With the cloud, collaboration can happen anywhere, data centers can shrink exponentially, and storage is nearly limitless. And institutions of higher education are catching on to this.
According to “Destination Cloud: The Federal and SLED Cloud Journey,” a MeriTalk survey of IT professionals who work in government or higher education, 39 percent of applications at colleges today are cloud-based, but by 2021 that number could rise to 62 percent.
The survey also found that higher ed institutions are more likely than government agencies to integrate cloud into their IT strategies, and 81 percent of university respondents said they expect to increase their cloud spending in 2017.
But what exactly are universities using the cloud for?
Both the survey and Tom Dugas, director of security and special initiatives at Duquesne University, agree that most in higher ed are using the cloud for email services.
Dugas also points to collaboration suites like G Suite and Office 365 as areas where a lot of universities are doing some “cloud experimentation.”
“A lot of people have paved the path ahead of them, so it’s an easy win for folks,” says Dugas, who also serves as co-chair of EDUCAUSE’s cloud working group.
MeriTalk found that in higher ed, the applications of cloud services are most likely to be in email, web hosting, collaboration and business apps.
To a lesser degree, the survey found that some institutions are using the cloud for back-up services.
“The biggest area that universities could use the cloud for is in infrastructure or platform as a service, but some aren’t there yet,” says Dugas.
In terms of moving a data center into the cloud, Dugas says some universities have really jumped in (the University of Notre Dame is one example), but for the most part many are unsure how to accomplish this task — or if they have the resources to do it.
Dave Convery, a principal data center architect with CDW, told EdTech that server virtualization is a trend that is here to stay.
“Virtualization helps with standard workloads, when a user says, ‘I need a database server. I need a file server. I need an applications server,’ ” Convery told EdTech. “For the most part, virtualization helps with that because it allows the main IT department to provide a catalog of services to the customers.”
Though Dugas believes more universities are asking the right questions, he thinks those in higher ed need to be more aware of the particular benefits of the cloud that will work for them.
“In higher ed, our services are cyclical; we get a lot demand early in the year when we start classes, but during the summer most of our universities are slow,” says Dugas. “With the elasticity and scalability of cloud, we can scale up or down depending on the time of the year.”