By Ezra Brook
April 20, 2012

A computer software crash on Monday April 16, 2012 is complicating work for teachers and students in the Spakane School District. And the crash caused grades, student curriculum and educational materials to disappear.

I can’t begin to understand why all this critical learning data was not backed up at the first place? Common sense tells us that such data must have been backed up. After all, the data is critical for the education process. As I write this post, employees and external helpers are frantically trying to restore the lost data from hard copies.

KREM2 News reports that “According to a note sent to all Spokane School District employees, there was a data corruption of the Blackboard system on Monday evening. Blackboard is a data sharing network used by educators. They lost student grades, shared curriculum; everything on the server.”

The School District officials pointed out that proper “technology services standard backup procedures were not followed to protect this system when it was upgraded last July”.

I believe that the big mistake probably is that the Spokane School District (District 81) wasn’t saving its data to a local drive;  and also the online service provider did not have a secondary mirrored copy, perhaps geographically dispersed away from the primary backup. The school district did put all their data online; and as we can see from this instance, online cloud backup systems fail, too. The big question is that why the service provider did not have a secondary copy of the data? Why didn’t the school district’s IT department make an audit list? Why didn’t they initially request for service provider to present a service level agreement (SLA)? Perhaps, the IT department has a copy of the SLA, but did anyone read it? If they did, the error in procedure would have been caught earlier.

It looks like that this crash has turn out to be a big headache to the IT department as they are manually uploading information from hard copies onto the server. I don’t know how long it will take to finally complete the upload, but I can guess that it will be very expensive. At the end of this frantic exercise, the district would have spent so much money that they probably never planned for. I hope that the district will tabulate the cost and publish how much this mistake had cost them as “lessons learnt”.

Have a look at this 1:50 video:

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