i-Disaster-RecoveryIt’s 1:00 PM on Tuesday, in the middle of a hot May day. The students of your Ventura County school had been sent home at 10:00 AM unexpectedly, as wildfires in the area took an unexpected turn with the wind and advanced towards the school district, which sat on the edge of a scrubby brushland. As the first of the flames break onto the school grounds, you’re on the phone with the data center three towns over where all of the school’s essential data is backed up at. You need the attendance records stored there to ensure that your role call accounted for all of the students; you also need to make sure the school’s fiscal information is safe and sound. Like over 25% of schools in America, your school stores extra copies of its computer files—from student records to the next fiscal year’s financial information—within 25 miles of the school site. They’re relaying to you that the wildfires are approaching their office as well and that they can’t guarantee that your school district’s critical data can remain safe and accessible for too much longer now.

School Administrators Taking IT Lessons from Businesses: What You Can Learn

The need for data security materializes in many forms. Your network requires security against unauthorized access, upkeep of the databases through “data cleansing” techniques that ensure all the records are formatted in the same way, and regular data backups to ensure the potential for retention and recovery of an organization’s critical and non-critical info during unexpected issues. That latter aspect has received a good deal of attention from California businesses. Between natural disasters, power grid issues, and a prevalence of hackers, it’s no surprise that regular data backups are the norm. Meanwhile, we are seeing a shift in how school administrations are structured—the network now needs to be accessible at all times of the day and year, even and especially during “disruptive incidents.”

The ability of an organization to continue the delivery of their products or services at an acceptable level or pace following a disruptive incident is known as business continuity,1 and many schools are borrowing lessons learned by commercial enterprises. In checking an Evolve report on the disaster recovery and business continuity abilities,2 schools are woefully behind other sectors in how well-secured and prepared their data is for facing issues. A frightening takeaway is that one in seven schools loses critical data that is unrecoverable,3 which is in large part based on having insufficient backups. You’re surely well versed in everything that can go wrong with your data during a school year: hardware and power outages, environmental disasters, and human error. Data recovery budgets, the shield against Murphy’s Law, are consistently underfunded and handicapped by having their backups too close to home. So how do we add this critical infrastructure and keep costs down (or even pay less than now)?

Cloud Computing: California’s Answer to Murphy’s Law

Your data needs to be secure and available for access at all times. With this need for consistent and safe data that fits within limited budgets, especially in a disaster-prone area such as California, cloud computing is the right answer going forward. It offers significantly reduced capital and maintenance costs, geographical independence (and thus disaster security), and the benefit of a specialized and knowledgeable staff unconstricted by school budgets.

As we have mentioned, schools are adopting a business continuity model. The volume of data generated by a school is increasing between 15 to 30% per year and any given day, 5% of that data changes shape due to different developments and events.4 As more and more schools integrate systems like Blackboard and education devices, this data will keep expanding and local data centers might not have the space or resources to provide the full services. The advantage of using the cloud here is that companies like DiamondIT have the knowledge and resources to handle the current levels of data creation and adapt to future expansion.

Less than a third of schools have documented backup strategies; although that number is increasing, it is indicative of how far behind schools are in data security. Data needs to be thoroughly understood and partitioned to understand which is critical and which is of low importance. Info such as student medical records and emergency contact info needs to be accessible at all times, and thus needs a high priority for keeping it secure. On the other side, data such as large, supplementary media files (think Bill Nye the Science Guy episodes) are of the lowest importance (sorry, Bill). That’s where DiamondIT can come in. Not only can we provide crucial and reliable data storage, but we can also help you determine the best way forward with the handling and organizing of your administration’s data.

With the understanding that schools are rightfully transitioning to a business continuity model, they would have similar benefits of adopting cloud computing as many businesses before them. Bringing in a highly competent third party for data storage lets you move through your data much more freely, opening the door to doing useful statistical analysis. It can also let big network or school structure changes be rolled out way more efficiently.5 And of course, it relieves the administration of the headache of operational issues and variable budgetary requirements; our team was hand-picked based on their possession of exceptional IT skills. We’ll keep things running smoothly for you so that your school’s IT team can focus on the hardware without being spread too thinly.

Managing an Emergency With Cloud Computing Instead of Data Centers

So, let’s revisit what happens when a worst-case scenario occurs: a major quake disrupts operations along with many of the town’s services, and the school needs to be quickly evacuated. It’s been a rough school year for Ventura County to be sure, but this time your school is covered. You need to take roll, check attendance records on the day to ensure everyone is accounted for, contact the district and provide them with files such as your emergency preparedness protocol (which, by the way, you are glad to be able to access as well). Like many California schools, the needs of student safety and school continuity have inspired you to put your faith (and files) in the cloud. You would be able to do exactly what needs to be done during school emergencies, at least from a data accessibility perspective. Since your data is on the cloud and not somewhere local, you can also rest assured that there’s at least one less thing to worry about.

The education world is constantly changing, but some of the trajectories are predictable: ever-increasing data, need for increased data protection, and a shift towards business continuity models. At DiamondIT, we can help you turn these variables into strengths by moving to cloud computing, and make your school a model example for districts across the nation.

 

  1. http://www.thebci.org/index.php/resources/what-is-business-continuity
  2. http://www.evolveip.net/evolve_draas_survey.pdf
  3. https://campustechnology.com/articles/2015/03/04/1-school-in-7-loses-critical-data-forever.aspx
  4. http://support.rm.com/_rmvirtual/media/downloads/backup_whitepaper.pdf
  5. http://www.wired.com/insights/2012/10/5-cloud-business-benefits/