Why Does Higher Education Require Always-On Capabilities?

People understand the importance of hospital systems needing to be Highly Available. This is easy to explain since people’s LIVES depend on medical equipment and information being accessible at all times. Likewise, people understand the importance of banks needing High Availability (HA) — they expect access to their MONEY on-demand and want it protected. You don’t have to be a techie to quickly understand why hospitals and banks need to be constantly available. However, the need for HA at educational institutions is a bit more difficult to initially identify, because they are not often thought of as places where ‘mission-critical’ systems are a real requirement. I believe the story is told less, as it has an underwhelming shock factor– people’s lives are not at stake, nor is their money hanging in the balance. At LINBIT, we have many educational customers, including prestigious universities, and we wanted to get their perspective on why HA and why LINBIT.

Like most things in the digital age, education is becoming more personalized. Students expect an experience customized to them, while administrators are using technology to attract, understand, and collaborate with educators and students. Online presence is growing along with vulnerabilities to cyber criminals, data loss, and more. All of these concerns demand HA.

The current IT environment of higher education requires users to have 24/7 access across multiple devices. In parallel, university IT staff must maintain the security and availability of highly sensitive student and employee data. Under these pressing conditions, avoiding data loss has never been more critical for an institution.

 

Outside of personal data and traditional educational applications, many schools provide online courses or degrees. To operate successfully, they must provide a reliable learning environment. Unpredictable conditions — such as a server going down during an exam —  would not only be annoying, but unacceptable. Consider a standardized testing situation where the servers went down. Would the school give you a second chance to submit your exam? Chuck Payne at Performance Matters, one of LINBIT’s educational customers, said “For one particular application, HA was critical to allow teachers to administer online tests. These tests were written to a database that allowed the teacher to see student results within minutes. If the database crashed or transactions were lost, then hundreds of student results could also be lost.”

 

While schools need HA, they are often confined to budgetary restrictions. LINBIT HA (DRBD & Pacemaker) provides a more cost effective solution compared to SAN or NAS solutions. Dmitry Makovey of Athabasca University explains, “DRBD allowed us to resolve availability problems, without resorting to high-cost solutions.”

 

In addition to online learning, many schools have dispersed campuses that require data to be available and replicated across multiple sites. An article by EdTech described a community college in California with nine campuses, all of which need access to the databases. Jorge Mata, the CIO of the L.A. College District was quoted as saying: “class scheduling, transcripts, grades and other student functions” are considered ‘mission critical’.”  HA is an imperative for them.

My message is this: The next time you are thinking about mission critical services, you might want to think outside the box. In this digital age, HA is becoming a requirement everywhere. Whether HA is important indirectly or directly, at school or in a hospital, we can all agree it is of utmost importance. Any way you want to spin it, data loss or data inaccessibility costs. It costs money, reputation, and time. If these things are important to you and your company, you may need to invest in an enterprise-level, real-time HA solution. Regardless of your industry, LINBIT HA provides a rock solid solution that’s cost effective, high performing and reliable. Feel free to browse some of our case studies from our educational customers as well as other industries on our website, and never hesitate to call or message us with any questions/comments.

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