First Leap English

Adopting Synology NAS not only makes sharing and syncing of teaching materials faster, but it also makes backing up teaching and student data more convenient, which helps First Leap English devote more time and energy to enhancing teaching quality, developing and innovating teaching products and services, and providing better scientific teaching solutions. YAN-SEN LI, First Leap IT representative

The Company

First Leap English is a subsidiary of TAL Education Group (formerly Xueersi Education), which focuses on providing all-English, multidisciplinary teaching for kids aged from 2 to 15. Since its founding in 2008, First Leap Education has been committed to independent R&D, innovative teaching, and providing scientific teaching solutions for kids. Covering 15 school years with a complete curriculum system, all courses are based on content and language integrated learning (CLIL) curriculum. The headquarters is located in Beijing, and there are more than 100 learning centers in over 30 cities with over 30,000 students and 2,000 employees.

The Challenge

First Leap has established learning centers in over 30 cities, including Beijing, Nanjing, Suzhou, Chongqing, Qingdao, Shenyang, Hefei, Changzhou, Kunming, Wuhan, Nanchang, Guangzhou, Inner Mongolia, Changsha, etc, resulting in a need to access a large amount of data on a daily basis. To meet the need of distributing and syncing teaching materials to its nationwide learning centers, the concern over safety, risks, confidentiality, and timeliness when uploading and downloading teaching materials on the public cloud has to be addressed. First Leap is faced with the needs to share and play teaching videos among classrooms in each learning center, share data between the headquaters and each learning center within the internal IT system, and back up data on the cloud drives for employees in the headquarters and learning centers.

The Solution

Originally, the data was transferred to the headquarters' storage server through manual copy with hard drives. It's inefficient, and there's a concern over privacy breach and account security when uploading and downloading data on the public cloud. Responding to this concern, First Leap Education purchased Synology NAS to ensure data safety and solve the problem of distributing and syncing teaching materials during teaching process.

First, they purchased two Synology DS3617xs to ensure high-availability and redundancy of on-premises data through High Availability Manager, thereby guaranteeing data safety.

Second, they purchased 300 Synology DS1517+ (8GB) for local branches to realize remote data synchronization with DS3617xs located at the headquarters, escaping the "information island" and realizing efficient data and teaching management.
The topological graph below demonstrates Synology's private cloud solution that First Leap Education is currently using:

With Synology NAS, the following problems can be dealt with:

Ensuring high-level data security and confidentiality

The safety of teaching materials is a top priority for First Leap, and there has been a concern about storing and sharing data on the originally used public cloud. Synology NAS, on the contrary, provides a centralized data storage solution, thereby addressing the security concerns commonly found on a public cloud. That's the major reason why First Leap chose Synology NAS to centralize data management.

One of the solutions Synology provided was to join two Synology DS3617xs into a high-availability cluster with one acting as active server and the other as the passive standby server. The hot standby failover mechanism allows the active server to handle all data storage, requests, and services, while everything is continuously replicated to the passive server, the advantage of which is to prevent data loss in case of unforeseen disasters. To learning centers, as data plays a vital role, safety and reliability are always the deciding factors in their purchase decisions.

Syncing and sharing teaching materials

There is a principle in data management — letting machines do whatever they're capable of. If data such as teaching materials and students contacts is updated using traditionally manual methods, sometimes it's difficult to avoid information asymmetry and declining teaching quality. It's even better to implement synchronization to make data sharing more efficient and smoother across mutually isolated departments in different locations. This is when Synology Cloud Station ShareSync comes into play.

As for practical applications, the Synology NAS in Beijing headquarters are main servers connected to all the clients set up in its branches, thus seamlessly syncing all the teaching data, and tackling the core issues in data management — distributing teaching materials and syncing data. For instance,

In the past, teaching materials were distributed via e-mail, manual hard drive copy, and public cloud. However, under certain circumstances, such as data loss, stolen accounts, it often consumes a large amount of time for communication and confirmation. The newly revised teaching materials for young learners in Jan. 2018 can now be accessible to every branch by saving the file in a specific folder on the main servers, realizing synchronization between the main servers and the clients, thereby providing a high-speed channel for data transfer.

Likewise, Cloud ShareSync can also realize "bottom-up" backup and sync of outstanding teaching experiences, cases, and student contacts in the branches. Critical data such as student contacts can be protected with SSL encryption, ensuring secure connection.

Whether it is top-down or bottom-up, First Leap collects and distributes data from its branches with the main servers in the headquarters, making sure all the data is backed up safe and sound in the remote NAS, thus realizing efficient distribution and synchronization of teaching materials.

Cloud Station Backup helps upload and back up all the important data stored on the employees' and instructors' PCs to NAS serving as a centralized backup destination, without worrying about data scattered everywhere and inconsistent versions of teaching videos and materials.

File history saves up to 32 copies of each file with intuitive timeline navigation and specific point-in-time data restoration.

Enhancing teaching efficiency.

Imagine the traditional teaching process when a teacher wants a particular teaching material, what s/he can do is get it from another teacher via phone or e-mail on QQ, or get it copied with hard drives. In this case study, Synology resolved the time-consuming and inefficient problems with two simple steps.

The first step is account distribution and management.

With Synology DSM operating system, it's very simple to assign accounts for each employee and set permissions accordingly.

In the meantime, user groups can be set up and access permissions to shared folders can be granted based on different classes, subjects, or even locations.

The second step is distribution and synchronization of teaching materials.

With the shared folder, only accounts and user groups with permission can have access to that folder. For teachers, simply by uploading it to the shared folder, other teachers in the same group can access, view, and download the file.

After creating a shared folder, all the teaching data can be securely stored on NAS. All teachers have to do is devote more efforts to enhancing teaching quality instead of wasting time on copying data.

Recommended Models

  • DS3617xs × 2
  • DS1517+ × 300

Recommended Features

  • Forming a high-availability cluster using two Synology DS3617xs provides a hot standby failover mechanism, ensuring data safety
  • Cloud ShareSync allows data backup and synchronization between the headquarters and its branches
  • Cloud Station Backup centrally uploads and backs up important data stored on employees’ and instructors’ PCs to NAS
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