Feb 14 2024
Data Center

Five Backup and Recovery Questions to Ask Before Data Goes Missing in K–12

With the rapid digital transformation happening in today’s schools, data has become a lifeline. Learn which key elements create a sound data restoration strategy.

A lot of attention goes into protecting data. K–12 IT teams ponder cybersecurity, disk arrays, cloud availability zones and bandwidth to keep their schools’ data flowing. But do they give backup systems the attention they deserve? And are they sure they can actually restore a school’s data when the need arises?

Here are some backup-and-restore questions that IT teams should consider:

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What Is Your School’s Backup Strategy?

A backup strategy encompasses both what is being backed up as well as how that data is backed up. “What” doesn’t necessarily mean “everything.” Moving and storing data is costly, so back up everything you need to, but no more.

The “how” of backup should allow restoration of just the data you’re looking for, such as a single document. Some backup strategies lack this granularity, restoring an entire system to the point in time when the backup was made.

LEARN MORE: Five questions you should ask about disaster recovery configurations.

How Quickly Could Your School Perform a Major Data Restoration?

If you had to restore terabytes of data from the cloud, how long would it take? The distance between your site and your cloud backup provider introduces network latency that, along with the size of your internet connection, could bottleneck your restore process.

Your disaster recovery plan should include a time estimate for a full restoration. Get a benchmark from a partial restore and extrapolate how long it might take to fully restore your data.

Can You Access Your Backups When You Need Them to Recover?

Most of the time, cloud-based backup is effective. But what happens when the cloud is unavailable — say, because the backup provider is having system problems or your site is unable to access the internet?

A best practice is to have a second copy of your school’s backup data nearby in case the cloud is inaccessible — but far enough away that it’s safe from any disaster that might befall your campus.

Check your physical media periodically to make sure it’s healthy. Disks and thumb drives all fail eventually. Replace media that’s starting to go bad. Favor solid-state drives over spinning disks.

Are Your Backups Secure from Prying Eyes or Data Corruption?

Treat backup data as carefully as you treat working data. Backup data is a target not only for thieves but also those spreading ransomware.

Who has access to your backup archives? What about that consultant no longer working for the district? Think about access to both backup software and backup media. Consider encrypting your backups to make it hard for anyone to walk off with your data on a disk drive or thumb stick.

If your school manages highly sensitive data, consider air-gapped backups. These are isolated from the network for extra protection.

RELATED: Could backup as a service providers be the answer?

Is Your Recovery Process Documented?

Your recover process documentation should cover system login information, security credentials, the backup scheme (such as “daily full”) and steps to restore operations.

Document the location of physical backups, including external disks or thumb drives (and the encryption key, if your backups are encrypted), and note who is authorized to access these items.

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Learn from Your Peers

What can you glean about security from other IT pros? Check out new CDW research and insight from our experts.