Oakland's New Storage System Handles Huge Volumes

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print
Storage and Backup

The California city implements a robust storage solution to store and manage growing volumes of data, including video from more than 700 police body cameras.

As organizations adopt new digital technologies, including video, the challenges of storing and managing data grow exponentially. One city that is addressing the problem head on is the City of Oakland, which encompasses more than 78 square miles and has a population of just over 406,000.

In 2013, city leaders recognized that data management, backup and archiving were crucial for managing operations in the most efficient and economical manner. The city's older systems simply weren't adequate.

"We began looking for ways to modernize our IT architecture and systems," says Ahsan Baig, division manager for Public Safety Services and Business Applications. "At the center of the task was storage and backups. We found that we were using a lot of different solutions, and the number of applications and tools was becoming a nightmare to use and manage. We needed to standardize on a single platform. "

At the same time, the police department had begun to use body cameras that collected enormous volumes of data. "We couldn't continue along the same path," he adds.

The city turned to storage solutions provider Commvault to build a better storage and data backup framework. It began rolling out the centralized storage environment in March 2015, and the city is continuing to implement it across various departments.

The ability to store and retrieve video within a single database was a huge driver for the initiative. The police body cams—more than 700 overall—generate between 6 and 9 terabytes of data each month.

However, there was also a need to manage different sets of data with different rules, including sensitive HIPAA information, as well as data that falls under the California Public Records Act and the federal Freedom of Information Act requirements. The Commvault solution delivered the flexibility required to handle these tasks, including the use of encryption.

IT Staff Saves Time and Effort

Baig says that the solution has also delivered other benefits. For one thing, backups take place in hours, rather than days, within an automated framework. This allows the city's IT staff to save time and effort managing systems, while avoiding the use of slow, cumbersome CDs and DVDs. "We are able to use staff for other, more strategic, purposes," he says.

Another benefit is the ability to retrieve specific data sets immediately from a centralized console or PCs. Moving forward, the City of Oakland is setting up specialized kiosks for different departments, so that they can retrieve specific data when and where it's needed in a fast and secure way.

The biggest challenge, Baig says, was overcoming internal resistance to change and getting staff up to speed on the new system. However, "Once they realized that everyone would be using the same application—and that management would receive notifications and alerts to keep them informed on what takes place—they were a lot more receptive."

The city also provided training to the staff so they could use the system effectively.

"We have introduced an IT framework that supports digital requirements, including managing a huge volume of digital video," Baig concludes. We are now well-positioned to store and manage data."

This article was originally published on 2015-08-31
Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).
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