The following article appeared in the February 2012 version of the Secure Times publication:
Securing the data of UK school pupils and staff is an extremely important issue. A breach of this sensitive data can lead to a serious loss of confidence in the school or much worse, the data falling into the wrong hands and being misused. Despite this, the systems that schools use to backup information are, in many cases, extremely outdated. All school data from emails to sick records must be backed-up securely to ensure the safety of pupils and staff. Schools have two main options for backup; these are tape- or cloud-based backup.
The London Grid for Learning (LGfL) recently upgraded the data security backup system across its entire schools network using the Attix5 system. This equates to the enhanced protection of over one million pupils across 2,500+ schools. In fact, Attix5 backs up information for the majority of pupils in the UK, looking after the data security of around 65% of UK schools. That’s 2.7 million pupils across approximately 13 000 schools.
Surprisingly, although most households switched from tape to digital over a decade ago, over 25% of schools in the UK are still using tape for backup purposes. Data storage on tape presents a number of unnecessary security risks. Firstly someone within the school still has to be physically responsible for the tape and for backing-up data to it. Also, the fact that tape is typically transported from one location to another poses added risks. Petrus Human, Technical Director at Attix5 explains: “Research shows that of the schools that are still using tape, 30% take the backup tape home and 35% leave the tape in storage at the school. Obviously this isn’t ideal as it opens up the possibility of the data being lost or stolen.”In addition, tape is protected by just one password, making the data on it quite easily accessible if it falls into the wrong hands. Schools and other education institutes, just like other enterprises, are at risk from fraudsters and hackers.
Some schools outsource the storage of the tape, but this also comes with significant risk. Human continues: “The fact that the tape has to travel to and from the storage location is one problem. I’ve also seen situations where, for data recovery purposes, the incorrect tape has been sent back to the wrong client, meaning the data has fallen into the wrong hands.” Cloud based storage avoids all of these issues. The backup is automated, the data is completely secure and it is easily retrievable. So, why aren’t more schools switching to virtual backup?
Many schools are still concerned about security within the cloud, but Attix5 cloud based backup solutions are actually much more secure. Attix5 has implemented a number of distinctive security measures into its system to provide complete peace of mind. Firstly it doesn’t just backup one copy of the document but two, and these are kept in different locations via the cloud. This means that there are in fact three copies, the original one, plus the two copies that Attix5 store.In addition to this Attix5 uses a unique encryption method which makes it impossible for data to be accessed by anyone but the data owner. This system is different to anything else on the market because rather than the school having a mass encryption key (which is the norm in this kind of security) every individual has their own encryption key ensuring ultimate security. Attix5 is so confident about this system that it has invited experts to try to hack into it, to date all have been unsuccessful. This level of encryption means that even if a school server is stolen, the encrypted data will be completely inaccessible.
A further barrier to change is the incorrect perception that tape is cheaper. However, when taking into account the cost of the tape itself and the hardware and personnel resource needed to transfer the data to tape, not to mention the transportation and storage costs, it works out as significantly more expensive. Human says: “In costing models that we undertake for the education sector, cloud based backup always works out at least 45% cheaper than tape over a three year period.”Even for schools that are tied into a contract for tape-based storage, cost savings can still be made through making the switch to cloud based backup and paying the penalty on the old contract.For example, the Attix5 system and its exclusive de-duplication method leads to an average of 42% storage savings. This works by only saving the changes to the stored data rather than multiple sets of modified documents.
With cloud based backup, and the conversion to software-as-aservice (SAAS) payment models, working out safer, cheaper and with significantly more operational benefits than tape, there is no excuse for schools not to switch. Human sums up: “The magnitude of vulnerability of storing data on tape is enormous. UK Schools cannot afford not to switch to cloud-based backup.”