Data is everything to a school district in this day and age – which means if you lose access or control of your data, you lose everything.
As dramatic as that might sound, the data backs that up. According to several sources, most districts, no matter how big they are, shut down for days if they suffer a major data disaster without having first formulated a strategy for combating it. And since many districts don’t have any sort of plan for that worst-case scenario, that means losing data would be a death knell for most of the districts in the country.
Fortunately, your district does not have to be one of them. By taking the following steps, you can ensure that you have a rock-solid disaster recovery plan in place.
Step 1: Know How A Disaster Recovery Plan Is Different From A District Continuity Plan
The main difference between these two types of plans is that while district continuity plans are proactive, disaster recovery plans are reactive.
More specifically, a district continuity plan is a strategy by which a district ensures that, no matter what disaster befalls it, it can continue to operate and provide educations to its students. A disaster recovery plan, on the flip side, is a strategy by which districts can back up and recover critical data should it get lost or held for ransom.
So, now that we have a clear, concise understanding of what constitutes a disaster recovery plan, we can dive into the steps necessary to create one.
Step 2: Gather Information And Support
In order to get the ball rolling on your disaster recovery plan, start with Superintendent / District Administrator buy-in. This means that everyone, from the top to the entry-level employees, needs to be brought in on executing the plan in case your district suffers a data disaster. When everyone is aware of the possibility of a data disaster, it allows for cross-functional collaboration in the creation process – a necessary step if you want to prevent breaches in all parts of your systems.
You need to account for all elements in your tech systems when you’re putting together your disaster recovery plan, including your systems, applications and data. Be sure to account for any issues involving the physical security of your servers as well as physical access to your systems. You’ll need a plan in case those are compromised.
In the end, you’ll need to figure out which processes are absolutely necessary to keep up and running during a worst-case scenario when your capability is limited.
Step 3: Actually Create Your Strategy
When everyone is on board with the disaster recovery plan and they understand their systems’ vulnerabilities, as well as which systems need to stay up and running even in a worst-case scenario, it’s time to actually put together the game plan. In order to do that, you’ll need to have a good grip on your budget, resources, tools and partners.
If you’re a small district you might want to consider your budget and the timeline for the recovery process. These are good starting points for putting together your plan, and doing so will also give you an idea of what you can tell your students and teachers to expect while you get your district back up to full operating capacity.
Step 4: Test The Plan
Even if you complete the first two steps, you’ll never know that you’re prepared until you actually test out your disaster recovery plan. Running through all the steps with your teachers and employees helps them familiarize themselves with the steps they’ll need to take in the event of a real emergency, and it will help you detect any areas of your plan that need improvement. By the time an actual data disaster befalls your district, your systems and employees will easily know how to spring into action.
So, to review, these are the quick actions that you and your employees will need to take in order to make a successful, robust disaster recovery plan:
- Get Superintendent/ District Administrator buy-in for the plan.
- Research and analyze the different systems in your district to understand how they could be impacted.
- Prioritize systems that are absolutely necessary to the functioning of your district.
- Test your disaster recovery plan to evaluate its effectiveness.
Complete these steps, and you can ensure that your district will survive any data disaster that comes your way.