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Blackboard’s database flown to the cloud

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In April, Blackboard went black for a few days during scheduled system updates. The data that comprises Blackboard is now stored and accessed in a new place, and its interface is a little bit faster. Chief information officer Darin Lee explained that the change was a relocation of the host database.

“It was hosted and managed centrally here in a collaboration between the teaching and learning department, education technology services, and information technology services,” said Lee. “Essentially what we’ve done is taken the servers from here and put them in Blackboard’s data centre in Calgary.”

Now, the company that builds and sells Blackboard will host the system, rather than a third party host.

“So it’s totally secure, all the data is maintained in Canada,” he said.

Blackboard Learn has already been operating this way for some time and it was just a matter of getting UFV up to speed. Lee noted that 80 per cent of their clients are managed this way.

Nicolle Bourget, project manager, information technology services (ITS), said that no downsides have been noted so far.

“It was moved over and was live as of the first [of May], and I met with the team on Tuesday for a lessons learned meeting, and they’ve identified that the service seems seamless. It’s a faster connection, and they’re getting great support in the back. So we’ve kept the project open and will keep it open for another couple of weeks just in case anything arises.”

Lee elaborated on the benefits that may be noticeable to students.

“Speed, and theoretically what else would be noticeable, is that while we used to have maintenance windows where we take the system offline, but that will happen in the middle of the night now. So theoretically less downtime,” he said. “It also provides us with the future ability to upgrade to newer versions faster from a technical perspective.”

The IT team had a mission critical task at hand to make the change happen while the system was offline. The only real option was for them to backup the database onto a hard drive and then take that hard drive to Calgary where Blackboard Learn then transformed the data into their database version and moved it over.

“The challenge with that was, we had a very tight window to do it so we ended up having to have somebody take the hard drive and fly it,” Lee said. “We had to actually get it to the data centre before a certain time of the day in order for them to trigger the work to be done, otherwise it would have been delayed for another 18 hours.”

“So that was our key thing; we did a lot of prep work up front to reduce the amount of data and shrink the amount of encryption time so we could make that.”

Lee also spoke on the topic of what future changes UFV’s IT team has planned.

“At the moment, no major changes expected in the future for Blackboard. This was a pretty big one and was an exciting project for us in terms of IT strategy and moving things to the Cloud. Just working to try to improve the student experience when it comes to technology.”

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