Digital data has become central to all our lives, with schools and colleges now storing the majority of their information in bytes instead of boxes. Many of us blissfully assume that the data we store electronically will be eternally safe. However, everyday occurrences such as accidental file deletion, an overnight water pipe breakage or an accidentally spilt hot drink on a piece of hardware can cause untold disruption if data is not properly stored and backed up.
Given the unprecedented growth and reliance on digital data, coupled with the increasingly stringent regulations for the education industry to adhere to, it is key for educational establishments to understand the complex issue of storage and the variety of solutions available to ensure core data and processes remain safe – regardless of what’s thrown at them.
So, how can they ensure they remain protected against traditional threats but also the more silent forms of data corruption? There are simply five layers of data protection that schools and colleges need to consider:
1.) Data should be written across multiple drives for RAID protection to protect against the inevitable risk of hardware disk failure.
2.) Data should be automatically protected against the phenomenon of bit rot, where data is actually corrupted at the very lowest level – the bits. This slow deterioration in the integrity of data stored on storage media can result in anything from pixel errors in JPEGs to a corrupted database of exam results.
3.) Data should be continuously protected during normal day-to-day operations, allowing for easy restoration of data from virtually any point in time. Snapshot technology provides point-in-time recovery when a disaster strikes or files are deleted.
4.) Data must be secured adequately in real-time against viruses and malware through up-to-date security solutions; not only at the firewall but also on the storage device itself in case someone brings malware stored on a USB drive straight into the classroom.
5.) A second copy of data – and operating system images etc. – should always be stored at a secure offsite location for disaster recovery. In today’s world this is most elegantly and cost-effectively achieved with a sophisticated and automated replication solution, but could also be via a USB drive, traditional tape or backup in the cloud.
In today’s ever connected environment, data is growing exponentially. One school we work with, Bishop Heber High School in Cheshire, was keen to embrace new ways for teachers to make lessons more engaging and informative. However, as presentations were becoming more multimedia-based, storage of these large files (some up to 50MB each) was putting a huge strain on the existing data storage system.
The resilience of the storage was also a cause for concern in the ICT department; with no back-up in place should servers (and disks) fail. After a site survey, we implemented a solution to provide more than enough capacity to safely and securely meet the school’s needs now and in the future. Back-ups are now happening more quickly and files are able to be restored with ease if accidentally deleted, without having to go through the back-up software.
The more layers of protection a school employs, the less of a risk they face. Yet historically most storage solutions typically address only two or three of the layers outlined above. This, coupled with the fact that many schools and colleges simply don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to complicated backup and recovery processes, leaves them exposed to potentially catastrophic outcomes.
‘Many school’s IT administrators are still either not aware of the five layers of data protection or presume they are only available within expensive and complex solutions’
Many school’s IT administrators are still either not aware of the five layers of data protection or presume they are only available within expensive and complex solutions. However, a lot has happened in storage technology and there are now affordable solutions available that fit the bill by adhering to the five layers of data protection. Now, even if disaster should strike, schools and colleges can have peace of mind the impact on their operation and reputation will be minimal.
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