How Ucas keeps downtime away with disaster recovery strategies

Business Continuity is often perceived as a concept only followed by the biggest of big business, but the reality is that the need and corresponding services increasingly underpin everyday life. An invisible safety net making sure important everyday events continue – no matter what is crucial for all verticals. And education is no exception.

In this guest blogpost, Mike Osborne, school governor & head of business continuity at Phoenix IT talks about the importance of business continuity for Ucas.

During the last few weeks, despite the fact that students now have to pay much higher fees for studying, we have seen more people than ever applying for higher education. An extra 30,000 new places were created this year. This has made the competitive battle between universities even more intense as they fight to secure the best students, especially over the clearing period.

For both — the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) and universities — the clearing and application periods are a time when the availability and function of their operations are most visible not just to students and their parents but also the Government and the Media.

In 2011, both universities and students experienced massive problems with the Ucas online system during the clearing and application periods. This year, it’s more important than ever both for Ucas, the universities and students that there are no system disruptions so students can get the offers they need in a timely fashion and universities can fill their spaces.

Until 20th September, when the clearing vacancy search closed, Ucas was put to the test as thousands of students scrambled to get an offer through the clearing system. According to Ucas last year, on the first weekend after A-level results were announced some 20,000 applicants were placed at a university or college through the Clearing system. Considering the critical nature of this period, it’s essential that the admission agency (Ucas) and universities have ICT and Call Centre resources operating effectively, and without interruptions affecting operations.

ICT and call centre systems are vulnerable to a variety of service disruptions, ranging from severe Disasters (e.g. fire) to mild (e.g. short-term software glitches, power or communications loss). Universities and Ucas are now taking out robust ICT contingency plans such as workplace business continuity and Cloud based DRaaS (disaster recovery as a service), to ensure that information processing systems and student data, critical to the university, are maintained and protected against relevant threats and that the organisation has the ability to recover systems in a timely and controlled manner.

With many mid-market companies also seeing the potential of Disaster Recovery using Cloud technology, it’s not surprising that universities and Ucas are spending more time, money and effort on implementing DRaaS plans. DR as a Service allows data to be stored securely offsite and if the right service is selected, also provide near instantaneous system and network recovery.

When added to Call Centre recovery services as part of a Business Continuity Plan, DRaaS offers a convenient and cost effective solution.

With government and Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) imposing fines on institutions for over-recruitment and with student data including unique research projects increasing, it is more essential than ever for universities and Ucas to keep system downtime to a minimum.  

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