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5 IT Disaster Recovery Best Practices for Community Colleges

Bryan Reed Oct. 19, 2018

On the surface, community colleges might not seem like a good target for cyber criminals. However, considering the amount of data colleges store from students and staff, community college IT directors must be aware of the risks. And no one is immune to the effects of unexpected catastrophes, either man-made of naturally occurring. For these reasons, it’s crucial that you and have an IT disaster recovery plan in place.

A good disaster recovery plan must anticipate problems and provide preemptive solutions. At Alphanumeric, we work closely with community colleges to help them create a disaster recovery plan that works for them. Here are four best practices that should be part of your plan.

#1: Adopt a Hyper-Converged Infrastructure

Adopting a hyper-converged infrastructure, or HCI, can help you do a better job of protecting your data and recovering it in the event of a system failure or breach. The key is understanding how your backup and recovery will work with an HCI.

The primary benefit of a hyper-converged infrastructure is that it allows you to integrate data from different departments and campuses. When it comes to creating a comprehensive backup, that’s important – and it can streamline your disaster recovery process in the event of a problem.

If you’re considering a hyper-converged infrastructure, you’ll need to be careful to revamp your disaster recovery plan accordingly. Otherwise, you run the risk of being unable to restore your data if you experienced a breach or hardware failure.

#2: Virtualize Your Servers

Another way to protect your data and make it easier to recover it is to virtualize your servers. Server virtualization allows community colleges to run multiple servers in the cloud.

The key to making virtualization part of your IT disaster recovery plan is to set up regular audits to ensure that everything is working as it should. That means you’ll need to create a schedule to update configurations, download patches, and do whatever maintenance is needed to protect your virtual servers.

You’ll also want to limit user access to management tools and controls. One way to do that is to implement a least-privilege system to ensure that every user has access only to the systems and data they need.

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#3: Create a Backup Schedule

Perhaps the most important thing you need to do while creating your disaster recovery plan is to come up with a backup system and schedule that will ensure you always have an up-to-date copy of your data. Ideally, your backups should be stored off-site or in the cloud and separate from your data.

The best backup systems create a new backup of essential data every day. Backups are essential because if your college is the victim of a ransomware attack, for example, you will still have access to your data, rendering the ransom request harmless.

#4: Employ Remote Hosting or Colocation for Backup Infrastructure

Working to ensuring data resiliency in the case of natural disasters or other physical disasters (building fires, floods, etc.) is a vital step in any comprehensive disaster recovery plan. That’s why hosting backup infrastructure off-site in a secure colocation facility can be so valuable for organizations looking to preserve their data and ensure a swift return to business as usual in the event of a major disruption.

Placing your backup infrastructure in a secure, managed facility, away from your production environment can provide the necessary redundancy to ensure your ability to protect data and provide a prompt recovery to the latest saved backups in the event of an emergency. You can also opt to have this backup infrastructure managed by a qualified third-party MSP to mitigate liabilities and ensure that it is being effectively monitored and managed while you attend to your production environment.

#5: Test Your Data Recovery Plan

When it comes to IT disaster recovery, the best offense is a good defense. Part of your defense must include conducting regular tests of your disaster recovery plan. Testing will help you to identify potential problems and address them.

You may want to create several IT disaster scenarios since different methods may be required depending on the events that led to the problem. For example, your methodology for recovering from a power outage might be different from the methodology for coping with a ransomware attack or a server failure.

In addition to doing regular full-scale tests, it’s also a good idea to get in the habit of checking your backups periodically to ensure you have the data you need and can access it without difficulty.

Creating an IT disaster recovery plan is a must for every community college. Following these four best practices will ensure that you have what you need in the event of a system failure or breach. 

To learn how Alphanumeric can help you create an IT disaster recovery plan, please click here.
Bryan Reed

Bryan Reed is the Marketing and Communications Director at Alphanumeric.

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