Payroll and HR: The Dangers of a Single Technology Basket


Have you been told to not put all your eggs in one basket? Of course you have. We all know what it means. And yet where technology is concerned, there are a lot of organizations completely dependent on a single basket so to speak. If that basket should fall, every egg inside it breaks.

A good example is the Washington School Information Processing Cooperative (WSIPC) and the 300 school districts it serves in the Northwest. The WSIPC’s servers went down late on a Friday afternoon during a data center upgrade. When school district workers returned to their desks on Monday morning, the servers were still down. So was the Skyward application they all depend on.

Yes, It’s All down

Various news reports say that the server problem essentially made the WSIPC network completely useless. That’s because the school districts use a single package to handle human resource data, district finances (including payroll), and teacher and student records. A lot of school districts have put all their technology eggs in a single Skyward basket.

Monday morning was greeted by unhappiness among district teachers who had to keep track of student data in spreadsheets. Parents, who would normally have access to data on their children’s daily activities had no such access while the system was down. As for payroll, that was in jeopardy as well.

The good news is that a number of the school district reported they had a backup system in place to ensure teachers, administrators, and support staff all got paid on time. But let us assume those backup systems involve the same kinds of manually completed spreadsheets teachers were using. All that payroll data would eventually have to be entered into the Skyward system. Can you say, ‘plenty of potential for errors?’

System Redundancy Should Be Obvious

Hopefully everything turned out all right for the WSIPC, the school districts who use Skyward, and the millions of students and parents who rely on the system for information. The lesson to be learned here is one of redundancy. In simple terms, the need for system redundancy should be obvious to network administrators.

BenefitMall, a national business payroll processing firm based in Dallas, says redundancy is a critical part of their business. Their online payroll solutions are both protected and backed up to guarantee optimal uptime under nearly any conditions. They are not alone. Almost every major corporation in the U.S. that relies on cloud technology has redundancy systems in place.

Having said all that, it is still not a good idea to put all your technology eggs in a single basket. It may have been better for the school districts served by WSIPC to separate financial software from HR and teacher records. It would certainly have been wise for WSIPC to have Skyward and its associated data installed on multiple servers in different data centers for redundancy purposes.

Learning the Hard Way

Situations like this are great learning tools for the rest of us. One of the most important lessons here is to not put a company in a situation of having to learn the hard way. Everything in the world of technology should be backed up in multiple locations. Mission-critical applications and databases should be spread out across multiple data centers to ensure uptime. The list goes on and on.

What would you do if your company’s financial software went down over the weekend and was still down Monday morning? You would probably be hoping and praying technicians got things up and running again in time for you to get paid.

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