May 05 2015

In Higher Ed, Cloud Service Benefits Outweigh the Concerns

As students and administrators seek anytime, anywhere access to the cloud, higher ed IT teams must face their fears and get to work.

I delved into this a bit in my March post, but it’s always worth repeating: Higher ed institutions that switch to the cloud are enabling faster connectivity and eventually saving on hardware upkeep costs.

More to the point, cloud services empower colleges and universities to shift focus from IT issues to teaching, research and, most important, students. Tech-happy administrators and students — some of the biggest drivers of cloud adoption — also benefit from increased storage and fast and flexible access from their phones, tablets and notebooks. The technology can even level the playing field between big-budget universities and smaller, private institutions by giving the latter access to previously unattainable resources.

Despite the myriad payoffs, not every college and university has made the transition.

For insights into cloud adoption and non-adoption within higher ed level, I reached out to Tim Murphy, a cloud client executive for CDW.

He explains that many slower-to-migrate institutions waited for cloud providers to mature — especially in the way of security — before jumping on the bandwagon. But for those still harboring doubts, Murphy offers some words of comfort: “Migrating to a cloud offering provides better security than ever before.”

And the reason, he says, is pretty simple, when you think about it.

“The average security engineer at a cloud service provider has a six-figure starting salary,” Murphy says. “What does that tell you? They are getting the best and the brightest.” On someone else’s budget, I might add.

Renewed Purpose, Shifting Focus

But even the top minds powering cloud solutions can’t replace in-house IT services. CDW’s recent Cloud 401 Report, which surveyed more than 1,200 IT professionals directly involved in cloud strategy, shows that 59 percent of respondents struggle with the complexity of migration and integration. That means higher ed staff need someone on hand to show them the way, then manage workloads.

“You are always going to need a person or administrator to monitor the cloud application and the cloud performance,” Murphy says. “IT is more instrumental than ever before.”

For colleges and universities about to make the shift toward cloud computing, Murphy also offers more advice: “Never overlook the importance of planning or preparing for migrating or integrating a cloud provider.”

CDW boasts 200 cloud offerings and 45 cloud partners, 35 of which Gartner defines as cloud-based services. Those options can be difficult to navigate without guidance and proper forethought.

“Really, sitting back and identifying the drivers behind migrating toward that cloud solution would be the first step,” Murphy says.

Once those drivers are fully understood, higher ed institutions can begin the journey toward customized cloud offerings that charge by consumption and eventually drive down expenses — especially during the months students are away from school.

“Sometimes it takes some time before you see some cost savings,” Murphy says. “However, the savings that can be seen immediately would be the lower amount of power and cooling in the data center.”

Still, savings are savings; when you’re talking about a change that benefits everyone, the pot gets even sweeter.

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.

kalawin jongpo/Thinkstock

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