Dec 23 2019

What K–12 School Districts Need to Know About DRaaS

Increases in data collection and connected devices mean school districts need to have a plan to keep information safe.

There are countless potential threats to the volumes of data K–12 school districts collect: Almost daily cyberattack attempts. Natural disasters. Human error or system failures.

The errors could delay crucial operations such as payroll — or even force schools or districts to temporarily close if there is no way to quickly recover any lost data.

It’s important that K–12 IT leaders and other administrators are able to quickly recover any lost information, and a simple backup isn’t enough. That’s why disaster recovery matters.

Instead of just making copies of information as you would with a simple backup, disaster recovery “refers to the plan and processes for quickly reestablishing access to applications, data, and IT resources after an outage,” according to IBM.

Data is backed up to multiple locations — creating a backup of a backup — on dedicated remote servers, either on-premises or in the cloud. Innovations in disaster recovery mean there are more options for administrators to find solutions that make the most sense for their data and budget needs. Disaster Recovery as a Service, through the cloud, promises fast recovery and flexibility. DRaaS can be fully managed by a provider, assisted or self-service.

However it’s deployed, the main goal is to minimize interruptions.

Ask the Right Questions About DRaaS

Significant data loss, depending on what it is and how long it takes to recover it, could force districts to temporarily shut down. Severe cyberattacks, for example, have taken down school networks. Also, districts need to comply with mandated minimum days of instruction as well as legal requirements about what information is collected and for how long. Employees also need to be paid.

These possibilities underscore why the ability to quickly recover data, by having a good backup system in place, matters. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommends developing recovery strategies for IT systems, applications and data including “networks, servers, desktops, laptops, wireless devices, data and connectivity.”

The full scope of disaster recovery and planning could be a lot to digest, particularly for districts with smaller IT teams.

David Andrade, a senior K–12 education strategist for CDW•G, suggests key questions administrators should ask when developing a disaster recovery plan.

  • What sort of backup system is already in place?
  • What happens if there is an issue with one of the district’s servers?
  • What is the biggest threat to your system?
  • What should be done to try to thwart future attacks?

Andrade also notes that an important part of a disaster recovery plan is to educate users about best practices.

Take a Team Approach to Planning for The Worst

Disaster recovery plans should include details such as contact information for key district personnel and relevant tips for recovering crucial data. In its Technology Disaster Recovery Checklist, CoSN (Consortium for School Networking) also suggests including information such as insurance and vendor contacts as well as an inventory of assets, among other things. Prioritize systems, applications and programs must urgent for business continuity — what’s needed in terms of IT to keep the district operating.

CoSN also recommends taking a team approach to developing a disaster recovery plan: Involve stakeholders from your district in the planning — from school board members and faculty to other administrators. Ideally, they should serve in different roles and have broad perspectives about what needs to be protected and how.

It’s also important that district leaders understand that disaster recovery plans are not static. They should be updated regularly and tested often.

Taking the first steps toward establishing a recovery plan and investing in a recovery solution can help districts bounce back after data disasters.

lisegagne/E+/Getty Images