Top tips for avoiding and recovering from server failure

  • Educational establishments need to have specific measures in place to enable a quick recovery if a server fails – namely, back-up and restore strategies
  • Schools and colleges are coming under increasing pressure to protect their data
  • With tightening budgetary constraints, a well thought out strategy is important in managing IT costs, while preparing for a major IT incident

For educational establishments, the loss of data due to IT failure can prove to be costly, time-consuming, disruptive and unpleasant.

A community college in Leicester spent three weeks attempting to retrieve information, after a major hardware failure resulted in the permanent loss of data. Antiquated servers, which had hit their storage limits, were eventually blamed.

Schools and colleges are becoming increasing reliant on technology – from the posting of results online, to video lectures and online assignment submissions – and older IT infrastructures are struggling to keep up with more modern teaching methods.

Meanwhile, these institutions are coming under increasing pressure to protect their data. Without safeguards, critical information, such as student work, can potentially be permanently lost, as computers can, and do, go wrong.

Ensuring a recovery

Detailed plans therefore need to be put in place, and worst-case scenarios played out, to mitigate future disaster, no matter how tight the budget constraints may be.

However, before any plan is implemented, a detailed risk assessment is required to identify IT services and data critical to continued operations. Once complete, disaster planning and strategies should then be set up.

Backing up data

Back-up strategies are the first critical part of this. Backing up all data is probably not an option available to everyone, due to expense, so careful consideration must be taken to ensure all critical data is backed up from the main server – while keeping a close eye on whether the back-up device will comfortably hold all of the intended data.

Large amounts of data could be backed up overnight, and setting storage data limits for users can help alleviate space issues, pointing out what can and can’t be backed up.

Importance of restoration

But it’s only worth backing up data if you have the ability to restore the information should anything untoward happen. This information should be housed on a separate machine from the main server, or on tapes which need to be changed regularly, as they can become less reliable after a couple of months of use.

Restoration strategies are only likely to be successful, though, if staff are aware of procedures and the correct training is carried out. Roles and responsibilities, too, should be clearly laid out in your plans.

Once all disaster recovery plans and strategies are complete, they are ready to be exercised. It is only then that you will know whether the data can be recovered as planned.

Some schools and colleges may ultimately face the costly task of having to upgrade their computer hardware, after discovering that their machines are slow, unreliable and not fit for purpose. Putting new servers in place may seem like an unwanted expense, but it could see management, maintenance and electricity costs all significantly reduced in the future, and ensure the risk of server failure is minimised.