Database Type, Servers and Security

The Database

Faculty Success uses Postgres as its database. However, you are not required to work with the data in this form, as the data are stored in a quite complex schema to accommodate customizations for each client. When you are working with your data, you can download it in comma-delimited files or work with it using web services. In either case, this provides you full access to all of your data at any time, in a simplified view that makes it easier to work with and utilize.

Servers and Security

Watermark takes security extremely seriously. A breach of your campus's information would be catastrophic and we take all measures necessary to ensure that doesn't happen. We provide superior security in four areas to ensure that your information is always safe and secure.

  • Data Centers
  • Our Servers
  • Faculty Success
  • Watermark

Security of our Data Centers

In cases where it is in our best interest to work with a vendor, we have a strong preference for large, well-established vendors. Our data partners feature mature security processes and controls due to their vast resources and experience. This results in a higher level of care and concern for the safety and privacy of your information.

Faculty Success collects and stores data in partnership with Amazon Web Services.

The Details

  • All Faculty Success servers are AWS EC2 servers that have the capability of being started in any of the AWS data centers in the contiguous United States
  • Primary data center is US-EAST-1
  • 5 minute rolling disaster-proof backups to S3 and US-WEST-1

Security of our Servers

Likewise, we take the security of our servers very seriously. Server builds are automated (also known as “Infrastructure as Code”) to ensure consistency across machines.

Faculty Success maintains a metrics and monitoring infrastructure that covers our server hardware, operating systems and application infrastructure, ensuring consistent availability and performance. Automatic notifications of problems are sent to our IT staff at all times.

The Details

  • All data encrypted both at rest and in transit and protected with firewalls, hardened server environments and more
  • IT staff automatically notified of any problem
  • Third party monitoring of all core applications, with call-outs to critical staff in the event of an outage or performance degradation

Security of Faculty Success

Faculty Success includes many core protections that are continually monitored and upgraded to protect your data from potential hackers, such as an extensive permissions checking framework, at multiple levels, to validate a user's authorization and access. Additionally, standards-based encryption and digital signatures are used appropriately to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of data when handled by unprivileged users.

All deployments of new code are sent through development, alpha, beta, and production environments where extensive automated tests are conducted, including unit and regression tests. Four continuous build and testing environments are maintained for the current software release and for the current development release. Automated processes are used for all deployments in all server environments to ensure reproducibility. Best practices for writing secure software are followed, including checks for code injection, cross-site scripting, buffer overflows and data validation.

The Details

  • Changes made in Faculty Success are logged by user, date, time and content
  • Session timeouts to prevent unauthorized users
  • Secure SSL-encrypted connection for all data channels

Security of Watermark

At Watermark, we take your data seriously, which is why we take a number of steps to ensure the safety of your data and the data of all of our clients.

In addition, your university owns all data stored within Faculty Success, and Watermark cannot sell, give away, disseminate in any fashion, give out statistics on, or give out meta-data about your data. You can download all of your data at any time and as often as you desire. This assures that you always have a full copy of all of your data. Faculty Success is also compliant with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. As your data processor, Watermark is also compliant with EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The Details

  • All staff trained annually in the latest security awareness, upgrades and procedures
  • All staff computers outfitted with antivirus software and encrypted drives
  • Full technology insurance coverage in the event of a data breach
  • All discontinued hard drives certified as destroyed

Backups and Disaster Recovery

Faculty Success has a warm standby site always running in case a disaster takes place at the primary datacenter. If this were to happen, we can failover to this standby site in about 15 minutes to a read-only version of Faculty Success, losing no more than five minutes worth of data. During this period, we will make the determination as to whether we will be able to restore service to the primary datacenter or whether the standby datacenter will become the interim primary datacenter. In the first case, we will restore full read-write service to your data and no data will have been lost. In the latter case, we will institute read-write service, losing five minutes or less of data, as this is the synchronization delay between the primary and standby datacenters' servers.

In addition to these server security measures, Faculty Success also performs secure nightly backups to five geographically dispersed locations. In addition to these backups, you are able to download a full copy of all your data at any time, as often as you like; you can even put a secure process in place to do this on an automated basis. Please see Data Backups for more information on this latter option.

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