Nov 17 2022

What Is Backup as a Service (BaaS), and Should K–12 Schools Consider It?

Having cloud-based backups can minimize downtime in the event of a system disruption or cyberattack.

Every 11 seconds, bad actors use ransomware to attack the data-rich education sector, targeting school districts nationwide. Earlier this year, schools in New Mexico closed for two days when a hack compromised data on emergency contacts and the names of adults authorized to pick up students from school.

With the increased risk to school data and operations, how can districts protect themselves?

One solution is to invest in Backup as a Service, a managed cybersecurity and data center solution. BaaS can help districts ensure they have up-to-date and prepared backups in place in the event of a cyberattack.

“It’s no longer a matter of if, it’s a matter of when businesses will be affected,” says Kim King, senior director of product marketing at HYCU, a BaaS provider with operations in 78 countries and more than 3,600 customers, including some in the education sector.

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What Is Backup as a Service (BaaS)?

BaaS is a blanket term for a service that provides online or cloud-based backups, says

Ben Dumke, information systems manager for the Hortonville School District in Wisconsin. The service often is remotely managed, offers encryption and validation, and maintains version history. Functionality varies depending on the system, Dumke says.

“In general, an agent or client software is installed on the host device, and scheduled tasks are created that transfer the data to an offsite location,” he says. “Alternatively, BaaS could be part of a larger on-premises backup solution. In that case, the existing solution creates a backup and then, on a regular schedule, migrates the backups to offsite storage.”

With BaaS, you pay a company or service provider to back up your data, says Rick Jiggens, a cybersecurity engineer with the Auburn School District in Washington state.

“It takes it out of your hands and puts it in theirs,” Jiggens says.

LEARN MORE: Is cloud storage safer than on-premises databases?

Why Are Data Backups Important?

Schools store sensitive information, including identifying information for students and staff, payroll data and more, which could be compromised and disrupted by a cyberattack or natural disaster.

This data, and access to it, is the district’s lifeblood, King says.

Jiggens says his school district has adopted a hybrid solution to BaaS, which includes a combination of on-premises backups and a BaaS provider that stores backups in the cloud.

Having BaaS means that, in the event backed-up data is needed, access to it “can get us up and running, so we can be operational in a couple of hours,” Dumke says.

“The ability to restore data to a known good point in time, such as prior to an attack, is critical,” he adds. “Paying ransom does not guarantee the recovery of your data. We are also seeing attackers destroy data out of spite or frustration.”

Ben Dumke
The ability to restore data to a known good point in time, such as prior to an attack, is critical. Paying ransom does not guarantee the recovery of your data.”

Ben Dumke Information Systems Manager, Hortonville School District

As ransomware attackers grow savvier, King says, the “safety net” that BaaS provides schools is more important than ever.

“It’s not just about having a backup of your data. It’s about protecting your backup as well,” she says.

Is BaaS Useful for K–12 Schools?

BaaS can be particularly useful for K–12 schools, where IT teams may not have the personnel or resources needed to efficiently oversee data backups.

“There is not a single school district that doesn’t feel they’re understaffed; that goes without saying,” Dumke says. “Shifting some workload to another resource can help, but it doesn’t absolve you of the responsibility to manage the system. For example, you still need controls over access to the backups. You need to manage the files, folders and systems that are included, and you need to verify that the backups are operating.”

Jiggens says his district has used BaaS in the past, not for ransomware or a cybersecurity risk, but for routine engineering and maintenance.

“It has been handy when files get deleted, or we need a previous version, or we need to restore a server,” he says. “It has very practical day-to-day uses.”

Experts also say BaaS is a practical option for schools because it puts responsibility for maintenance and updates on the provider, not the school.

“One thing I realized coming into the educational system in K–12: Cybersecurity, backup and data restoration really need to be included in the district’s disaster recovery plan,” Jiggens says.

MORE ON DISASTER RECOVERY: Here are 5 questions to ask about Disaster Recovery as a Service.

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