As more classroom lessons and educational courses are being delivered online, educational institutions are faced with a changing business model that requires a different infrastructure. IT services are no longer restricted to on-premise delivery. Online classes require more bandwidth, as videos and interactive lessons are used. Latency issues can degrade online activities as students wait for lessons to download or work to be retrieved.
Educational institutions face budget constraints, just like any other organisation. That means finding ways to reduce costs without compromising services. One way to reduce costs is to look at stored data. Institutions should evaluate current storage solutions to determine if cost savings are possible.
Not all data has the same value, and not all storage costs the same. Cloud storage offers low-cost storage solutions that can improve services such as data resilience and improved end-user experiences.
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Data must be accessible and secure. For educational institutions, that requires 24/7 availability. After all, many students don’t study during regular business hours. To ensure resilience, organisations should have business continuity and disaster recovery plans.
In today’s digital environment, any disruption in the IT infrastructure can become a disaster. Catastrophic events such as gale-force winds or storms can damage or take down power lines, leaving people without power for days. However, the most common disaster in the 21st century is a cyberattack.
Cyberattacks have increased significantly in the last year. It is estimated that an attempt is made every 11 seconds. Even more concerning is the percentage of educational facilities that have experienced a cyberattack in the last year:
- 41% of primary schools
- 76% of secondary schools
- 80% of higher education facilities
Not all attacks were successful, but it points to the increased interest that cybercriminals have in the education sector.
Two 2020 cyber events highlight how supply chain attacks can impact organisations. One was the SolarWinds compromise that rippled through the U.S. government and the Blackbaud hack that targeted the educational sector. In both instances, cybercriminals were able to access data by compromising a supplier. It wasn’t until much later that organisations were told that their data was affected. Over ten UK universities and colleges were impacted, with the University of Birmingham having alumni payment information compromised.
System backups are often stored on the same network as the live system, although best practices recommend an off-site location. Ryuk is ransomware that targets mitigation processes first. Detecting these processes is more nuanced, making it possible for viruses to eliminate recovery methods before locking the live system. This approach makes it difficult for a company to return to a pre-infected state without paying a ransom.
Storing backups in the cloud ensures that a backup is available should a disaster occur. System backups can be quickly restored, and operations continue while awaiting lengthy repairs. Using cloud disaster recovery software makes for a smoother backup and recovery process, helping to reduce downtime and ensure a positive student experience.
Knowledge takes up space — lots of space. Most educational institutions store volumes of data. There are student records, instruction-related information, and research data. Then, there’s the business side of education with accounting, facilities management, and fundraising. All that data is usually stored on-premise in large computer rooms or data centres.
Storing data in institution-operated computer rooms becomes expensive. As enrolment increases, so does the need for more servers. Server costs include more than the hardware. Equipment must be maintained, which may include performance monitoring to avoid unexpected failures. With more hardware generating heat, the cooling costs increase, as do the utility costs of maintaining the environment, even when school is not in session.
In addition to server-related costs, there are labour costs. More servers need more people to monitor and maintain them. With a cloud-based solution, organisations do not need to worry about labour costs. They don’t have to purchase, maintain, and monitor equipment. The space can be repurposed for research, administration, or instruction. Using a cloud backup solution is a cost-effective way to secure critical data.
Educational institutions should consider moving data storage to the cloud as well as maintaining backups. Cloud-based solutions make for an improved student experience. It is much easier for students to access information — all they need is a device and internet connection to start working anytime and anywhere. The same convenience applies to faculty who can easily review students’ work.
Costs for maintaining on-site equipment declines as fewer servers are required, leading to lower utility bills and fewer maintenance calls. Plus, latency issues can be reduced if users do not have to access the campus network. Many campuses have older infrastructures that don’t support the added bandwidth needed for 21st-century interactions. The move can minimise the frustration that end-users have when trying to access the network.
Where and how data is stored depends on the institution and the information. It’s not a one-size-fits-all implementation. Every organisation needs a strategy for data storage. For example, some facilities start with on-premise backup and then move to a hybrid model before becoming cloud-native.
A hybrid cloud architecture allows institutions to continue to store some data on-premise while moving the majority of data to the cloud. Keeping data that is protected by privacy laws may be stored locally to ensure compliance, although cloud storage providers offer industry-standard security measures. For example, cloud backup data is encrypted.
No matter how the live system is configured, all backups should be stored in the cloud. A cloud-based backup solution gives schools and education facilities peace of mind. They know their data is protected.
In a cloud-native environment, the cloud becomes the IT infrastructure. Data is moved to the cloud, so organisations don’t have to worry about hardware purchases or utility costs. Instead, they can focus on improving student instruction. Even in a cloud environment, institutions need to maintain a backup service because the cloud doesn’t mean the threats to continuous operation have disappeared.
Consult a data backup specialist
How organisations decide to manage their data storage needs requires more than a cursory look at how much data is currently stored and what future requirements are projected to be. The decision must be part of an institution’s business strategy because how data is managed determines how competitive a school will be as the world moves closer to a knowledge-based economy.
If the education sector wants to accomplish the following, it needs to have an informed data storage strategy that starts with backups:
- Ensure continuous operation
- Improve student experiences
- Reduce costs
- Remain competitive
For help developing that strategy, consult data backup specialists — like Nexstor — who can help provide the right solution for your organisation.
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