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K-12 IT teams need to rethink their approach to cloud storage costs and security--a new cloud strategy may be necessary.

Rethinking your K-12 cloud strategy

K-12 IT teams need to rethink their approach to cloud storage costs and security

The new school year is upon us, and IT teams are ramping up strategic tech investments and systems to help ensure a smooth year ahead. For many of these IT teams, challenges around cybersecurity are top of mind, with recent research revealing over half of lower education organizations were hit by ransomware in the past year. On top of this, concerns remain around cloud costs, including new limits on free cloud storage, leaving some wondering what they’re supposed to do and having to pay up.

In light of these shifts and growing risks, K-12 IT teams need to rethink their approach to cloud storage costs and security. We recently experienced challenges at Hotchkiss School with our past cloud providers in this regard. We could not obtain the amount of secure storage we needed due to not only data consumption and performance challenges, but also because of their egress fees. In order to modernize and innovate, education decision-makers will need to embrace hybrid or multi-cloud storage options that keep their data secure by moving away from mainstream, high-cost cloud providers.

Further, to meet growing demands on schools’ IT departments, IT leaders will need to adopt a flexible cloud mindset that enables them to effectively and securely store and leverage the growing deluge of data they are inundated with – everything from student health care data to device and research data. Let’s dive into how a high performance, multi-cloud approach can help K-12 schools check the following major pain points off their list.

Data loss from ransomware attacks & other cyber risks  

Security is top of mind in every industry, especially in education where it’s important to keep our students’ and faculty information safe. In the face of growing security threats, protecting sensitive information by effectively backing up data to the cloud has never been more critical, and IT teams must operate not under the assumption of “if” an attack will occur, but rather “when.” This is especially important for schools that also rely on Microsoft Office 365 or other cloud-based SaaS applications for data storage. They must take additional backup measures as Microsoft does not guarantee that they will restore data if it is lost. In fact, Office 365 has remained the top target for SaaS attacks this past year.

While many IT teams may initially want to resort to the more traditional legacy approach of backing up their data on-premises, this strategy is less secure as it essentially acts as just one copy of data that can be easily targeted and destroyed. It also has limits as to how much information can be stored, which schools can quickly outgrow and need to pay in time and resources to maintain and scale. Cloud storage provides a more secure, easier-to-use, and cost-effective backup option.

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Many cloud storage providers offer some key backup features that can help better mitigate the effects of data leaks and ransomware attacks including object-level immutability that prevents anyone from tampering with, modifying or deleting data for a set period of time, keeping files safe against disruption. The cloud also allows for backup diversification to help prevent schools from storing all of their data in one place to be targeted. A multi-cloud approach enables educational institutions to follow a ‘3-2-1’ backup strategy, otherwise known as keeping three copies of data, with two on different media formats and one off-site, that helps prevent hackers from accessing all storage locations and enables companies to continue functioning during an attack and restore operations quickly. At Hotchkiss, we’ve found these backup strategies to be vital to ensuring our data security, and leveraging these kinds of additional safety features will become even more critical for educational institutions as security threats grow.

Digital transformation

Schools around the world were forced to quickly digitally transform to support both remote and hybrid learning due to COVID-19, but with limited resources and IT budgets. While many have returned to in-person learning, budget and resource challenges persist while school districts attempt to get local municipalities to approve budget increases to cover increased costs for technologies.

It’s never been more critical for IT teams to move away from relying on costly on-premises options, or those that carry expensive tiers and additional charges for egress and API requests to support their technologies. In order for schools to successfully continue their digital transformation initiatives and innovate on a budget, they must adopt a more simple, cost-effective and high-performing storage solution that can better support their growing reliance on technology at a lesser cost.

Surveillance storage challenges

Earlier this year, West Virginia legislature passed a bill to increase video surveillance requirements for special education classrooms. This is one of the latest incidents of heightened surveillance demands for schools around the country, requiring them to store and produce surveillance footage for certain set time periods at a moment’s notice.   

This poses an issue for the education industry. The vast amounts of data being generated through these surveillance systems promise to completely overwhelm many schools’ existing on-premise storage systems, creating storage bottlenecks and preventing administrators from being able to quickly access the data when needed. By moving to a flexible, hybrid cloud approach that can scale with their growing surveillance data volumes, Hotchkiss and other schools can cost-effectively extend the value from any of their existing storage solutions while keeping this critical surveillance data securely at the edge for easy storage and access.

K-12 schools have undergone an especially complicated transition over the past three years. This period exposed the need for more technological innovation and IT infrastructure changes in school systems, starting with the cloud, to help address data security and storage challenges. At the Hotchkiss school, it was no different. Overwhelmed by the amount of data created on our busy campus, we recently turned to Wasabi to build a low-cost, high-performance and secure storage solution that fully protects our environment. For an industry seeing exploding data volumes and security threats while faced with limited resources, the time is now for IT teams to find a reliable and secure cloud solution that will protect their school’s most valuable asset – data. 

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