Case Study: Simplifying Backup Management for K-12 Clients

Kearney R-I School District is a public-school system located in Clay County, Missouri.  Kearney employ’s 440 staff members and serves over 3,500 students. The School District operates an early childhood center, four elementary schools, one middle school, one junior high, and one high school.   

Kearney’s IT Department wanted to lighten the workload of their staff members. They determined that outsourcing backups would be a strategic way to free up valuable engineering time, so they could focus on what mattered most—serving the students.   

After an extensive vetting process, Element Four was selected to implement a fully managed backup solution powered by Veeam and Cisco. The solution would be monitored by Element Four’s highly skilled team of engineers 24x7x365 to ensure the success of both onsite and offsite backup jobs.  Element Four’s project team was able to complete the implementation within 30 days of the signed proposal. Kearney’s IT staff no longer is burdened by managing and maintaining their backup environment.  They can now spend their valuable time servicing the students, staff, and administrators.

A few months after implementation, Kearney School District's servers were hit by a ransomware infection. "Element Four's technicians were able to restore KSD's systems back to working order in a matter of hours. Their calm demeanor helped alleviate our panic in the midst of the attack," said KSD's Technology Director Ryan Blankenship.

Element 4 Engineer Manager Josh Archer Awarded Veeam Vanguard Status

Josh Archer, Manager of Engineering at Element Four, was accepted into Veeam Software’s 2019 Vanguard Program. The Vanguard program is led by the Veeam Product Strategy team and supported by the entire company. As a member of Veeam Vanguard, Archer will have direct access to the Veeam Product Team which will benefit Veeam, Element Four, and joint customers and partners.

Veeam Vanguard Program Features Global, High-Level Tech Experts

The exclusive group is comprised of software engineers, systems architects, and technology experts from around the globe. Members are tasked with representing Veeam Software’s brand at the highest level across many different technology communities. Individuals are chosen for their acumen, engagement and style in their activities on and offline. 

Tim Hudson, Senior Solutions Engineer at Veeam Software, believes Archer is a natural fit for the Vanguard program. 
“It’s no surprise to me that Josh was accepted into the Veeam Vanguard.  He represents everything that’s core to the program at Veeam.  Not only is he very strong with Veeam technologies, which are broader in scope than ever, but he accomplishes his professional duties with integrity,” said Hudson.

Veeam Certified Architect

Archer has spearheaded countless Veeam projects for Element Four’s global client base--including Veeam design and deployment for a client with over 10,000 employees. In 2018, Archer became a Veeam Certified Architect, the highest level of Veeam technical certification available. 

Archer is honored to be selected to join the prestigious group of technology influencers. 
 “I am very excited to be selected to join the 2019 Veeam Vanguard program. Utilizing Veeam technologies on a day to day basis has been an absolute delight and I look forward to working closer than ever with Veeam through the Veeam Vanguard program.” Archer said. 

Are you interested in exploring Veeam's Backup software services and working with a Vanguard member? Contact Us to connect with Josh.

No, Microsoft Office 365 Litigation Hold Does Not Backup your Data

Microsoft’s Security and Compliance Center is designed for organizations to meet the demands of litigation and legal compliance. While it may be what an organization needs to meet legal compliance—it will not allow you to rapidly restore data that is lost due to accident or intention. In fact, it is nearly impossible to restore an entire mailbox from Litigation Hold.

When following Microsoft’s recovery instructions—it takes 15 minutes to restore two emails from a mailbox on litigation hold. Following this calculation—we estimate that it would take 52 days to fully restore a user mailbox with 10,000 emails.

Dangerous Misconceptions About Disaster Recovery & O365 Litigation Hold

There is no getting around it—the only way to adequately protect Office 365 data is by utilizing a third-party backup and recovery software.

While it is true that Microsoft’s 0365 Litigation Hold keeps a copy of user data, it is not an alternative to O365 backup. Many organizations believe that they can leverage O365 litigation hold as a sort of backup. This is a dangerous misconception that can place a company’s data at risk.

Backup Software is Designed for Rapid Restoration

Backup software has a different purpose than Litigation Hold or archive software. Backup software makes a copy of production data and keeps it available so that the copy can be rapidly returned to production if it is needed. This differs greatly from Litigation Hold, which is a business process. Using Litigation Hold for an entire organization puts an organization at risk for overexposure and legal discovery.

Avert Irreversible Data Loss on O365 with Veeam

Veeam Backup and Recovery for O365 allows companies to take control of their organization’s Office 365 data. It helps companies reduce the time and effort needed to find and restore email data, protects against data loss scenarios that are not covered by Microsoft, and facilitates the migration of email data between Office 365 and on-premises Exchange.

Accidental deletion, retention policy gaps & confusion, internal & external security threats, and legal compliance requirements all can cause significant and irreversible data loss on an Office 365 platform. These threats are common occurrences— meaning that Office 365 backup should be a critical part of every company’s disaster recovery plan.

Explore options here:

Veeam Availability Suite Update 4: New enhancements show that Veeam is the clear industry leader in cloud security and compliance

During Veeam Velocity 2019, Veeam Software released the highly anticipated update 4 of Veeam Availability Suite 9.5. The update includes enhanced capabilities aimed at helping companies prevent ransomware and maintain GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) compliance . The new enhancements show that Veeam is the clear industry leader in cloud security and compliance.

Update 4 includes increased protection from ransomware—a threat that is top of mind for many business leaders.

Secure Restore Feature Prevents Ransomware

The new “Secure Restore” feature included in update 4 enables an optional antivirus scan to ensure backups are uninfected before restoring—thus preventing ransomware from being restored accidentally. Customers can choose to not recover the virtual machines impacted by ransomware or they can choose to restore them without network connectivity, so they can be scrubbed.

Element Four’s Manager of Engineering Services, Josh Archer (VMCA) is very excited about the feature set that is being released in update 4.

“Being able to scan for and remove viruses in an isolated environment before shifting the restored machine back into production is an extremely powerful new feature of Veeam Availability Suite, and this new functionality ensures that system administrators are able to more capably respond to ransomware threats which are on the rise,” said Archer.

Veeam DataLabs Improves Data Governance Options for GDPR

Update 4 will also introduce Veeam DataLabs which will provide customers with increased security and data governance options. For customers storing data related to European Union citizens, Veeam DataLabs can add a script specifically for GDPR that ensures that when data is recovered, data for citizens who exercised their right to be forgotten is not accidentally recovered.

“The new Veeam DataLabs functionality introduced in Veeam Availability Suite 9.5 Update 4 allows businesses to ensure they maintain GDPR compliance and work with their backup data in isolation before re-introducing the data back into production,” said Archer.

Update 4 of Veeam Availability Suite 9.5 became available for download on January 22nd, 2019.

Not a Veeam user? Check out our Free Veeam Trial

Want to learn more? Talk to us!

Element Four Team to Attend Veeam Velocity in Orlando

Members of the Element Four team will be traveling to Orlando, Florida on the 21st of January to attend Veeam Velocity. This annual event is designed to bring Veeam’s valued partners together to discover common business strategies, share best practices and Bring ON the coming year by ensuring mutual success.

Element Four has built and grown its business around providing reliable, affordable, secure, and compliant cloud offerings to customers. Over the past two years, demand for Veeam Cloud Connect Backup and Disaster Recovery as a Service has skyrocketed. To keep up with this demand Element Four has invested heavily in its partnership with Veeam. Element Four is a Veeam Gold Cloud Services provider with a highly skilled team of engineers including a Veeam Certified Architect (VMCA) on staff.

"Veeam is one of our largest partners and they have provided our team with unparalleled support. We have a great working relationship and really enjoy working with the Veeam team, we view them as friends as well as colleagues. Veeam has played a big role in Element Four’s success in 2018 and we look forward to continuing that success in 2019," Andrew Roe, Chief Technology Officer, Element Four.

The Element Four team will spend the week learning about Veeam’s latest product advancements, gaining valuable facetime with Veeam Executives, and strengthening relationships with alliance partners.

"I am excited to send the team down to Orlando. Every time we attend a Veeam Conference we come away with a lot of valuable insight and information. I am sure that our experience at Veeam Velocity will be no different," Andrew Roe.

Tier 4 vs. Tier 5 Data Centers: What is the difference?

Switch's data center and telecommunication technology services have been praised as Tier Elite® – above and beyond any current tier metric, including those offered by the Uptime Institute. Switch has raised the bar beyond current industry standards with its own Tier 5 Platinum data center standard. Switch data center designs, facilities and operations far surpass the highest data center benchmarks.

Switch's Tier 5 Platinum Facility Beats the "Gold Standard" Benchmark

Element Four is proud to collocate in Switch's Tier 5 Platinum facility in Grand Rapids, MI. Switch is the only data center that we recommend to clients who are looking for a secure data center in which to collocate their valuable equipment. We often are asked "Why do we need to collocate in a Tier 5 Platinum Facility? Aren't there are only minor differences between the two ratings?"

For those who are not familiar with data center technologies, it can be hard to see the full value that collocating in a Tier 5 Platinum facility brings. Our clients are often surprised when we tell them that there are 35 different benchmarks that separate a Tier 5 Platinum data center from a Tier 4 Gold.

Enhanced Internet Connectivity, Sustainability & Hyperscalability

The Uptime Institute's current standards do not evaluate today's increasingly dynamic data center ecosystem needs. While beneficial in some respects, the Uptime Institute Tier 4 standard overlooks critical components necessary for any data center. The Uptime Institute Tier 4 standard does not contemplate internet connectivity or carrier services, physical security and regional risks, or the sustainability and energy efficiency of a facility. Moreover, the standard is trapped in an outdated vision of what is necessary to support the Internet of Everything.

A detailed comparison between the Uptime Institute Tier 4 standard and Switch's Tier 5 standard is available to view here

Never Hear “The Network is Down” Again by Leveraging Hyper-Converged Technology

“The network is down;” one of the most soul crushing phrases for a network administrator to hear. The crash could be caused by anything—it could be the server, storage, or user error. However, IT Directors and C-Level’s never care what caused the issue, they only want it to be resolved as quickly as possible. That task falls squarely on the shoulders of network administrators.  

 In the event of a networking malfunction, device by device, switch by switch, location by location (e.g. DRPs or remote locations) need to be checked until the issue is identified. All while the phone is ringing off the hook with angry employees wondering when they will be able to return to work.

According to Gartner, the average cost of a single minute of IT downtime is $5,600, which means more than $330,000 gone in an hour!

In today’s multi-cloud world, this gets even worse. Multiple data centers to manage along with multiple form factors like Physical, Virtual, Container-Based and Public Cloud environments, a potential outage can quickly become a nightmare to troubleshoot.

In the old days, before Software Defined Infrastructure technologies, network administrators could only rely on the hardware redundancy and confidence a specific brand would provide.

Today, features like ACI Rollbacks (which apply a working configuration from a previous snapshot where everything was working fine) allow the recovery of a complex network with several locations, form-factors and devices in just 3 seconds!

As stated previously, it is not only the network to blame, so leveraging technologies that could do what ACI does for Compute and Storage is now possible with solutions like CIsco HyperFlex and Veeam.

Instead of restoring full LUNs or Datastores from traditional backup solutions to the main storage to recover from a corrupt database for example (which can take hours or days), network administrators can now leverage Instant Recovery Capabilities based on the HyperFlex Snapshots which are constantly taken. This allows Veeam to publish the VM, File or even Application Object (such as e-mails, OUs from Active Directory and others) directly from the Backup Repository.

In today’s hyper available world, it is not enough to prevent risk with redundant environments only. Hyperconverged technologies allow network administrators to react and recover from a network failure quickly. By implementing a solution that allows your business to recover from a network error in 3 seconds—you can avoid having to deal with endless troubleshooting and not-so-friendly phone calls.  

Element Four is bringing cloud business back to Michigan.

Element Four recently completed a project for Dominion Systems--a software as a service (SaaS) company based in Grand Rapids, MI. Their software enables businesses to do their payroll, time and attendance, and HR processes on one easy-to-use platform.

Technology is vital to Dominion’s day to day operations—their cloud environment is at the centerpiece of their business model. Dominion recognizes that in order for their business to operate successfully, their cloud environment needs to be built for 100% uptime.  

Prior to partnering with Element Four, Dominion Systems had been hosting their cloud environment at a data center in Pennsylvania. They relied on an out of state service provider to help them maintain their environment-- but were unhappy with the quality of support they were receiving.

As Dominion’s client base grew, so did their need for a more advanced and efficient cloud platform. Dominion noticed that some of their critical systems were beginning to lag and use more resources than before. They understood that their cloud environment needed an upgrade to keep up with their growing client base.

Dominion’s former service provider was unable to provide them with a cost effective and reliable plan to scale their environment, which lead Dominion to seek out another IT service provider. Dominion decided to partner with Element Four due to the team’s knowledge of virtual environments.

Element Four has over ten years of experience assisting clients with Colocation Services. Their professional services team has worked on hundreds of data center deployments and migrations throughout the continental US, including numerous installations at both Switch Grand Rapids and Switch Las Vegas.

Element Four outlined a detailed plan to migrate Dominion’s entire virtual environment from their data center in Pennsylvania to Element Four’s cloud environment located in Switch’s Pyramid Campus, a Tier 5 Platinum data center located in Kentwood, MI.

Element Four leveraged Veeam replication to facilitate the data migration and was able to complete Dominion’s virtual server migration with almost zero downtime. In addition, the migration was done after business hours to ensure that Dominion’s employees and customers would not experience disruption in their services.

Now Dominion’s entire virtual environment is managed in Element Four’s private cloud in the Switch Pyramid and replicated to Switch’s facility in Las Vegas. Dominion’s systems are now running more efficiently and only using half the resources that they were previously using in the same environment.

To Learn more about the Dominion Project, download a PDF of the case study below:

Veeam and Cisco Partner to Deliver High Availability on Cisco HyperFlex

August 28th, 2018

Veeam Software, announced that it has expanded its collaboration with Cisco to deliver Veeam High Availability on Cisco HyperFlex – a new, highly resilient data management platform that provides seamless scalability, ease of management, and support for multi-cloud environments through Cisco support services. 

“We have been partners with both Cisco and Veeam for years and now that these two leading companies have joined forces we have an unparalleled solution for data management” said Element Four Chief Operations Officer, Andrew Roe.  

As enterprises recognize the need to update complex legacy data protection solutions to multi-cloud solutions, they look to industry leaders to deliver modern data protection solutions that are reliable, scalable, easy to manage, and support multi-site and multi-cloud environments. Now they can make this critical upgrade in one convenient, single motion, reducing the complexity of purchase, implementation and support.

“For the past year Element Four has been coupling Veeam and Cisco HyperFlex in a single solution that offers flexibility, expandability, and ease of use. Today Cisco and Veeam have taken that idea and made it even greater by offering a collaborative solution that builds on the concepts we have been using and takes it to an unrivaled level within the data management platform space” Roe said.

The new solution combines the Veeam Hyper-Availability Platform with Cisco’s industry-leading Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) solution, HyperFlex, to meet the needs of enterprise IT organizations that are struggling with unreliable legacy technologies that cannot scale and are unable to provide the hyper-availability today’s enterprises require. 

“Element Four is excited to see where we can go with this new offering. It allows us to help our clients manage their ever-expanding data footprint in an intelligent way that adapts as the business changes.” Roe said.

This highly resilient data availability platform provides enterprise IT with a scale-out solution stack that can not only be used as a Veeam repository but can also run the entire Veeam Availability Platform. Benefits include:

  • Hyper-Availability for all workloads — virtual, physical and cloud
  • Seamless scalability and reduced operational costs
  • Reduced risk and accelerated time to value
  • Simplified and optimized deployment: a single Cisco SKU that includes all installed software and right-sized hardware
  • Simple single point of acquisition and support from Cisco

The new Veeam Availability on Cisco HyperFlex will be offered through Cisco and is backed by Cisco Solution Support, which provides support for the entire solution stack, enabling customers to deploy with confidence and peace of mind. Veeam Availability on Cisco HyperFlex is expected to be generally available in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Cloud Connect or Disaster Recovery as a Service: Which Should You Choose?

CIO’s and IT directors know the importance of Disaster Recovery planning and how complicated it can be. Disasters can strike at any time, and survival of the business may well depend on the quality and accuracy of the DR procedures that were put into place. When making the decision about which DR solution to go with—it is important to have a well-developed strategy. As Benjamin Franklin so eloquently stated “By failing to prepare, you are preparing for failure.”

There are two recommended DR Strategies that we propose to our clients: Element Four’s Cloud Connect Service and Element Four’s Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS).

Cloud Connect

Veeam Cloud Connect provides a fast and secure way to send backups to the cloud. It is a way to get physical and virtual backups offsite to a hosted cloud repository through a secure SSL connection. Cloud backups have multiple checkpoints going back in time depending on a set retention policy. Veeam Backup & Replication establishes a secure channel to transfer backup data to and from the cloud repository and offers data encryption capabilities to protect your data at rest. Keeping data in a cloud repository is like keeping valuable paperwork in a vault at a bank. It is away from your location, it is secure, it is isolated.

When utilizing Cloud Connect for a Disaster Recovery plan, it is important to note that the recovery time is always going to be based on the size of the machine or of the data. , the server environment would need to be rebuilt, applications reinstalled, and data restored from the cloud. This process is time consuming and systems can be down for hours to days. Service providers, like Element Four, can help with the rebuild, but they will charge time and material for the work.

Cloud Connect is a cost-effective DR option and, as a standalone DR plan, it is better suited for SMB’s or companies that rely less heavily on data to run their day to day operations. They are flexible enough to absorb the impact of the hours or days of downtime that it may take to restore their environment. It makes more sense financially for these businesses to utilize the least expensive service. Cloud Connect allows them to sleep well at night knowing that their data is offsite and in a secure location.

Element Four Disaster Recovery as a Service

Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) focuses on the near continuous replication of data between sites. As data is being written to databases and flat files, that same data is being transmitted over a network to another storage system, usually to an alternate processing center or a cloud provider.

The main distinction between Cloud Connect and DRaaS is this: Cloud Connect copies the entirety of the backup data set in a one-time operation that is then repeated periodically; whereas DRaaS is the continuous or near continuous transference of updated server data.

DRaaS is a service that focuses entirely on a short RPO, meaning that the data that is being restored from is close to present time as possible. DRaaS solutions can reduce services downtime from hours to minutes. When a data loss scenario occurs at a primary site, the machine is brought up in a geographically different site that is protected from the disaster that occurred at the primary site.

Disaster Recovery as a Service is more expensive than Cloud Connect. This is because Disaster Recovery as a Service is tailored to fit the demanding availability needs of enterprise organizations. These organizations cannot afford to experience downtime and are willing to pay extra money for the setup and management of a DRaaS site to ensure that, in the event of a data loss scenario, business will continue as usual.

How to Choose

Choose Element Four Cloud Connect if…

Choose Element Four’s Cloud Connect service if your disaster recovery strategy is to have your data off-site and in a secure facility. Element Four’s Cloud Connect service makes it easy to get off-site backups while still maintaining complete control and visibility—it creates the ability to send Veeam backups from multiple locations to the Element Four cloud platform located in Switch’s Tier 5 Platinum rated data centers in Grand Rapids, Michigan or Las Vegas, Nevada.

Choose Element Four Disaster Recovery as a Service if…

Choose Element Four’s DRaaS if your Disaster Recovery strategy is to have your organization up and running quickly in the event of a data loss scenario. Element Four’s DRaaS solution includes full site failover to the Element Four cloud environment located in Switch’s Tier 5 Platinum data centers. Built in network extension appliances simplify networking complexity and preserve communication between running VM’s regardless of physical location.

Why Not Both?

Backup was once considered “good enough” for disaster recovery purposes. However, “good enough” implied that an organization was willing to wait hours or days to get their systems up and running again.

Conversely, if you are going to implement DRaaS, we would recommend that you also implement Cloud Connect. It is important to have an offsite copy of your data on hand in the event of a cyber-security attack. DRaaS can protect you from a lot of things, but it cannot protect your environment from malware. 

The best strategy for today’s DR needs requires both backup and replication. Frequent backup of VM images and the replication of critical data. Together these provide system recovery synergy that facilitates the rapid restoration of critical systems.


 Fill out Element Four’s DRaaS questionnaire below and email it to to receive free disaster recovery consultation.