By Simon Green.
In this internet driven world, using our personal interface, (smartphone, iPad, laptop and PC), we can now do everything from banking and shopping to administrative tasks and self services that not so long ago were done through shop fronts and offices around the world.
Organisations of all sizes are under pressure to deliver higher performance, efficiency and resilience at all levels while maintaining a growing presence in the digital landscape to remain competitive. Many successful organisations have embraced cloud services to streamline data management, manage information technology spend, and reduce escalating costs.
The education sector is no different; in fact, there is heavy pressure on schools to deliver dynamic online content, data protection and network security for students, teachers and parents around the clock.
Principals, parent’s committees, and school executives are concerned with the spiraling costs of upgrading and maintaining computer hardware in the education environment. How do leading educational providers meet infrastructure availability and performance expectations in the digital age?
To meet new challenges and keep costs under control, a new approach to the purchase and management of on-campus IT is required. Gone are the days when expensive equipment and storage is purchased with a three- to five-year return on investment. In this evolving landscape, the speed at which equipment and IT solutions becomes redundant means we need to think differently.
Schools leading the vanguard are embracing fully managed cloud services which bring key advantages. The consolidation and collaboration of environments across multiple departments, campuses or schools brings efficiencies in both time and money.
Cloud solutions enable individual schools to draw on services and support, with the flexibility to ramp up and down the level of services and support to meet varying demands throughout the year. Usage charges are paid in line with the ebb and flow of the operations, accounting for things like after hours use or school holidays.
Individual school IP and data security is maintained in a collaborative environment. Each school has its own firewall and security rules and by keeping data on shore in Australia, the issue of data sovereignty is addressed.
Today, so many schools are focussed on creating engaging online content and, of course, giving students access to secure, high speed internet. Regardless of whether you are a part of a big public or small private school, the cloud provides a flexible model that can be charged on a per student basis, negating unexpected charges or inflexible packages. This also gives the education sector the capability to build-in data protection, disaster recovery and security components that are compliant with current legislation (and can be adapted to meet forecasted requirements).
Cloud services are a 24×7 operation allowing schools to supply IT services to students at any time, 365 days per year, with the security that there is a technical team supporting this critical component of education, even when schools are closed for holidays.
Behind the scenes, most cloud services are housed and maintained in purpose-built high availability data centres, designed using redundant power and data centre infrastructure to guarantee uptime of the schools solution. Instead of having clunky, high cost computer rooms, with IT compatible air-conditioning and uninterruptable power on premise, clouds allow schools to reduce the need for ongoing infrastructure upgrades and maintenance costs. Using this virtual platform, school administrators have the ability to quickly and seamlessly expand IT infrastructure to meet the needs of growing and evolving facilities.
Understanding, in detail, the advantages of cloud services and how these benefit individual schools helps educators in decision-making. Key cloud computing advantages include:
- greater access to information outside of school hours and from a variety of data sources
- peace of mind that all security and data sovereignty requirements are met
- fully managed back-up and recovery of school data
- removal of equipment replacement, maintenance and environmental costs
- moving IT staff away from computer support and onto supporting core applications and projects for the school
- storage of students work in the cloud minimises the single point of failure on a pupil’s laptop
- devices connected to the internet can be shared and accessed with appropriate security
- reducing costs by sharing and collaboration of facilities across non-competing schools
- no upfront capital costs keeping CAPEX budgets for other necessary expenditure
- solutions can be tailored to meet budgets reflecting an operating expense on the balance sheet.
One of the major areas of concern when moving from a physical server environment onsite to a cloud solution is: what do we do with the existing infrastructure investment? When working with a provider that offers fully managed services and cloud services, existing infrastructure can be built into the new solution. Phasing the implementation from the existing environment to a full cloud solution over time enables schools to swap out current IT systems gradually inline with budgets and resources.
This phased solution may involve simply building new services and expanding into the cloud, then moving the existing infrastructure to the cloud provider’s data centre. The cloud provider maintains the environment and operating system, providing effective use of the school’s existing investments.
This hybrid solution will change based on the school’s individual requirements. The final solution should be designed to ensure that the most cost-effective services are implemented and must always take into account the school’s future needs and budgets.
So what is the future for education in a cloud environment? As like-minded schools come together and collaborate on curriculums and digital content, the demand to deliver cost effective solutions to meet increasing student requirements will undoubtedly grow. The costly storage and delivery of video content can be consolidated and delivered on demand across high-speed networks implemented specifically for the education sector.
Student records and personal information can be stored indefinitely in a secure and fully backed up storage environment. Students can use the cloud to store and back-up work, plus access their work from any location – this will be a huge factor for schools in regional areas or for students unable to physically attend school campuses. One of the big advantages will be the use of software as a service, allowing teachers and students to access applications on a per user basis, eliminating the need to purchase large multi user licenses in advance. Undoubtedly the cloud is opening up many possibilities for teachers and students alike.
Simon Green is the current COO of Interactive, Australia’s largest privately owned IT company. At Interactive, Simon is responsible for all customer facing functions, ensure Interactive is delivering innovative solutions to suit businesses of every size. He came to Interactive from NetApp, having spent 14 years leading and managing channel growth and new product development across the APAC region.
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