While students and teachers are starting to return to school following protracted lockdowns caused by COVID-19, it’s clear that things have changed.
Ongoing uncertainties and new clusters of infections mean at-home lessons could be resumed at any time. It’s likely a mix of in-school and remote learning will be the norm for many months to come.
As a result, Australian schools have become heavily reliant on collaboration tools to keep the wheels of business turning. Usage of platforms such as Microsoft Office 365 and Teams has exploded as teachers look for ways to interact and share materials with their students regardless of their physical location.
The impact on data
One of the side effects of this rapid increase in usage of such collaboration tools is a dramatic increase in the volume of data being stored in the cloud. Where once educational materials would have been accessed from an in-school server, it’s highly likely that it is now sitting on a platform such as Azure or AWS.
This change shifts the goalposts for IT security teams tasked with protecting this data. Instead of relying on firewalls and other protective measures, they must look at other ways of keeping this vital data protected.
It’s important to realise that it is not sufficient to reply on the platform providers themselves to ensure effective data security. Indeed, Microsoft itself recommends to users of Azure that they look to third-party security vendors to deliver required protection.
One approach that is gaining increasing attention is the idea of protecting cloud-based data stores by undertaking regular cloud-to-cloud backups. In this way, vital data is available on multiple platforms, thus protecting a business should one cloud suffer an outage or some sort of loss.
Modern cloud-to-cloud backup services can be configured without the need for any additional hardware or software within the business itself. All traffic and backup schedules are handled automatically in the background, with no impact on the users themselves.
Such backups can be managed in a number of different ways. One is to backup to the same cloud provider but to resources that are running in a different geographic location. For example, an Australian-based business may have data running on Azure in Australia but also be backing up to the Azure cloud in the United States.
However, according to The State of Office 365 Backup research commissioned by Barracuda, 67 per cent of Australian organisastions are concerned about data being backed up outside their geography while 69 per cent are concerned about compliance with data privacy requirements.
Another option would be to back up to a different cloud provider altogether. Data being stored on Azure in Australia could be backed up to the AWS cloud or another preferred provider.
As well as offering enhanced protection, having such backups in place means that data can be quickly restored should a loss be experienced. This means that business activity can continue with little or no disruption occurring to operations.
Cloud-to-cloud backups also give schools alternatives if they fall victim to a ransomware attack. Indeed, according to The State of Office 365 Backup research, 68 per cent of Australian respondents are concerned that their Office 365 data could be the target of ransomware while 46 per cent of Australian respondents say their organisation has already experienced a ransomware attack.
Cybercriminals are increasingly targeting data backups as part of their attack to cause maximum disruption. However, if data is backed up to multiple locations this means a school can restore systems and avoid having to pay the ransom demands.
Remote education is likely to be a part of school life for a long time to come. As a result, reliance on cloud-based collaboration and communications platform will continue to increase.
By taking the time to review how data is being stored and protected, and investigating the potential of strategies such as cloud-to-cloud backup, schools and other educational bodies can make best use of these tools while at the same time ensuring effective data security is maintained at all times.
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