Is your school's paper trail damaging your organisation?


Wednesday, 01 July, 2020

Is your school's paper trail damaging your organisation?

Just as poor digital security in education poses a risk, systems that rely on poorly secured offline practices can potentially leave your school exposed. Paper floating around your administrative office is hard to track and manage — meaning the information it contains is easily exploited.

High-profile cyber-attacks get attention. But the fact is, any breach of personal or sensitive data can have significant and lasting repercussions on your institution’s reputation and therefore its ability to attract funding, employees and students.

Secure, cloud technologies mean that plugging ‘digital gaps’ in your school’s systems is easier than ever before. It makes sense for IT professionals in the education sector to update everyday, paper-based practices — like faxing — to close security loopholes.

Your employees are an asset and a risk

Many educational organisations still use a lot of paper in the workplace, like with government departments, other educational institutions, or for the purpose of sending financial statements and invoices. Not only is physical document management more wasteful, costly and inefficient — it creates a security headache when it comes to protecting, managing, and disposing of sensitive data. For instance, anyone standing near a fax machine can easily pick up a document and read its contents.

If faxing is still considered a critical workflow within your institution, that means that business-critical information is being shared via fax, which means it’s a vulnerability.

Incoming and outgoing faxes contain information that may:

  • Be sensitive, private and confidential in nature.
  • Contain institutional IP or be commercial-in-confidence.
  • Cause embarrassment or reputational damage if made public.

Confidential documents — such as student assessment data, invoices, purchase orders, and employee CVs need to be shared in order to keep stakeholders in the loop and satisfy the needs of suppliers, but this frequently requires a high volume of manual handling.

It’s easy to write-off the risk of a data breach as being low. However, just consider the potential impact on your school if confidential information was released to the public, resulting in widespread, negative press coverage.

Such incidents need not be malicious to be damaging. One indiscreet employee who saw something they shouldn’t have, and tells a friend, is all it takes.

IT is accountable for institutional data protection

Whether you’re in charge of IT decision-making for a K-12 school, university, or training organisation, you have a responsibility to ensure your organisation can protect private data. Many institutions also need to pay attention to information management in order to meet quality standards and legislative requirements.

This is on top of priorities such as transitioning away from legacy systems, reducing IT overheads, and improving the flexibility and efficiency of IT systems. All while drawing from tight budgets, and trying to demonstrate a return on investment.

The people you deal with — whether its government bodies, teachers, funders, or suppliers — expect you to take appropriate measures to mitigate risks.

When it comes to cybersecurity risks, the actions of employees cause the majority of breaches. It’s one of the reasons that building awareness of good cyber habits within your organisation is so vital, such as not using the same password for everything.

When it comes to copious amounts of unsecured paperwork, trying to control human behaviour makes less sense — especially when the school’s core operational systems are going online. Schools can achieve more by looking for better ways to manage their paper-based processes.

For example, cloud faxing solutions enable organisations to leverage secure online technologies, including mobile apps, to send and receive faxes via email — eliminating the need for a physical fax machine and piles of paper.

Digitise paper-based workflows to make security gains

Obviously, some workflows rely on paper. It might be important to have multi-function printers or photocopies available for educators that need quick access to resources in-class. Not everything can be shared on screens.

An entirely paperless school may be wishful thinking, but some processes can be digitised effectively and quickly. Let’s explore faxing for example.

Many faxed document exchanges involve communicating with external businesses, government organisations, and other educational institutions. It has traditionally been a preferred way to quickly capture and share documents that require a signature.

And of course, faxing is also a two-way exchange. Many facilities maintain a fax line so they can receive important faxes from other organisations that prefer, or insist on, this method of communication.

A more modern solution like cloud faxing allows schools to continue each and every one of these practices — just more securely. You still have a fax number when you move to electronic faxes, but you simply transmit faxes via an email. The best solutions include digital signatures and secure online storage that makes faxed documents easy to search and audit.

Updating your school’s systems to electronic faxing means no more paper, full visibility of faxes sent and received, and a centralised means to control the security and compliance requirements of faxed documents.

Why your IT investment should start with everyday systems

Just like businesses, organisations like schools and universities are feeling the pressure to digitally transform — to embrace new models for delivering value, harness data and digital tools, and enable new ways of working (and learning).

With education delivery more digital than ever before, cybersecurity is rightly front of mind for many education leaders and IT professionals in the education sector. Schools are also being asked to ‘do more with less’.

In that context, plugging ‘digital gaps’ by modernising paper-based systems may not seem like the ideal way to spend finite IT budgets. Many schools will be thinking more broadly about how to design and implement organisation-wide security and data management approaches.

The downside is, such initiatives take time and energy to embed effectively — in fact, they must be ongoing efforts if the outcomes are to be sustainable. Conversely, switching to cloud faxing is straightforward and will deliver almost immediate benefits.

Simplifying day-to-day practices that can be quickly and inexpensively modernised is a wise move because it allows your school to:

  • Consolidate and centralise faxing with automated workflows
  • Reduce the need to manage physical machinery and fax servers
  • Cultivate a more digitally savvy culture with an easy-to-use tool
  • Free up IT team’s skills and resources for broad-scale initiatives

Enacting a quick, reliable solution to an everyday risk ensures you can keep faxing, and keep your eye on bigger structural changes to enhance the security of your systems.

Leverage cloud faxing for better control

Data protection, privacy, and compliance should be high on the list of priorities for IT decision-makers, in K-12 schools through to the higher education sector. Yet limited budgets and competing demands means that many schools’ IT infrastructure and internal processes are not robust enough.

If the way your school manages important documents involves piles of unsecured paper, your data security depends on your employees’ behaviour (which are susceptible to errors, indifference, and ill-intent). Human apathy and poor systems are a dangerous combination.

Education providers have a responsibility to protect data — but it’s also in their own best interests. Suffering a data or privacy breach can hamper their ability to operate, meet legal and compliance obligations, and maintain the trust of the community.

Schools with a paper trail can ensure they minimise their risk by embracing simple solutions like cloud faxing. Investing in a secure and highly auditable cloud faxing solution lets you close a needless security loophole, streamline communication processes, and reduce the burden on IT.

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