Three in 10 schools said they had an off-campus data storage site that would be used as a backup in the event of a natural disaster, but only 16 percent of those backup sites were five miles from the campus. That means an earthquake or tornado could destroy those sites, leaving the institution without its most important computer data.

“…[Most] institutions would have to improvise in a widespread crisis that shut down primary IT operations and the immediately surrounding locale,” the ECAR researchers wrote.

Overcoming ingrained cultural attitudes toward collaboration, Morse said, could be the biggest hurdle in liberal arts colleges improving their disaster recovery systems.

“Research institutions are more about exchanges, while a liberal arts college has the main goal of teaching students. There’s not an external drive toward collaboration,” he said. “Liberal arts colleges tend to look internally when they’re solving problems … and we need to start working together if we’re going to prove our viability moving forward.”

Technologists from Pomona and Puget Sound said the schools’ partnership—which officially begins this summer—should serve as a model for similar-size campuses using the somewhat-outdated “iron mountain” approach to disaster recovery.

“I have had a vision about this for quite a long time, and I’m thrilled to see it become reality,” said Kenneth Pflueger, chief information officer at Pomona College. “It’s the one piece of our disaster recovery plan that was missing. I hope this might be a model for other small institutions.”


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