Today’s data-security lesson: Go beyond the cloud
K-12 school districts are dealing with an exponential growth of data they handle, as students and teachers increasingly embrace digital content, cloud services and online apps. To succeed in this data-intensive reality, they need an efficient and affordable way to expand their storage needs while improving their data backup and recovery.
The education sector, in general, is always trying to find new ways to do business more efficiently and at a lower cost in the face of extreme budget pressures. And these days, the sector is looking to the cloud more often to reduce expenses while gaining access to added robust features and functionality.
Relying on the cloud means you don’t have to maintain a large IT staff or operate an in-house data center. If you’re an educational organization, you want the cloud to be safer and you want your cloud provider to be responsible for protecting your data.
A recent independent study by Dimension Research, commissioned by StorageCraft, found that 60% of educational institutions believe that data backed up to the public cloud is safer than data backed up on-premise. It also revealed that another 60% of educational organizations believe it is the responsibility of their cloud provider to recover data and applications in the event of an attack or loss.
Can and should educational institutions rely solely on their cloud service provider for data protection?
Top cloud providers such as Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) do protect core infrastructure and services. That’s their responsibility. But it is the customer’s responsibility to secure that data. Overlook this fact and the risk increases for experiencing a crippling and permanent data loss should anything ever happen to it.
When it comes to data security—whether the issue is data corruption, a security breach or even accidental data deletion—the burden is on you, not your cloud provider.
For companies such as Microsoft and Google, the education sector is an important market, so they often provide their cloud apps for free, along with free accounts for students. As a result, it’s understandable that educational institutions might rely on such companies for data protection and security.
Take, for example, data generated by the cloud app Microsoft Office 365. It’s true that Microsoft guarantees the service. But Microsoft does not guarantee the protection of the data you generate when you use Office 365. Office 365 does have some baseline data protection measures in place. There is a 30-day recycle bin, for example, that lets you recover and restore deleted data inside a 30-day period. This is helpful because users often delete or purge data and later discover they need it. But after that 30-day period, that data is gone forever. Microsoft spells this out in its terms of service.
Schools may not be fully aware that they need extra protection to secure their data and recover it if it’s lost or compromised. They do have valuable data in the cloud, from student test records to birthdates, Social Security numbers and research data, for instance. All of this needs an extra level of protection and recovery capability.
The education sector has another urgent reason to take data security and backup seriously: the rising threat of ransomware. More than one thousand schools in the U.S. fell prey to ransomware attacks in 2019, according to security firm Armor. In one case, at Wood County Schools in West Virginia, an attack blocked teachers from accessing their files and even caused the school’s automated door system to stop working.
For educational institutions—just like for any other business today—the reality is that it’s not a matter of if a data-loss incident will occur, but when. That’s why it’s essential to implement new strategies around data backup and recovery. Schools that act will be in a far better position to quickly react to ransomware attacks and undo any damage.
What kind of action should schools take? They need to take data security steps that go above and beyond the cloud because when it comes to data security—whether the issue is data corruption, a security breach or even accidental data deletion—the burden is on you, not your cloud provider.
Bill Hansen is senior product manager for cloud services at StorageCraft.
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