What Schools Need to Know About FERPA and the Cloud


The focus on technology in education is getting laptops and tablets in the hands of as many students as possible

Technology is making real inroads in education. But behind the scenes, educational institutions have always presented a significant information-technology challenge. The infrastructure issues that schools and school systems face daily are nearly as complicated as those faced by the medical industry.

Not only do educational institutions need to support all of those laptops and tablets, and every other staff workstation in its organization – they also have to protect the educational and financial data of students according to the strict regulations of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). It’s a tall order and one that places a heavy burden on school districts and private primary and secondary schools already reeling from numerous budgetary demands. It’s a small wonder that the cost-effectiveness of cloud-based environments has a natural appeal to these organizations.

Does FERPA permit the use of a commercial, public cloud?

While FERPA exists to “protect the privacy of student education records” (according to the Family Policy Compliance Office in 2018), FERPA stops short of mandating a specific type of information infrastructure used for this task. From the FAQs of the Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) of the U.S. Department of Education: “FERPA does not prohibit the use of cloud computing solutions for the purpose of hosting education records; rather, FERPA requires states to use reasonable methods to ensure the security of their information technology (IT) solutions.”

Other parts of the federal government are embracing cloud computing for its most sensitive applications – the recent awarding of the JEDI Department of Defense public cloud contract comes to mind. Clearly, the government has accepted the utility and cost savings of cloud computing at the highest levels. The privacy demands of FERPA, like those of its health care analog HIPAA, are well within the capabilities of today’s robust cloud-based IT infrastructures.

CloudHesive manages the shared security model for cloud environments

The security of every cloud computing infrastructure is based on a shared security model. As potentially heartburn-inducing as that concept may seem, it is very simple. When working with Cloudhesive, the cloud itself is maintained by Amazon Web Services (AWS), the world’s leading cloud provider. AWS is responsible for the security of the cloud. The security of what runs and lives IN the cloud – the operating system, software, customer data, access and identity management, encryption, and much more – is the customer’s responsibility.

Keeping antacid consumption to a bare minimum is what CloudHesive does. We help our customers secure their data and points of access, manage security protocols and associated record-keeping, and make sure protected systems are able to pass compliance audits required by FedRAMP, HIPAA, PCI, SOC2, and, of course, FERPA. We provide what is known as Managed Security Services, and, like other aspects of cloud computing, these services are here to save customers money.

“We provide what is known as Managed Security Services and, like other aspects
of cloud computing, these are here to save customers money.”

The security requirements of the cloud are a moving target. Regulatory protocols may change in reaction to new legislation or due to emerging threats or new technologies. Maintaining the integrity of your cloud requires specialized knowledge and a team familiar with the latest techniques and threats. CloudHesive’s team is ready and in place, obviating the need for lengthy and costly talent searches or training programs. We get our education customers compliant and up and running in a fraction of the time and cost.

See how CloudHesive can put the cloud to work for your school system faster and with less drama than you’ve thought possible. Like many of our clients, you’ll wonder why you didn’t migrate over to the cloud sooner. Spend less time worrying about FERPA compliance and the integrity of your records, and more time supporting the technology on which your teachers and students depend. Learn more by getting in touch with CloudHesive at 800-860-2040 or through our online contact form.

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