Google Apps for Education is a suite of web applications including Gmail, Hangouts, Google Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Groups, News, Play, Sites, and Vault; that are customizable and designed specifically for use in schools, colleges, universities, and other educational institutions.
Google Apps for Education (GAFE) was first launched in Arizona State University in 2006. It now has over 25 million users worldwide and is used by 74 of the top 100 universities.
GAFE is extremely popular with K-12 schools and higher educational institutions both because the students are likely to already be familiar with many of the apps as they use them at home for personal usage, and also because G Suite for Education is free and offers the same amount of storage as Google Apps for Work accounts.
There is a wealth of information available on the web with tips for using Google Apps for Education effectively in the classroom and as an organizational, planning and creation tool for education. However, GAFE is not without its issues and as with any other cloud applications that are relied on for work or education, it is important to have an appropriate backup management plan in place
Potential Issues and Problems using G Suite for Education
Working with educational apps within G Suite in a school or college poses a slightly different set of potential issues than using it in the workplace:
If Google Apps is used for storing personal student data, academic records and other sensitive information, it is vitally important that this data is kept safe and secure.
Educational institutions have the responsibility of keeping their student data safe and ensuring it can only be accessed by teachers and administrators who need access to that information. It is therefore vital that the chosen backup solution is robust and uses the latest encryption technology to prevent against unauthorized access.
Security can also be an issue when the lines are not clear between Google accounts that are used within the GAFE platform and personal Google accounts. For example, a user has shared his thoughts in the GAFE Admins community:
“I am getting very concerned with how our schools are using technology in the classroom. First of all I have found that some teachers are still using their personal Gmail account to disperse work. This includes using a Google Site created with personal accounts and sharing with students and gathering work with said accounts.”
If teachers use their personal accounts in this way, the school may require their login details and access to their account, which is obviously an undesirable situation for the user of the account.
It’s therefore important that usage policies are in place for using Google Apps in school and that they are adhered to strictly.
Malicious Attacks on Data
While the most common issue of data loss using Google Apps for Work comes from employees accidentally deleting data, in schools there is a much higher probability of students trying to cause problems on purpose.
Young people have grown up using the Internet and apps and are often very technologically savvy. It is often a fun challenge for them to get around security measures in order to cause problems for their teacher. The typical hacker is of school or college age, and the average age of suspects involved in hacking attacks in the UK is 17. So this issue should be anticipated and pre-emptive measures put in place in high schools, colleges and universities.
There is another true story, that was told in the community of GAFE Admins:
“I had an interesting situation yesterday after noticing in the last month we’d gone from 4000 to 8 million externally visible files. Found that a student was attempting a DoS attack by scripting a 2gb file to copy itself within his Google Drive. It recreates the same file with a different ID. The 2gb copies were happening at a rate of 120 times per minute.”
Malicious attacks such as these can be extremely difficult to recover from on cloud services if there is no adequate backup in place, as all the created files would also be copied to the cloud, as well as the script causing the replication in the first place.
Using a cloud backup service allows an easy restore to a point in time before the attack occurred.
Accidental Data Loss
Accidental deletion of data is an equal problem for both teachers/administrators and students.
Most students have had the unfortunate experience of losing a report or some other kind of school work because their computer crashed before they saved it, or they deleted what they thought was a duplicate or old version of the file when actually it was the only copy on the system.
If this work is created within G Suite for Education, it is automatically saved as soon as it is created. If this file is then backed up to a third-party service, it is easy for a Google Apps admin to restore an earlier saved version of the file and avert disaster.
Teachers and administrators may also accidentally delete notes, students information or lesson plans, which they have been preparing for months. As they have access to the student files, it’s also possible for them to delete student work by mistake.
One teacher noted an occasion where an entire student Google Apps account was deleted by mistake due to two students having the same name. It’s also easy to imagine how this problem might occur when clearing out old student accounts at the end of term.
If this accidental account deletion happens and all the accounts are backed up to a service like Spinbackup, it is fast and easy to recover them.
Incorrect User Setup and Administration
Another issue that has occurred due to an incorrect user setup made by G Suite administrators:
“We inadvertently had our Google Classroom settings to allow anyone to ‘Allow anyone in this domain’ to create classes. Some students found out that they could create classes and become the ‘teacher’. Even after adjusting the setting to ‘Verified teachers only’ the students can still post unmonitored on the previously created Classrooms.”
Accidentally setting students to have administrator privileges or access to other students data could cause serious issues with privacy, data loss and corruption.
How Backing Up GAFE Can Solve These Issues
As with any other Google cloud applications, G Suite for Education is backed up to the cloud in real-time so there is no need to remind students to save their work every ten minutes, as used to be the case when working with traditional client word-processing packages for example.
The main issue with cloud applications is that every change to the data is backed up, even if the student does not intent for it to be saved. While there is the option to return to earlier versions of documents in Google Docs and other apps, there is a limit of 30 days for the deleted files that are stored on Google’s server. Any malicious attack on the data causing it to be corrupted or deleted will also affect the previously backed up data in the cloud.
Google does provide backup for its apps but this is mainly to prevent data loss due to issues at their end such as hardware failures in the data center. When data is lost due to problems or errors at the user end, they are less likely to be able to help you to restore data.
Cloud-to-cloud backup allows you to restore data to a previous stable point in time quickly and easily and also provides robust management tools that allow you to backup and restore all accounts or individual accounts as needed.
Restoring data from a third party secure cloud backup service like Spinbackup is incredibly fast and easy so there’s no need to wait for IT technicians to turn up and sort out the problem, which eats into teaching and learning time.
You can find out more about backing up G Suite for Education and request a demo here.
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