By Kyle Berger
In K–12 education, I always find that school districts are pretty open to collaboration and building partnerships. All of us must accomplish the same goals, each day, with the same dwindling funding.
As technology becomes more prevalent in schools, the need to secure and protect data becomes an ever more daunting task. Most of the time, offsite data storage for disaster recovery is only a dream – one with no money to make it a reality.
In Texas, Alvarado Independent School District has faced several near-disasters in its own backyard. Given the threat of hurricanes pounding the coast or tornados sweeping across the northern part of the state, the fear of a catastrophic event in Texas is not unfounded. Our need for a sound offsite storage strategy was apparent, but the funding was nonexistent. Our district is not alone in this quandary.
We already had disaster recovery capabilities built into our IT infrastructure, based on a Compellent Technologies storage area network. But we wanted another offsite layer of safety. We realized that the fluid nature of our Compellent system meant that the ability to partner with other schools was just a click away.
So how could we achieve needed disaster recovery offsite without expanding our limited overhead? Simple: Form a cooperative with another district and work together to provide a continuity of operations plan.
The need for this type of approach is not limited to schools in Texas; it's something that faces districts nationwide. All schools have the same basic problem, but they also have the same tools to solve it.
Most schools have access to the Internet, which essentially links them to the rest of the world. In most cases, that access is used only 40 percent of the time – during school. For the rest of the day, Internet connections remain idle, carrying little or no traffic. Why not turn that investment into a connection to an offsite resource outside of instructional hours? The rest of the solution is sitting right down the hall, in your SAN.
In my case, I turned to a school system with which I had collaborated before, Glen Rose Independent School District. Located about 40 miles away, its infrastructure and needs matched ours.
I knew Glen Rose had a Compellent system in place, and we already had a good working relationship with them. Plus, they had a pressing need for offsite DR because there is a nuclear power plant nearby. It was a perfect fit for both of us.
I reached out to the district's IT director, Doug McClure, and 10 months ago we synchronized our SANs and launched a mutual exchange of server space to back up each other's data – for essentially zero cost.
The key element of a COOP strategy between schools is an understanding of each other's business needs. That's the only way to build a partnership that benefits everyone. The establishment of our COOP co-op required planning and policymaking to ensure the reliability of the design, so it was essential for us to work with an organization that faced issues similar to our own.
Now, when disaster strikes, we will not be alone. We will have peers in our corner, ready to help us when the need arises.
Schools across the country are banding together to share resources. In support of this trend, I have created the K–12 Disaster Recovery Consortium, powered by Compellent, to help others leverage their SAN investment. For more information, visit k12drc.com and learn how to join this growing effort.
Components of a sound disaster recovery plan:
- Critical data management: A formal plan to secure, classify and retrieve data information and critical applications
- Data center recovery: A plan to reconstruct systems and communications centers
- Alternate site plan: A document that identifies established recovery time objectives, levels of acceptable service degradation and response times, based on cost and risk factors
- Information security plan: An outline of any additional IT security issues that must be addressed based on the school district's objectives, audit requirements, costs and existing controls
Source: Rothstein Associates