City of Asheville CIO wins Impact award for cloud computing

Jonathan Feldman, City of Asheville CIO and Rajeev Chawla, CloudVelox CEO, won CIO Impact and Vendor awards for excellence in cloud computing at Frost and Sullivan's Executive MindXchange conference.

When the City of Asheville was looking for a way to improve its data recovery system, Chief Information Officer Jonathan Feldman looked to the cloud.

With a physical data mainframe — rows and rows of servers collecting dust, Asheville risks the chance of losing all of its internal information in a disaster like a fire, severe storm or flood — and has a much higher chance of being vulnerable to new security threats.

The solution? CloudVelox, a company based in California, copies data to Amazon Web Services as a secondary data back-up system, which can easily be switched to in the case of disaster recovery or testing. It’s referred to as the “pilot light” disaster recovery method, because the cloud storage system is always on, but it can be ignited in the event of a server malfunction.

“Excellence in [disaster recovery] was certainly a challenge,” says Feldman, quoted in a CloudVelox case study document. “Although we had a basic level of DR, we thought there must be a better way to protect more systems while still remaining fiscally responsible to City Council and taxpayers.”

And whereas the cloud is more commonly used to back up data for companies or individuals, Next City, a nonprofit and quarterly magazine based in Philadelphia, credits Asheville as being one of the first cities to use a cloud-based data recovery system — and this kind of forward-thinking is winning our city (and our CIO) awards for its use of this innovation.

Last summer, the City of Asheville and Feldman won Amazon Web Services’ City on a Cloud Best Practices award.

The City on a Cloud competition was open to government information technology departments in 24 different countries, and it judges government cloud-use based on citizen services, local government functions, significance to the local community, uniqueness, impact and potential.

Asheville won grand prize in its category (medium-sized cities), for its cloud use, “moving disaster recovery from traditional, expensive, premises-based” systems “over to an automated, pay-as-you-go, cloud-based” fail safe system. “It automates most of the critical processes … on AWS, making pilot light DR on AWS a compelling alternative to secondary data centers.”

Each of the three cities selected for this prize won $50,000 in promotional credit from AWS Paid Services to use for the city’s continued excellence in cloud computing.

Last week, Asheville’s CIO won yet another award for his innovative work in technology.

At global growth consulting firm Frost & Sullivan’s ConNEXTions MindXchange event in San Francisco, the CIO Impact Awards honored notable individuals and companies “that have created breakthrough business models and strategies through the innovative use of transformative technologies.”

The City of Asheville and CIO Feldman took home an Impact award for excellence in cloud computing.

In the article for Next City, titled Why Asheville’s CIO Trusts the Cloud With His Cityauthor Rachel Kaufman writes, “Asheville, North Carolina … has taken a leap, recently becoming one of the first cities to use a hybrid cloud computing system for its disaster-recovery systems.”

And as the backbone for critical city services like telecommunications, water, sanitation and more, the “cloud disaster response system can run a water maintenance and management system, as well as a point-of-sale system backup for the U.S. Cellular Center … so the arena can process credit cards. ‘We could lose … $20,000 in an evening if people can’t buy beer or popcorn,’ Feldman says. The system is designed to kick in during major events (snow, tornadoes) as well as minor ones (a burst pipe in city hall).”

And with today’s snow, yesterday’s ice and a pipe burst just last month, Asheville must put its cloud recovery system to good use.

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About Hayley Benton
Current freelance journalist and artist. Former culture/entertainment reporter at the Asheville Citizen-Times and former news reporter at Mountain Xpress. Also a coffee drinker, bad photographer, teller of stupid jokes and maker-upper of words. I can be reached at hayleyebenton [at] gmail.com. Follow me @HayleyTweeet

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