Beef Up Your Backup for Seamless Continuity
The pandemic drove millions of students, teachers, and faculty beyond the confines of a school perimeter into home offices, where Wi-Fi is typically less secure. Cyberhackers believe that students and faculty are less diligent about security protocols when working at home. This is why schools need to increase their awareness and protocols, and seek clarity from their IT providers to ensure that proper measures are in place.
In light of everything that has happened since the spring of 2020, it’s a good time to shift thinking about data backup and continuity measures from reactive to proactive. A school’s continuity plans need to get ahead of the threats, not simply respond to them.
Schools need to be able to preserve students’ academic, attendance, and discipline records. Administrators use these records to promote students to the next grade. Students will eventually need them to apply for college or secure employment.
One of the biggest threats to a school’s data is its users. Unsuspecting students, educators, staff, and faculty will click on phishing emails, for instance. Work with them on how to recognize these emails for what they are. Make sure you train them on what to do to avoid causing data privacy problems.
Once an attack identify on school data is identified, then school IT can determine what damage, if any, occurred. For example, if the attack successfully targeted passwords, change all passwords!
Above all, when issues occur, use them as learning opportunities. Explain what happened, assure staff and faculty that the issue was addressed, and that no data was lost because a backup system was in place. Focus on what can be done to avoid future incidents!
Without backups, however, many cash-strapped school districts are forced to pay huge ransoms ― which many can’t afford ― in order to get their records back.
Security Steps for Online Learning
- Ensure each at-home device uses proper firewalls and antivirus programs.
- Enforce VPN and firewall policy.
- Enhance monitoring of systems for abnormalities, which can surface breaches.
- Train faculty to watch for phishing scams and to be aware of malware.
Backup Vs. Disaster Recovery
Backup is the process of making an extra copy (or multiple copies) of data in order to protect your school’s data. One might need to restore backup data, for instance, in the case of database corruption.
Disaster recovery, on the other hand, is the plan and processes for quickly reestablishing access to applications, data, and IT resources after a disaster or interruption.
The Cloud for Continuity: Is it the Right Way to Go?
Traditional recovery solutions can take hours to transfer data from on-premise servers to recovery hardware. The on-premise model could stall an entire school or district if the main servers crash.
By selecting a cloud-based backup, schools can avoid a large technology investment for infrastructure as well as the costs of managing the environment. In addition, cloud offerings typically include more resiliency against potential outages than a typical school or district can afford.
Cloud services aren’t onsite, and so a school doesn’t have to install and manage it. They reduce downtime, are always on, with dedicated security experts monitoring the setup 24/7. They provide safe, regular backups and easy “failover” (equipment that assumes the work when primary systems fail). Data centers can provide better physical security than most companies, protecting from break-ins and physical threats like floods. A cloud service provider builds in more resilience and redundancy than a school could achieve on your own, and schools only buy the storage and features that they need.
That said, it isn’t all silver linings. When utilizing the cloud, a school is ultimately responsible for understanding backup and security protocols, even for third-party providers. Data centers aren’t immune to failures, outages, and downtime, as natural disasters can affect power grids to data centers or facilities. A cloud solution could include layers you can’t control, and a school might have to invest in more resources and personnel than they currently need. With its own hardware, a school can create a redundant setup or move assets. And, in some cases, keeping certain backup or disaster recovery processes on-premises can help you retrieve data and recover IT services rapidly.
With a hybrid approach, you still gain the advantages of scalability and geographic distance without having to move your production environment. In a cloud-to-cloud model, both production and disaster recovery are located in the cloud, although at different sites to ensure enough physical separation.
Start by asking what sort of backup system is already in place? What happens if there is an issue with one of the district’s servers? What is the biggest threat to your system?
Also, think about all of the issues that can cause data problems. Do you have the proper firewall? Do you have anti-virus protection? Are all of those things set up? What should be done to try to thwart future attacks? If damaged or compromised files are included in a backup, what safeguards are in place to prevent those files from getting carried over to your backup system?
To Be Continued
For schools and districts, losing data without the means to recover it can be catastrophic. And schools are easy targets for cyberattacks due to lack of resources, particularly in IT staffing.
Continuity helps the entire school or district persist in a crisis. Backing up data is the first step in continuity and ensures that IT and communications work.