ACS Gift To Provide for Offsite Data Backup

By Molly Dischner
Sun Star Reporter

A recent $6.8 million gift from Alaska Communications Systems (ACS) will allow the University to back-up “mission critical” functions at a secure site in Hillsboro, Oregon, according to UA Director of Public Affairs Kate Ripley.

Among those critical functions are Banner, Blackboard, e-Live, and other online teaching tools, Ripley said. Payroll, financial accounting and student records will also be backed up as part of the gift, she said. Webmail hasn’t been mentioned in the briefings about the gift. UAF’s webmail services were recently contracted to Google. Because Google services are stored on their own servers, not at the university’s data center, it’s unlikely that they will be backed up as part of the plan.The UA system’s Data Center, which serves about 8000 employees and 32,000 students, is at the Fairbanks campus. UA President Mark Hamilton said in a press release that the gift would allow the University to remain connected if a disaster or outage occurred at the Data Center. Although backup tapes are made daily and stored off-site, it would still take a while to get things running again if a disaster occurred. With the ACS backup, online functions should continue in 30 to 60 minutes, according to a university press release.

Hamilton and ACS CEO Liane Pelletier announced the five-year gift at a press conference last week. Ripley said the University will re-evaluate where and how to backup information after the five-year gift period. The University isn’t locked into a contract with ACS to purchase their services after the gift runs out.

In an interview last spring, Cam Carlson, the statewide Director of Emergency Management, said that data access in the event of an emergency was one of many areas that still had to be ironed out. This gift solves that problem, he said, or at least it will once everything is up and running. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported that the Oregon backup site should come online by the end of 2010.

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