Data breaches in higher education can be devastating because the implications are enormous. Every aspect of a college or university is impacted — its reputation, operations and financial situation.
According to the Ponemon Institute’s Cost of Data Breach Report, data breaches in higher education cost an average of $3.9 million in 2020. The good news is that higher education is no longer one of the hardest hit industries. In 2015, it was the second hardest hit after healthcare, but by 2020, it dropped to the eighth hardest hit.
Why the drop? College and university campuses are centers of innovation in so many areas including IT. Wenatchee Valley College is a prime example.
When a nearby college fell victim to a massive ransomware attack, Steve Garcia, Information Security Officer at Wenatchee Valley College, took a hard look his college’s disaster recovery (DR) strategy.
“We compared our DR strategy to theirs and considered it a learning opportunity,” he said. “We discovered their strategy wasn’t air gapped, so we made changes to our strategy and instituted best practices.”
Wenatchee Valley College had been using Backup Exec and Dell storage. Garcia said the solutions met the college’s needs at the time of deployment, but they weren’t future proof and wouldn’t support an eventual move to the cloud.
“Backup Exec became a huge source of stress and anxiety — we couldn’t go a month without opening a support case,” Garcia said.
“Backup was slow, and recovery from Dell storage was unreliable, putting data in threz of our most critical systems at risk.”
The systems support student registration, staff records, payroll, finance, a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint and OneDrive.
“These systems keep the college running, so we can’t risk data loss,” Garcia said. “In addition to impacting students and faculty, data loss would jeopardize our compliance with regulatory requirements including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS).”
Wenatchee Valley College replaced the legacy solutions with Veeam® Backup & Replication™ and ExaGrid. They’ve become the cornerstone of the college’s DR strategy by protecting against ransomware, recovering data 300% faster, supporting compliance with FERPA and PCI-DSS, and setting the course for cloud data management.
“I can say with 100% confidence that we have a reliable data protection system in place,” Garcia said. “If we’re attacked by ransomware, we’ll be able to recover all of our data and resume normal operations.”
Veeam backs up 24 TB across 125 virtual machines (VMs) to ExaGrid onpremises and off-premises. Veeam encrypts backups and ExaGrid’s Retention Time-Lock prevents hackers from deleting them.
“I worked with engineers at Veeam and ExaGrid to make sure our process is air gapped,” Garcia said. “The integration between the two solutions is amazing— not only for ransomware protection but also for daily data protection and management. Veeam SureBackup® verifies the recoverability of backups on the ExaGrid Landing Zone and Instant VM Recovery® recovers 300% faster. Veeam and ExaGrid support our compliance with FERPA and PCI-DSS.”
Veeam and ExaGrid also support the college’s move to the cloud. Before migrating to Microsoft Office 365, Wenatchee Valley College deployed Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365 to protect historical data.
“Microsoft makes it clear it doesn’t provide comprehensive backup, but Veeam does,” Garcia said. “Backup is always reliable, and recovery is always fast. You can’t beat Veeam Explorer for Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint and OneDrive for granular recovery.”
Cloud support doesn’t stop there. Soon Veeam will send backup copies of production VMs to whatever cloud the college chooses, enabling the IT team to follow the 3-2-1 Rule for the first time. In the meantime, the college is focusing on getting through COVID-19.
“Ransomware attacks in higher education have escalated during the pandemic, so we’re grateful Veeam and ExaGrid are the cornerstone of our DR strategy,” Garcia said. “They protect our VDI, enabling students and faculty to access their information so they can work remotely. Now that I’ve used Veeam and ExaGrid for a while I recommend them to everyone in higher education because they deliver solid, reliable protection you can count on.”
Wenatchee Valley College serves an area covering 10,000 square miles in the state of Washington. Established in 1939, the college serves more than 7,000 students, employs nearly 500 faculty and contributes approximately $20 million to the economy each year.
Protecting data at a college or university is daunting. Ransomware attacks are on the rise in higher education, and there’s no end in sight. When a nearby college fell victim to ransomware and lost valuable data, the IT team at Wenatchee Valley College looked at the situation as a learning opportunity and instituted best practices for DR.