"The dog ate it" may still work for students, but never for their schools and colleges. Educational data safety is critical for complying with the law, for the running of the institution, and for the future of its students. It is a heavy burden for education because staff and students need constant access and the resources to defend it are often lacking.
Deliberate attacks on data are rising everywhere. Incidents reported to the authorities are a small fraction of the true figure, but nevertheless, they reveal a steep upward trend. Schools and colleges notified the Information Commissioner of data security incidents, 511 times in the second quarter of 2018-19, compared to 355 in the corresponding period of the previous year. Illegal data disclosures were notified 353 times, compared to 239 the previous year and only 26 the year before (https://schoolsweek.co.uk/school-data-security-incidents-rise-in-wake-of-gdpr/). Over 1000 denial-of-service attacks were also reported.
According to a study by University Business Magazine, higher education institutions now suffer 17% of all successful cyber attacks.
The unique problems of educational backup
Attempted hacks by curious students aside, educational data is highly valuable to criminals. Early glimpses of course materials and test papers can be resold around the world. Access to student records enables many forms of abuse, including theft of student financial resources, identity theft and subsequent exploitation of students themselves. Malicious encryption and blackmail are still common.
The intensity and variety of data access is another problem for educational backup. Staff, students and administrators use a wide variety of devices daily - pen drives, smartphones, laptops connected to public Wi-Fi services and so on. Data resources are rapidly becoming the lifeblood of education, so safe access is literally a matter of life and death for today’s providers.
Even leading universities admit they lack sufficiently trained staff to stay abreast of the threats, technology and legislation. The government recently provided a standards framework for assessing the fitness of cyber-security (BS31111:2018), but providing it is still a huge challenge for institutions that try to cope alone.
Cloud backup solutions
Even if there were no outside threats (and therefore no need for security legislation), educational servers still labour under a heavy load. Students still frequently find that important work has been deleted after incorrect storage. Space is limited and if students could use it as much as they liked, it would be an expensive proposition to provide it. Future requirements can be unpredictable. Equipment dates quickly and has to be replaced at high cost.
There are multiple benefits from transferring data stores to specialist Cloud storage providers. Firstly, they have the specialists needed to provide the best security available. Secondly, backups are automatic and frequent. Thirdly, your data capacity can grow, or contract, according to your requirements. You will never pay for more than what you need and will never have to update the hardware it resides on.