Higher Ed IT Finds Help in the Cloud

Whether serving as an additional management resource, backup storage or disaster recovery tool, the cloud backs up higher ed IT.

As a sales director with CDW•G’s higher education team, I have the good fortune to travel throughout the country and speak with IT teams of all shapes and sizes, on equally diverse college campuses.

I truly love my job because it gives me the opportunity to see today’s students in full academic action. They are our future, and much of the work happening in our larger research institutions — everything from next-generation vehicles to looking for a cure for cancer — is being researched, developed and executed by students and faculty today.

Maybe I was too young to realize this when I was in college 20 years ago, that students 18, 19, 20 years old are the people who are truly changing lives for tomorrow. That's very exciting to be part of. And these institutions — whether two-year or four-year, community college or small private liberals arts college — they all seem to have the same demands on their IT teams right now.

While every IT department certainly has its unique challenges and goals, one constant is that higher ed IT teams are doing more, year in and year out, with increasingly fewer resources and smaller budget allocations. Within the last 12 to 18 months, I’ve started to see another constant develop: Colleges are embracing cloud computing!

As higher ed IT becomes adept at doing more with less, many IT leaders also are developing new ways in which the cloud can help them accomplish their goals in more cost-effective ways, whether through a public cloud, a private cloud or a hybrid cloud scenario.

In my territory (23 states west of the Mississippi River), we’re seeing frequent hybrid cloud deployments, a mix of on-premises and cloud-based solutions for everything from storage, enterprise resource planning, email and other critical services.

Econ 101

I work closely with members of CDW•G’s cloud practice group, our cloud client executives, one of whom is dedicated to education. We’re very fortunate for this team member’s expertise, because it means I can help our higher education customers individualize the cloud to meet their institution’s specific needs. Typically, that boils down to saving on the bottom line.

Economically, it makes a lot of sense to pay only for services you use versus maintaining everything on-premises, where IT must maintain a consistent hardware refresh cycle. While the need to purchase hardware doesn’t disappear entirely in a hybrid cloud setup, colleges can realize significant savings by tailoring their cloud-provided options to meet otherwise expensive hardware obligations.

Colleges and universities operate like a business, always tailoring and catering their services to meet their students’ needs, which typically begin with always on, always up and always fast technology. On campuses with an older data center, or older IT equipment, that speed is not always there. A cloud solution that's continuously updated on the partner side provides colleges with fast connectivity, greater storage and more agility to meet evolving student and institutional needs more rapidly.

The list of benefits goes on. Read more about the ways education and other industries are leveraging the cloud in CDW’s latest cloud survey.

This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s new UniversITy blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #UniversITy hashtag.

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Mar 18 2015