TACC CIO Event, ADFS Hosting, and Hurricane Harvey

On 10 October 2018 by Pete Petersen

Hurricane Harvey

I recently had the privilege of accompanying Director of Information Technology of Alvin Community College (ACC), Kelly Klimpt at the Southeast Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC), helping him tell the story of their Office365 migration, Logical Front’s Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) hosting as a disaster recovery strategy, and Hurricane Harvey. We have since launched ongoing plans for future upgrades, however this story stands alone as a remarkable example of staying the course despite mid-project mayhem. For the full details, check out the Alvin Community College Case Study.

If you’ve lead an IT project, you know to account for variables along the way—factoring in things like project elements missing deadlines, or even power outages. In this case, as they were on the brink of creating a cloud mirror service, which consisted of a handful of virtual machines, in the event of an emergency, ACC was hit with a category 4 hurricane. The area received more than 50 inches of rain in four days, 300,000 structures damaged in southeast TX, 500,000 cars flooded and the state sustained more than $125 billion in damages.

The ACC data center had water seeping under its raised floor along with roof and leak damage. To prevent further losses, Klimpt and his team made the gut-wrenching decision to power down the data center for four days.  The entire school closed its doors for ten days.

Shortly after the devastating effects of the hurricane. Klimpt was determined to finish phase 2 of the project—building out a creative application of eXtensile Hybrid Cloud (XHC), a mirror service for Office365 authentication federation in case of an emergency.

The fail-over and fail-back testing was completed just seven months after the hurricane. Now faculty and staff (especially Klimpt and his team) at ACC can breathe easy knowing a secure, tier 4 datacenter has a solid ADFS backup that is just a flip of the switch away.

And it should be noted that one of the reasons that Logical Front was chosen in the first place for this hosting solution—in addition to past successful projects—is that the solution was factors less expensive than adjusting licensing and obtaining similar service from Microsoft. Plus, Logical Front is very hands-on and tech-heavy, which means getting service and attention is much easier, which makes for a more solid overall solution.

We reviewed some key lessons learned along the way:

  • Disaster Recovery critical for key systems
  • Choosing the right partner is vital to success
  • The right partner will augment your over-tasked IT team
  • Choose someone who has been around that block before
  • Consider an extension of your on-premise data center
  • Test prior to a disaster
  • Cloud/hosting solutions (from the right provider) don’t have to be expensive

If you are a CIO or managing the data center or IT projects for your organization, we encourage you to examine your own disaster recovery plan, review your server room capacity, and engage a trusted partner to consider next steps.

Logical Front offers a free assessment that analyzes your strengths and vulnerabilities, and gives you the most strategic, cost-effective ways to migrate data to the cloud, and documentation to help obtain funding and priority from the organization. Engage us today to learn more.