Your hard drive crashed – I don’t care

Your hard drive crashed – I don’t care

Yeah, I’m trying to get your attention and yes I do care – just not personal data. This post is about how schools should (and hopefully do) handle data. As a school and being in IT, I do care about data. I care a lot about it. I find it essential, but I don’t care about all data equally – that is just stupid. So read on if and let me know if you agree or disagree with what I have to say.

What is important

Here is what is happening at our school. We have issued 13″ MacBook Pros to our staff. We use a student information system, we use Atlas Rubicon for curriculum needs and we are a Google Apps for Education school.

That data is important to me. That is what we need for transitioning old staff to new staff. To keeping accurate attendance, grades, running transcripts and reports. Making sure that our curriculum is aligned vertically and horizontally. Yep – that stuff is important that is what we need. That info is backed up locally and in the cloud and with the exception of Google, we pay good money for this to happen and to protect this data. This is what is important to me and the school I work for.

What isn’t important

Now to the other side. As a school, I don’t care what’s on your hard drive. I just don’t because if that data is lost, then it isn’t going to hurt the school one bit. It will inconvenience the teacher – for sure – but classes will not be canceled, the curriculum will still be taught, students will still be assessed in a timely and professional manner and reports will be sent out on time. Here is quick excerpt from our user agreement that makes our stance quite clear.

I am empathetic to the teacher who loses data because I’ve been there and it isn’t fun. Honestly though – as a professional – I don’t care. Your music, photos, personal files and movies don’t interest me or the school for that matter, nor should they because they have nothing to do with the day-to-day operations. It really doesn’t. You should be backing up your data anyway – which is something Tony and I have written about. You can read about it here and here.

It’s not your computer

We issue laptops to people at our school but the staff treat it as their own personal laptop. I’ve seen teachers torrent media, fill up the hard drive with music and photos and install their own personal programs that have nothing to do with school. I’m not saying all people do it, but many have and when the computer dies, their data dies with it and they are frustrated, upset and generally unhappy but you see the school doesn’t care about that data. The school’s important data is already protected and backed up. The school cares about the computer being repaired and getting it back into the hands of a staff member so they can do their work and that teachers can do their job at a high level and that’s it. So if you’ve lost 75 GB of music – sorry for that, but you have classes and students who need your attention.

Issuing external hard drives?

Man this is such a bad idea. I know some schools do this, but they would be better off giving their money to charity. At least it will be going to a good cause. These hard drives are a money pit. Teachers will lose them, have them stolen or the hard drives will simply just fail. Let me tell you good reader, hard drives fail – it is not a matter of if but a matter of when.

If schools issue external hard drives to teachers, then when they fail, they need to go out and purchase new hard drives for those people. While they are not terribly expensive, when you expand that cost to include a staff of 100 or more, it gets pretty pricey.

Then when they leave what do you do? Does the school reclaim an old hard drive that will fail – only to give it to a new staff member? No, they usually just give it to the staff member leaving. Terrible – it’s just money down the drain.

The only reason a school would do this is to appease the staff and make them happy. That is it. It doesn’t truly benefit any aspect of the teaching and learning process. It also has a bad side effect of reinforcing that the school computer they are using is, in fact, for their personal use. I can see the though bubbles now Well, they gave me this computer and a hard drive, I might as well add all my media to it. I mean they’re letting me do it right? It is just a bad practice and needs to go away.

The cloud

Ahh the cloud. If your school has Google Apps, Office 365 or Zoho, then your staff most likely has some sort of cloud storage ability. As I mentioned earlier – we have Google Apps and they give us 30GB of storage which is a lot!

For teachers, this is where they should be storing important documents such as quizzes, units, etc. It should also be on Atlas, but certainly here too. That way if there computer fizzles out all they need is another computer with Internet and they can go right on working. I’ve seen this in practice and man it makes me happy. Another bonus feature is that you can transfer data from one account to another as well! That is much easier than doing it from one computer to another.

If your school doesn’t have this, then get your own. Google Drive – free – 25GB. Microsoft One Drive – Free – 30GB and there are plenty more out there. This is where those important personal files need to go – online not just your hard drive.

If you keep everything on your computer’s hard drive and you don’t back up, then make sure you have a mirror handy. When it fails, then you know who to look in the eye and blame – not the school you work for or the company that made the hard drive.

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