How Budget-Strapped Colleges Can Access the Cloud for Free

Free cloud email benefits both IT departments and students.

In Hillsboro, Ohio, Southern State Community College made its first foray into the cloud for email and online storage because those options were free.

Three years ago, the college’s student email server was reaching the end of its life. Students complained about network storage and limited space (only 150 megabytes), and files could not be accessed off-campus, IT manager Bob Snellman says.

When a committee of staff and faculty members discussed the issues, everyone agreed to standardize on Microsoft’s Live@EDU cloud service. Students now have Outlook web-based email, 7GB of online storage, online versions of Microsoft Office applications and instant-messaging software — all for free.

Students now have Outlook web-based email, 7GB of online storage, online versions of Microsoft Office applications and instant-messaging software — all for free.

“It was just a win-win situation — a no-brainer — to switch,” Snellman says. He estimates the move saved $10,000 because it eliminated the need to purchase a new server and email software licenses. “If you add the online storage, I can’t imagine what the cost would have been.”

Snellman, who migrated students in to Live@EDU in 2010, no longer needs to maintain and troubleshoot an email server. Overall, he is happy with security and uptime and has had no major issues with the cloud service.

“They’re basically offering enterprise-level security, which would have cost us a ton of money if we did it ourselves,” he says. “The only downside is that, if there is an issue, it is offsite and out of my control. I can’t take a look at it and fix it myself. But their technicians resolve problems within 48 hours.”

Because Microsoft is replacing Live@EDU with its new Office 365 cloud offering, Snellman will have to migrate his users to Office 365 next August. In the meantime, the college is also preparing to build a private cloud to streamline the management and delivery of applications and other IT services.

Snellman believes colleges will increasingly adopt cloud services, and many will take a hybrid approach, mixing their own private clouds with public-cloud services. The cost savings and improved efficiencies are too great to pass up.

“More often than not, it is cheaper to outsource technologies,” Snellman says. “To say that cloud computing is the wave of the future is an understatement. It is more like cloud computing is now.”

According to Microsoft, thousands of educational institutions in more than 100 countries around the world use Live@edu services, accounting for tens of millions of users.

<p>iStockphoto/Thinkstock</p>
Jan 23 2013

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