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Keeping the disaster out of disaster recovery

ECM technology provides institutions of higher education with the ability to get back on their feet fast, mitigating the wallop a disaster can deliver.
University Business, June 2013

Tornados in Oklahoma and Texas. Wild fires in California and Colorado. Hurricanes in Louisiana and tropical storms along the upper East Coast. Not only do these disasters exert a terrible toll on people and on their personal lives, but they also wreak havoc on all manner and sizes of businesses, institutions of higher education among them.

But disruptive events don’t have to be large-scale to have a catastrophic effect. Workplace floods, such as the one the University of Oklahoma experienced as a result of a burst pipe, can cause tremendous damage, particularly when the institution relies on a paper rather than electronic system. In such cases, the loss of essential documents, records and archived material—some of which may be impossible to replace—can have a tremendous negative impact on the university, the staff and, in particular, on the students.

Paper systems create unnecessary vulnerability, not only to flooding, fire, and other forms of damage, but to theft as well. Enterprise content management technology (ECM) circumvents these concerns, creating electronic records that are impervious to disaster or pilfering. Although this is only one reason why more colleges and universities are moving to ECM solutions, the disaster recovery advantages are clearly attractive.

According to Dr. Rhonda Dean-Kyncl, assistant dean for academic services at the University of Oklahoma, College of Arts & Sciences, this played a part in her institution’s decision to transition from a paper to electronic records system. When confronted with the reality of how destructive plumbing-gone-wild could be, the course was set.

"We realized for our students’ access, our advising efficiency, and our disaster recovery, we needed to make changes,” she says.

ECM software creates a digital image of paper records, capturing and preserving these in an unalterable format, ensuring record integrity. Among other capabilities, ECM applications also manage electronic content—ranging from Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, to Oulook emails, and digital audio or video files—from the same interface, providing a secure storage and recovery solution for both paper and electronic materials. ECM technology assures data backup and recovery, while easily maintaining information offsite.

The peace of mind this brings is immeasurable. For example, Monica Baccardax, IT project manager for the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University Medical School (Canada), says the realization that their ECM system would serve as a backup in case their paper documents were destroyed was a relief to her team.

Hopefully, a disaster will never strike. But if it does, ECM technology enables institutions to bounce back far more quickly than a paper system would, protecting and retrieving the information departments need to get back to the work at hand; a compelling reason why this technology should play a role in any college’s or university’s disaster recovery plan.