K-12 school districts are already dealing with the exponential growth of the data they handle. They now face the added complexity of school closures and a rapid shift to online learning which has put them under even more pressure to manage and protect their data and data infrastructure.
The sudden upsurge in remote learning has increased reliance on digital content, connected services, and online apps. For instance, teachers are now recording their lessons and delivering them online. Most of this new content and data are unstructured, and educational institutions are discovering that their traditional storage solutions are not up to managing it all.
COVID-19 has made it clear that digital transformation is not a nice-to-have—it is an absolute necessity – and educational institutions don’t get a hall pass. They must evolve their approach to teaching and enhance their digital learning environments to offer better support to students, professors, and staff, most of whom have no choice but to operate remotely.
Immediate access to information, real-time communication, and online collaboration are now mandatory for today’s classrooms. However, the challenge is that these content-rich remote-learning environments generate a massive and unpredictable amount of data of many different types—courses, tests, research, lesson plans, as well as audio and video files and a host of other unstructured data. This is all critical information that needs to be appropriately protected and stored.
In today’s changing world, educational institutions need an efficient and affordable way to expand storage and improve data backup and recovery. Here are the three critical features that schools should look for in a modern data management system.
1. Ease of use
Ease of use is crucial for educational institutions because IT teams are already stretched to capacity, and budgets are incredibly tight. Institutions should look for a data management solution that eliminates the complexity of data silos by converging file storage, backups, and archival data into a single platform. This means there is no need to manage different storage solutions from different vendors, each with their own workflows.
If a storage solution is easy to use, it can also deliver significant cost efficiencies while increasing productivity. Schools should be able to “set it and forget it,” which means the solution doesn’t need much supervision to make sure everything is working. IT teams can then spend less time managing storage and more time driving strategic initiatives.
The bottom line is that, with ease of use, schools can see an increase in cost savings and a decrease in the hours that IT spends on data storage and backup.
2. Strong security
Remote learning has become the new standard and schools must accommodate many different users and many different types of devices connecting to their networks. As a result, the chance of being hit by a ransomware attack is higher than ever. Ransomware attacks are crippling schools in the U.S., with 1,150 educational institutions impacted in the last 15 months, according to global cybersecurity firm Armor. For instance, the Connecticut School District was hit by a ransomware attack that deleted years of lessons and blocked the district from accessing its data.
Institutions need the ability to always recover data quickly. The good news is that emerging technologies like immutable snapshots now offer the ability to capture and back up unstructured data in near real-time—and do it cost-effectively. A storage snapshot protects information continuously by taking snapshots every 90 seconds. Even in the case of a ransomware attack, data is protected and can be restored immediately without effort. It literally comes down to pressing a virtual button.
3. Future-proof capacity
The education industry is now generating data at unprecedented rates. By 2025, IDC predicts worldwide data will grow 61 percent to 175 zettabytes. As a result, legacy storage solution could quickly reach their limit. Institutions need a scalable storage strategy to keep up with rapid data growth, eliminate expensive forklift upgrades, and reduce sprawling storage islands.
It will be critical to insist on a data management solution that starts at terabytes of storage and can seamlessly scale up to petabytes. The right storage solution will allow schools to add any number of drives, anytime cost-effectively, and in any granularity to meet the storage requirements of teachers, students, researchers, and other constituents.
With the ever-accelerating pace of information creation, and the complexity of managing it and keeping it safe and secure, educational institutions should closely examine their data strategies. With the right data management technology in place, they can deliver a first-class education to students while successfully navigating unprecedented changes.
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