Last week, I wrote about protecting data in the K-12 educational
environment
. Colleges and universities also have some very specific challenges
to meet. Generally speaking, higher-education institutions are often larger
organizations, sometimes with multiple campuses, and much more in terms of budget
and IT resources.

Higher education institutions not only need to safeguard data
on students, but also on significant research projects, grants and donations,
and other crucial financial data that make these institutions as much like
traditional businesses as schools. Due to that distinction, there is even less
flexibility in the time it takes to recover from a disaster. Recovery times
that reach into days and weeks may seriously cripple the school’s ability to
continue offering services and have severe financial repercussions.

However, larger institutions have the benefit of multiple
campuses that can be used to back up each other’s data resources. In many
cases, you can even set up failover solutions from one campus to another for
the most critical systems, and then procure recovery space after a disaster to bring
back other systems quickly. This means that you might be able to keep your
entire DR solution, from tape backup to replication and failover, entirely
in-house, limiting cash outlays and leveraging existing relationships and facilities.

For smaller institutions, you may be able to combine forces
with other schools, allowing you both to benefit by hosting each other’s DR
systems. Provided the schools do not offer any conflicts-of-interest with each
other (such as medical schools performing competing drug research studies),
this gives you all the benefits of the multi-campus environment without the
physical plant. For public institutions, you can take advantage of municipal
resources to find space and bandwidth for your DR needs, so even small
community colleges can still afford to protect their data adequately.

Again, 2005’s Hurricane Katrina provides the worst-case
scenario of a disaster affecting higher education institutions. Even though
Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge weathered the storm successfully, it
quickly found itself as a key player in the broader disaster relief operations
for the region and its schools (Tulane,
Loyola, Dillard, Xavier—to name only a few). Check out the presentation by
LSU’s CIO Brian Voss
online at Educause. There are other excellent DR resources
at the Educause site. The University
of Iowa
provides yet another case study for campus DR, having suffered
extensive tornado damage in the spring of 2006. Clearly, in recent months,
these serious natural disasters have demonstrated that all the time and
resources devoted to DR planning are essential to an organization’s survival.
Even the longest road to recovery is worth it, if your institution remains
viable in the end.

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