Jan 17 2018
Data Center

Continuity of Operations Plans Can Help K–12 Districts Face Disaster

Planning goes beyond disaster recovery to include everyone in the organization.

In terms of natural disasters, 2017 was one for the record books.

According to the data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United States weathered 16 separate natural disasters in 2017, each of which caused at least $1 billion in damages. In fact, according to NOAA, 2017 tied 2011 for the most billion-dollar disasters in a single calendar year.

The IT staff at Katy Independent School District in Texas is unlikely to forget 2017 anytime soon. When Hurricane Harvey struck the state last August, it flooded the district’s data center with 6 inches of water. But having invested in multiple layers of disaster recovery solutions, the district was prepared for the worst and suffered minimal damage.

“You have that peace of mind. But there’s still an urgency to restore those systems if something does happen,” says Joe Christoffersen, IT director for Katy ISD.

Have an Effective DR Plan in Place

Disasters aren’t always manmade.

A few years ago, an employee of the Beaverton School District in Oregon made an erroneous configuration change to the district’s network. One year later, a faulty fire suppression system malfunctioned and set off gas canisters in the data center. The district suffered catastrophic data loss and had no full backup of its human resources and financial data. After recovering the data, district officials expanded their disaster recovery efforts with a comprehensive continuity of operations plan.

“We started looking at the systems that we had in place protecting our data and data center, and we realized we needed a lot of help,” says CIO Steven Langford.

A continuity of operations plan goes beyond bringing a data center back online, as Katy and Beaverton district officials explain in “Disaster Recovery Planning Helps Districts Weather More Than Storms." It’s an outline for each department in a school district, from IT to human resources, that lays out how the entire organization can continue to operate in the event of a catastrophe.

A plan like that should give school district officials everywhere some peace of mind.

Vladimir_Timofeev/Getty Images

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