Data storage: The education industry’s biggest test yet?

Institutions will only be able to operate with confidence when they know that their data is secure, says Florian Malecki

Digital transformation in education has become a reality; it is changing the educational sector’s approach to teaching and is enhancing learning environments to offer better support to students, lecturers and staff. Today, immediate access to information, real-time communication, and online collaboration, have become a must-have for the 21st century classroom. Educational organisations – from primary schools to colleges and universities – also face fierce competition from one another. They must promote the use of new technologies to attract the best students, faculty and researchers, in order to develop and grow their reputation and prestige.

Digitalisation: a double-edged sword

From enrolment to graduation, digitalisation is helping enhance learning to better support students, teachers and parents. But these rich learning environments are generating an exponential and unpredictable amount of different types of data – courses, tests, results, research, images, movies, unstructured data, to name but a few – that need to be properly protected and stored. In addition, educational organisations process sensitive information about their staff and students, such as financial data, medical and personal records, and so on.

All that information is subject to specific local compliance requirements, most notably the General Data Protection Regulation that all institutions need to abide by.

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Traditionally, educational institutions have provided devices – to their students, faculty and staff – that were owned by the respective organisation or corporation. However, the consumerisation of IT has forced schools and universities to embrace, implement and support bring your own device programmes. These allows users to use their personal devices – laptops, notebooks, smartphones, tablets, phablets – for learning and research purposes.

While convenient, this approach can weaken an organisation’s IT security posture, and puts data protection and security at the forefront of IT teams’ priorities. Educational organisations possess and exponentially generate a huge amount of personal, sensitive and valuable data that cybercriminals are specifically seeking.

How institutions can mitigate the risk

If technology is to be fully embraced, it is vitally important that the right infrastructure is in place to support its adoption in a sustainable way that allows for continued innovation.

All too often, institutions are reliant on outdated storage infrastructure that isn’t capable of managing and storing this data in a secure way. Legacy storage solutions are simply unable to keep pace with growing data and management needs, and this is a problem that will only become more acute as technology is more widely adopted and data volumes increase.

It is clear that an innovative solution is needed to meet the increasing storage demands of the education sector.

In order to survive and prosper in today’s digital environment, educational institutions need an efficient and affordable way to expand their storage infrastructure, and improve data backup and recovery service levels. When considering that the amount of data being generated is constantly growing, it’s important that the solution has built-in scale-out abilities to accommodate future data storage needs. This eliminates expensive upfront over-provisioning, and avoids the need for costly and complex storage upgrades at a later date.

Florian Malecki

It should also be taken into account that IT teams in educational institutions tend to be stretched to capacity, and have little time to manage complex and high-maintenance storage services. They need a storage infrastructure that is simple to deploy and upkeep, freeing time to pursue more strategic initiatives. A key part of this low-maintenance solution lies in the preemptive identification and resolution of problems, before they can have a negative impact on applications. This is achieved by the continuous monitoring of installed disk drives, networks and remotely replicated storage, to provide real-time storage and system health reports.

As we see more schools, colleges and universities embracing technology to enrich the learning experience, the need for better storage infrastructure will become ever-more critical. Institutions will only be able to operate with total confidence when they know that their data is safe and secure. Only then will they experience the full and extraordinary benefits that technology has to offer.

Florian Malecki is international product marketing senior director at StorageCraft