp., which helped establish temporary access to the school's Web page and E-mail. Most of all, that Web connectivity provided relief to parents who could communicate with their children who lived in dorms.

Before Sept. 11, the school's infrastructure had already grown too large. Backing up about 600 Gbytes of data between Dell and Hewlett-Packard Windows-based servers and an ADIC Scalar tape library was taking 54 hours a week. Using Computer Associates' BrightStor backup and recovery software, along with a storage area network to get off the crowded general-purpose network, backup now takes about 20 hours. "Before, I was using the same network for backup that everyone at the university was using," Tramontano says.

More important to Pace's president is the plan's ability to withstand further outages. Pace is building a hot site at a satellite campus in Manhattan. Tramontano hopes his staff can use BrightStor's replication module to mirror data between the two sites. His team is testing the software this week. He expects E-mail and Internet access to be mirrored in 30 to 60 days, and distance learning will be covered soon after that. "This isn't just for disasters," Tramontano says. "We're prepared for any kind of outage."

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