October 8, 2013 Leave a comment
More than seven million K-12 students throughout the country use Google Apps for Edu and they aren’t alone. Seventy-two of the top 100 Universities (according to U.S. News & World Report) use Google Apps too – including seven of the eight Ivy League institutions. The service is quickly gaining traction as connectivity increasingly becomes an essential part of everyday learning. Students and teachers can easily collaborate in real time through a web application, and the vast majority are already familiar with the Google platform, meaning adoption is fairly seamless. The service is also compelling for IT departments working on tight budgets with limited infrastructure resources.
While the influx of Google Apps in the education sector provides huge opportunities for collaboration and cost-cutting, this new era also comes with its own set of challenges – specifically around holding student-related data in the cloud. For example, Gmail accounts help students easily work together but they can also introduce cyber bullying. Google Docs is a simple way to share an assignment but new excuses now arise in the form of “I swear I did it, Google must have lost it.”
The fact of the matter is that data stored in SaaS services like Google Apps for Education is not fully protected. Forty-seven percent of SaaS data loss is a result of end-user deletion (something Google cannot recover). Many teachers and IT admins at schools that are adopting Google Apps, however, are unaware of the limitations that Google has around data backup. Although Google is one of the safest productivity suites in the world, it does not protect against user error (e.g., a student overwriting or deleting an important assignment in Google Docs)
While enterprise organizations are also faced with new IT challenges related to backing up the cloud, schools, in particular, have their own unique set of hurdles to overcome, including:
Massive amounts of personal student data. As teachers use Google Apps in their classroom day to day, they begin to accumulate massive amounts of data – much of it personal student-related information. With this kind of data saved in cloud services, schools can face a long list of regulatory requirements (depending on the state) that call for strong efforts to meet compliance. Schools stress the importance of privacy but Google does not always guarantee it.
Cyber bullying. Statistics show that about half of young people have experienced some form of cyber bullying, and 10 to 20 percent experience it regularly. Google Apps for Edu can unfortunately be another avenue for students to bully one another – a problem that is already a challenge for many schools. Schools therefore must have a quick and easy way to recover emails and documents that might be used for reference in legal cases around bullying – even if they were deleted from Google.
Loss of control. IT managers give up the reins a bit when they move to the cloud through Google Apps for Edu. They may feel a loss of control since they no longer have to maintain on-premise physical hardware and keep track of bundles of software updates. Using cloud-to-cloud backup provides a fix for IT managers who want to ensure they have the last say on all the data in the cloud. Creating a second copy allows these professionals to rest assured that they will have any data they need, when they need it, without relying on Google
Taking data to the cloud can be a scary transition in any industry and the education sector is no different. As more and more schools implement Google Apps for Education, it is more important than ever to determine what supporting technologies are necessary to make the transition a smooth one. There are many resources available to newbies jumping into the world of Google Apps, including education technology associations, LinkedIn Groups or even the Google Education Summit. Cloud-to-cloud backup is just one of the many technologies that can help schools ensure that their data in the cloud is protected – and make students leave the “Google Ate My Homework” excuse at home.
Rob May is the CEO of Backupify, makers of Backupify for Education, a leading cloud-to-cloud backup solution allowing schools to retain control over their critical data, prevent data loss and adhere to data compliance requirements. Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org