Modern school communication with secure data

Whether it's sick notes, open school days or photos from the class – in all three cases, tailor-made communication between teachers and parents is required. In order to make them safe, simple and positive in both directions while protecting the privacy of all parties involved, the Austrian start-up company SchoolFox developed a new messenger app for smartphones and computers.

SchoolFox is one of the most important providers of this area in the DACH region. The company cooperates with school authorities and individual teachers as well as with entire local authorities – as recently with the largest federal state in the Alpine Republic around Vienna, Lower Austria. The market penetration in some regions is quite impressive. A few months after the start of cooperation with Lower Austria, the start-up is already in daily use at 45 percent of the schools in the federal state.

Since SchoolFox has been able to build a good reputation as a reliable IT partner for the education system through reliable and trusting cooperation over the last few years, the start-up is aware of its special responsibility. Not least because the personal data of minors, i.e. students, have been particularly protected since the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), SchoolFox decided to migrate its customer data to the cloud provider Exoscale.

As a subsidiary of the digitalisation company A1 Digital, which is part of Telekom A1 Austria, Exoscale meets several SchoolFox requirements. Due to the legal provisions of the GDPR, there is a strong demand for a regional storage provider within the European Union by the communications start-up and its customers, which mainly consist of schools and public offices. Since the start-up attaches the highest priority to the secure handling of (student) data, it has made the use of specially certified IT infrastructure an absolute prerequisite for long-term cooperation with public institutions.

Clearly aware of this decision, SchoolFox planned to carry out a re-platforming process with Exoscale, which began with an initial discussion with Exoscale's Chief Technical Officer, Pierre-Yves Ritschard. A particular challenge of re-platforming was that the previous SchoolFox cloud provider offered several “out-of-the-box services”, such as “Platform-as-a-service”, which required some tools and services to be recreated for use with Exoscale. In addition to protecting customer data, the cost issue was also important for the decision to re-platform, i.e. to move from one cloud to another. Especially for data-intensive companies such as SchoolFox, migration costs, maintenance costs and ongoing server costs remain relatively low in relation to the amount of data – which, of course, also benefits SchoolFox's customers.

During the six-month planning period, it quickly became clear that the biggest challenge would be to complete the migration to the new infrastructure without service restrictions for the users. To minimise these restrictions, SchoolFox chose the Christmas holidays for data migration. The already existing data of the educational start-up was migrated to the servers of the A1 subsidiary in close communication with the remote support of Exoscale. The more than 4,000 schools in the German-speaking area that use the communication app therefore barely noticed the re-platforming process.

As many schools are still on the starting line of digitisation, SchoolFox has many questions about data protection, indicating a fundamental competitive advantage over established communication services such as WhatsApp, the use of which in formal communication between schools and parents or children is certainly not GDPR-compliant. This strong focus on data security in the education sector shows the great market potential that still exists here. Especially in Germany, the argument that SchoolFox's customer data is stored via exoscale in European data centres is an extremely powerful one. In addition, the awareness and trustworthiness of the A1 brand are among the major plus points that, from SchoolFox's point of view, speak in favour of collaboration with Exoscale.

By distributing the data across several countries of the European Union, Exoscale also proves that they are easily able to implement different national regulations. For the education communications start-up, Exoscale, as a cloud service from A1 Digital, therefore offers a very good alternative to American cloud providers. This clears the way for SchoolFox to focus on the essentials – its core business. Thanks to the translation function integrated into the Messenger app, this also includes a veritable contribution to the integration of foreign-speaking parents into school operations. At the touch of a button, they can translate the entire communication with the teachers into more than 40 languages and are therefore fully integrated into the school's activities.

“Exoscale offers us the best conditions to achieve our core goal: The best possible and close integration of pupils, parents and teachers into the school system through a tailor-made, trusting communication with each other. This is based on Exoscale's storage of cloud data in European data centres, which complies with the DSGVO and allows us to ensure that the privacy of all parties is protected.”

David Schalkhammer, Managing Director of SchoolFox