A technology supervisor at Sabine Parish School District in Louisiana got an alert on his phone around 4:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning letting him know there had been a surge in bandwidth on the school’s server. In addition to the odd day and time, it was also summer break. Something was wrong.
After a quick investigation, the staff discovered a ransomware attack on their servers. An anonymous hacker now held years’ worth of data—important documents, test schedules, and more—and was demanding money in exchange for its release.
A similar scenario played out in multiple Louisiana school districts this past summer, forcing Governor Edwards to declare a state of emergency. Louisiana’s emergency response was modeled after one Colorado took in 2018, and that ransomware cost the state $1.5 million to clean up. In 2019 alone, 500 schools across the country were the target of ransomware incidents.
If you search the internet, you’ll find all the typical advice for managing your data to help avoid such an attack: use strong passwords, make database backups, buy anti-virus software, avoid suspicious emails. However, one of the best ways to prevent a cyberattack on your school’s server is remarkably simple: don’t put your data there.
Cloud-based software has become the norm for every industry across the world, and it’s not by coincidence. The biggest reason is data security, but there are several other key advantages that explain why school bus transportation offices, in particular, have a lot to gain from Software as a Service (SaaS), and adapting to this new norm.
- Mobility — There are 3.3 billion smartphones in use today. There’s probably one in your pocket right now, or in your purse, or sitting faceup on your desk waiting for the next alert. Why shouldn’t your routing information be there too? Imagine looking up the location of a bus while you’re out of the office, or notifying a driver of a route change from your iPad. If you have cloud-based, touch-enabled routing software, it’s all possible.
- Communication — Think of all the phone calls you field from district staff each day. What bus does Suzie ride? Where is bus 110 right now? Can you print me a list of bus assignments for dismissal? Cloud-based software should come with unlimited users, all with customizable rights so, for example, school staff can have read-only access. Imagine how happy your principals would be to pull up routing information on their smartphones at release time.
- Security — Cloud storage providers offer baseline protections like redundancies, scheduled backups and two-way encryption, so you can rest easy knowing that your data is managed by professionals. This kind of IT overhead at the local level is not only difficult to achieve but can be very expensive to do right.
- Cost — With SaaS, you don’t have to invest in expensive IT overhead such as hardware, facilities, utilities and staff. Monthly subscriptions to something like Netflix make a lot more sense than buying every DVD for every show you want to watch. Rather than individual licenses for each user in the program, SaaS gives you unlimited access included with annual support. Cloud-based software is one more way you can be fiscally responsible to the public.
- Data Recovery — In the event that something does go awry—even if it’s something you changed in the database—using cloud-based recovery methods could mean the difference between being offline for a few hours versus a few weeks.
- Uptime — Since downtime is rare in cloud systems, you don’t have to spend time and money fixing issues related to losing access to your data. Think about what would happen if your school’s servers crashed in the middle of the morning rush. If you subscribed to a SaaS program, you wouldn’t even notice, since your data should back up to the next redundant server.
- Automatic Updates — Maybe it’s a new feature you’ve been waiting for. Maybe it’s an additional map layer that wasn’t there before. Maybe it’s functionality you hadn’t even thought of, but now that it’s here, you wonder how you ever lived without it. Whatever it is, you don’t have to run overnight processes or tediously update every computer yourself. With a SaaS model, you have the continuous delivery of the latest and greatest version of the software every time you log in.
- All-in-One Database — Because the cloud offers infinite scalability, the days of separate databases are over. The best routing systems on the market today are built with multiple areas (field trips, fleet maintenance, GPS location, etc.) all inside one database without the need to purchase additional licenses. And you’re not forced to make database copies just to be able to plan for next year or run what-if scenarios.
These are just some of the key benefits to having a software subscription instead of the outdated license model. Cyberattacks are a problem that, unfortunately, will not be going away, and by most accounts are only getting worse. SaaS can help you be better positioned to prepare for them or hopefully avoid them, and that starts with educating yourself on its value, including what exactly “Software as a Service” means.
It’s not paying a vendor to handle your routing operation remotely. That’s a consulting service—worth paying for when you need it, but different than SaaS. And it shouldn’t just be a web-interface for your existing licensed program. That will give you mobile access, yes, but it’s a far cry from all the other advantages of SaaS explained above.
If any of this is important or interesting to you, you can learn more in our on-demand webinar, or you can contact Tyler Technologies and we’d be happy to consult with you about your individual needs.