A Recipe for Disaster Recovery

Content Developer

Once upon a time, an acceptable recovery time was a matter of days or even hours. Now, however, it’s more like minutes.

Considering all of the potential threats to K–12 data—cyberattacks, natural disasters, system failure, and human error — disaster recovery is crucial for schools and districts to retrieve and reclaim vital information, and to maintain operations; avoiding catastrophic shut downs.

Disaster recovery is much more than mere backup. It involves the institution of processes necessary to reestablish access to data and IT resources following an outage. In this scenario, school data is backed up on dedicated remote servers (this could be on-premises, in the cloud, or a hybrid).

Five Tips for Averting Disaster

  1. Be Proactive with Disaster Recovery Planning
  2. Identify Your School’s Critical Functions and Infrastructure
  3. Create Emergency Response Policies and Procedures
  4. Document Backup and Restoration Processes
  5. Perform Routine Tests and Exercises

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, recovery strategies should be developed for IT systems including networks, servers, desktops, laptops, wireless devices, data and connectivity.

Depending on the nature of the disaster, networking groups might need to establish new lines of connectivity for remote workers and reconfigure traffic flows; maintenance teams might need to perform remote troubleshooting; security teams might need to re-set firewalls, change access policies, and extend security protection.

Cloud-based Solutions

Most schools can’t afford state-of the-art disaster recovery solutions amidst other basic expenditures such as school supplies and maintenance of heating and cooling systems. This is especially true for public schools, which rely on government funding.

Taking disaster recovery efforts to the cloud is a good first step in a school’s cloud journey, helping to deal with increased data growth and diminished resources. It also makes adhering to the 3-2-1 rule—where institutions should make three copies of their data available on two different media with one stored offsite—an achievable reality. Deploying disaster recovery in the cloud will also build a strong foundation of school IT resilience.

Cloud computing vendors generally provide access to the following services:

  • Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) allows you to rent IT infrastructure, including servers, storages and network component, from the cloud vendor.
  • Platform as a service (PaaS) allows you to rent a computing platform from the cloud provider for developing, testing, and configuring software applications.
  • Software as a service (SaaS) allows you to access software applications which are hosted on the cloud.

Cloud services may include analytics, applications, databases, storage, servers, and networking. Other benefits include:

  • Disaster recovery in cloud computing can be performed in a matter of minutes from anywhere.
  • You can store your backed up data across multiple geographical locations, thus eliminating a single point of failure. You can always have a backup copy, even if one of the cloud data centers fails.
  • Charges only for services you use and quickly scales up or down
  • Eliminates costs related to hardware that you must maintain and secure
  • Reduces your electric bill because you don’t need to power servers and the air conditioning to cool them
  • Uses load balancing to deliver processing and storage resources where your company needs them
  • State-of-the-art network infrastructure ensures that any issues or errors can be quickly identified and taken care of by a cloud provider. Moreover, the cloud provider ensures 24/7 support and maintenance of your cloud storage, including hardware and software upgrades.

Hope For the Best, Prepare for the Worst

Prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery (PPRR) measures should be implemented in disaster recovery of the cloud computing environment.

  • Prevention allows you to reduce possible threats and eliminate system vulnerabilities in order to prevent a disaster from occurring in the first place.
  • Preparedness entails creating the outline of a DR plan which states what to do during an actual DR event. Remember to document every step of the process to ensure that the DR plan is properly executed during a disaster.
  • Response describes which DR strategies should be implemented when a disaster strikes in order to address an incident and mitigate its impact.
  • Recovery determines what should be done to successfully recover your infrastructure in case of a disaster and how to minimize the damage.

Unlike corporations or higher education institutions, K-12 schools don’t have access to geographically dispersed branch offices or campuses. If a school loses its building due to a flood or fire, students’ education is put on hold.

Traditional disaster recovery involves building a remote disaster recovery site, which requires constant maintenance and support by school IT. In this case, data protection and disaster recovery are performed manually, which can be a time-consuming and resource-intensive process.

Disaster recovery in cloud computing, however, entails storing critical data and applications in cloud storage and failing over to a secondary site in case of a disaster. Migrating disaster recovery results in a drastic reduction of money and resources; providing an affordable way to protect student data by instantly “failing over” to the cloud, preserving student information and allowing for uninterrupted access to learning resources.

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