The Data Equation to Higher Ed’s Tectonic Shifts


This blog is part of an industry series on unstructured data management. Today we cover unstructured data management trends in higher education. Read the previous posts on life sciences and healthcare, government and auto industries.

Universities and colleges are facing an array of challenges that have been escalating since the 2020 pandemic: business and financial models are under pressure due to backlash about affordability and high student debt; demand for new types of non-traditional programs for revenue generation and workforce development; mental health programs for students are lacking, and more.

Hanover Research discusses some of these issues in its 2023 Trends in Higher Education: “Many elements of the traditional higher education experience are undergoing major shifts as institutions seek to establish financial sustainability. College and university leaders are being called to examine new ways of promoting their brand while offering flexible, career-forward programming. They must also think creatively and strategically to find new sources of income to offset operating expenses and declining tuition revenue. And, as pandemic-related stressors continue to ripple through daily life, it’s imperative to offer robust, inclusive support services that can help students thrive and persist.”

Deloitte’s higher education outlook touched on the reality of ongoing crisis preparedness: “The ability of a campus to both prepare for and respond to a crisis is dependent on its physical infrastructure as well as human resources and leadership. Yet, with few notable exceptions, higher education institutions have failed to modernize these resources.”

In these transitional times, higher education institutions increasingly rely upon data to understand shifting demand and consumption patterns, communicate with and influence students and community stakeholders, and develop new programs.

Common higher ed unstructured data management challenges

Universities and colleges store a broad collection of different unstructured data types including student records, health and financial data, HR data, research data, online lecture content (video and audio) and surveillance footage. Institutions have a long history of keeping all this unstructured data. Yet today, there’s a dire need to better manage data for cost efficiencies and to reuse it for analytics, research and marketing. Institutions may struggle to classify and categorize the petabytes of data they’re storing for all their departments, faculty and researchers. Decades of storing and replicating petabytes of data on high performance, high-cost primary storage systems, instead of lower-cost alternatives for data as it ages, has been detrimental to IT budgets.

Data protection is another primary consideration for higher education. A major West Coast research university had accumulated petabytes of data on its Network Attached Storage (NAS). Protecting this data by keeping a data replication copy on a mirrored environment was too expensive. As a result, most of the NAS data was not replicated, risking data loss. Using a data management solution, the university realized that more than 60% of the data on the NAS had been untouched for over a year. The IT organization determined that keeping a copy in the cloud rather than on premises would be 70% less expensive, leading them to safely replicate data to Google Cloud.

Unstructured data management for higher education

Duquesne University Leverages Komprise to Archive Cold Data from Komprise on Vimeo.

Komprise has been working with large public research universities since 2016. Our customers, including prestigious Ivy League schools, have decades of data across silos–of which most has not been archived or deleted. This comes at high costs and complexity! As the leading provider of unstructured data management and mobility, we want to fix this so universities can manage data more intelligently in the hybrid cloud.

Using Komprise for an analysis-first approach to unstructured data management, our education customers have achieved remarkable savings while delivering enhanced data services for departments:

  • Cut backup and storage costs by 70% by transparently tiering cold data to object storage, using our patented TMT;
  • Reduce storage costs from $1.1M to $680K/year;
  • Gained visibility into every department’s data and tailored policies by department;
  • Enabled researchers to precisely search and find their own data with automated tagging and the Komprise Global File Index;
  • Moved data with zero access disruption to users;
  • Provided an easy tool for researchers to search, find and help manage their own data;
  • Adopted cloud storage for modernization and cost savings, per this Wasabi and Komprise case study for Ivy League.

Departmental-Archiving-WP-THUMB-2Departmental Showback reports are another great way for IT to save while giving data owners more control over their own data assets. There are tools to identify the capacity used on the storage devices, but they don’t work at the data level. Companies find that simply enforcing limits or threatening departments with quotas and budgets are not effective in controlling data sprawl. Komprise helps storage leaders align with departments on data management so that everyone wins, as detailed in this paper: Getting Departments to Care about Storage Savings.

We have visibility on our data that we’ve never had before. Komprise lets us partner with the business to get the data into the best location for them. It shows what data hasn’t been touched in six months or year. It saves them money and saves us money.—Ivy League enterprise storage manager.

Much of an institution’s budget is consumed by faculty and administration salaries and facility management. Less than 3% is typically allocated to technology investment and operations. It’s not a stretch to assume that nearly half of a university’s IT budget goes toward data storage and backups. Yet higher education depends upon smart data management to flex and grow with the pressures of funding, recruitment and meeting the needs of a diverse student population.

Read more about Komprise Intelligent Data Management for higher education.

Komprise For Higher Ed: Interview with Steve DeGroat, from Komprise on Vimeo.

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