An increasing number of schools are moving their records, lesson plans, teaching materials, and even classes online, in order to take advantage of the increased efficiency and collaboration opportunities that the cloud provides. A third of US students are issued mobile devices for schoolwork and 75% of high-schoolers access class information through an online portal.
Tools such as G Suite for Education have made it even more attractive for teachers and students to work online, with free tools and storage that enable educators and students to work together from anywhere in the world, on any device.
However, while there are many advantages to moving from traditional paper-based methods of teaching and storing records towards digital solutions, it’s also important to consider the potential drawbacks of working online such as the possibility of data loss or breaches.
The Problem of Data Loss in Schools
A school data loss could be catastrophic for students, teachers, parents, and administrators alike. Consider how your school would cope with the following situations:
- A loss of student grades after a major exam
- Data corruption causing the loss of a student project that the class has worked on for several weeks
- Losing all lesson plans for the semester
- Accidental deletion of student records.
These are all hypothetical examples but the possibility of them happening is very real. The following are just a few examples of problems caused by school data losses in the last year:
- A high school in Indiana had to delay opening after a data loss due to hardware failure meant that student schedules, grades, and other important data was inaccessible.
- A university in Calgary spent over $16,000 to regain access to email accounts that were locked in a ransomware attack.
- The South Carolina school district was forced to pay $10,000 to access files that were encrypted with ransomware
Causes of Data Loss in Schools
Data can be deleted or corrupted by many different causes including:
- User error (accidental deletion or overwriting existing data – particularly in collaborative environments)
- Hardware failure
- Power failure
- Corruption due to software failure
- Computer viruses
- Physical destruction due to natural disaster (fire, flood, etc.)
- Unauthorised access through hacking or stolen user credentials
Additionally schools are faced with a growing number of pressures when it comes to data security, including:
- Rapidly growing amount of data and need for storage space
- Increased threat of hacking and malicious attacks
- Ageing hardware and infrastructure
- Limited resources and budgets
- Government regulations and restrictions for data protection
With all these factors in combination, it can be very difficult for schools to properly secure their data and recover from data losses. Luckily, cloud technology has made superior backup and recovery technology accessible to schools on smaller budgets with limited resources and using online cloud-based software and storage such as G Suite reduces the need to invest in hardware and IT staff purely to protect data.
How to Prevent and Deal with Data Loss Incidents in School
Encouraging a culture of data security for both staff (teachers and administrators) and students should be the first point of defence against data loss or breaches for any school. This includes:
- Education and enforcement of password security, including regularly changing passwords and requiring strong passwords
- Running up to date anti-virus software and firewalls
- Keeping regular and secure backups of all data>
- Monitoring user (staff and student) behavior on networks
- Limiting installation of third-party apps on mobile devices that have access to school accounts.
- Using appropriate data encryption techniques to secure data
- Discourage insecure methods of transferring data such as copying onto pen drives
Of all of these, ensuring that regular backups are made is probably the most important point. If data is backed up sufficiently then even if a data loss incident occurs, it can be recovered from quickly.
Backing Up School Data with G Suite
If you use G Suite for Education in your school, you may think your data is automatically backed up and safe. In fact this is not the case – while working in the cloud does offer some protection and is a safer alternative to saving documents only locally, data can still be lost if it is stored in G Suite.
One of the biggest causes of data loss in the cloud is user error and as G Suite syncs automatically to the cloud, it cannot prevent against accidental deletion – if a file is deleted locally, the cloud version will also be deleted. Google offers a recovery option for administrators but this is only available for 25 days after the data is deleted, and after this point it is gone for good.
The solution is to use a third-party G Suite for Education recovery service such as Spinbackup for Education that provides a cloud-to-cloud backup service, regularly and automatically saving user data stored in G Suite so that it can be recovered from any point in the past at any time in the future to recover from a data loss or corruption incident.
Spinbackup also offers a Cybersecurity solution that allows monitoring of user activity and 3rd-party apps that have access to G Suite. This can help to prevent data losses and breaches due to unusual user activity or insecure third-party apps.
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