Florian Malecki, International Product Marketing Senior Director, StorageCraft

Educational institutions are already dealing with the exponential growth of the data they handle. Now, as the national lockdown continues and schools across the country remain closed, they face the added complexity of the 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 is unstructured, and educational institutions are discovering that their traditional storage solutions are not capable of managing it all.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that digital transformation is not a nice-to-have, but an absolute necessity, and educational institutions are no exception to this. 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, including 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

With IT teams already stretched to capacity and budgets typically incredibly tight, ease of use is crucial for educational institutions. They should look for a solution that eliminates the complexity of data silos by converging file storage, backups, and archival data into a single platform. The benefit of such a solution is that 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. Staff 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 teams 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 present a serious challenge for schools in the UK, with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) even issuing a report warning of increased number of ransomware attacks affecting education establishments in the UK, including schools, colleges and universities.

Schools need the ability to always recover data quickly. The good news is that emerging technologies like immutable snapshots now give schools the ability to capture and back up their unstructured data in near real-time, and what’s more, do it cost-effectively. A storage snapshot protects your information continuously by taking snapshots every 90 seconds. Even in the case of a ransomware attack, your 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% to 175 zettabytes. As a result, legacy storage solutions are likely to quickly reach their limit and ultimately prove incapable of supporting the surge of dat. Scalable storage strategies are critical when it comes to keeping up with rapid data growth, eliminating expensive forklift upgrades, and reducing sprawling storage islands.

It will be critical to insist on a solution that starts at terabytes of storage and can seamlessly scale up to petabytes. The right storage solution will allow staff 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. It will also allow for the easy expansion of the global storage pool over time with zero configuration and no application downtime.

With the ever-accelerating pace of information creation, and the complexity of managing it and keeping it safe and secure, a modern storage solution should be a no-brainer for educational institutions. With the right storage solution in place, it is possible can deliver a secure and first-class education to students while successfully navigating the unprecedented changes that are roiling the sector.

Florian Malecki, International Product Marketing Senior Director, StorageCraft

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