Cloud solutions continue to be integral to higher education IT, yet misconceptions persist among those who aren’t familiar with them. The cloud is too complex, for example, or staff won’t have the necessary skills to manage the new environment.
Debunking these concerns is important, because if IT departments aren’t able to get past them — or if they can’t help senior leaders get past them — their institutions may not be able to reap the many benefits of cloud computing.
A good first step is to understand those potential objections and recognize that, in the vast majority of cases, they can be resolved.
Identify Workloads That Are the Best Fit for Cloud
The very promise of the cloud can be, for some, a barrier to success. So much hype surrounds this technology that it can be challenging to cut through the rhetoric and understand how moving workloads to the cloud can support business objectives for a particular institution.
There are lots of reasons why a move to the cloud can deliver agility, scalability, cost savings and ease of management. But IT leaders must determine how those benefits translate to specific institutions, each with its own unique set of requirements, quirks and concerns.
IT leaders have not only a range of vendors to choose from, but also distinct types of environments (private, public and hybrid). Then, they must assess the data and systems that could potentially be moved to the cloud and determine which ones make the most sense to move. And all of that must happen before they even begin to tackle the intricacies of migration, staff training and data security.
“The cloud is far more complicated than most realize,” Shane Zide, principal for cloud client services for CDW, writes in “The Modern IT Infrastructure Insight Report.” “Deciding which workloads to move can be daunting, but getting it right makes a huge impact.”
Understand the Institutional Reasons to Move to Cloud
That complexity is one reason why many institutions seek help from trusted vendor partners, who can provide insight into options and best practices. Another smart move, for those who elect to go it alone, is to unify cloud storage under a single strategy, advises Nick Young, IT manager for cloud collaboration and productivity services at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.
“Thinking through pertinent questions and issues before you deploy a solution can help to make your solution a success for all stakeholders: campus users, IT staff and the institution,” he writes.
The potential variables of cloud environments are part of what make them beneficial, so it’s worth the effort to fully understand the range of possibilities. The University of North Texas adopted a hybrid cloud model, in part to reduce the costs associated with having several teams manage separate systems on campus.
Yet a cost model revealed some systems were not ready for the cloud and would actually be more costly there. Like other adoptees of hybrid solutions, UNT developed a custom strategy, running Salesforce, Canvas and similar applications in the cloud and keeping data analytics, enterprise resource planning and other applications in-house.
Other institutions intensify their move to the cloud to accomplish a specific objective. Cloud was always part of the picture at the Relay Graduate School of Education, but fast growth and a desire to solidify its disaster recovery and business continuity strategy called for the cloud to play a bigger role.
Don’t Overlook the Need to Prepare Staff for a New Skill Set
Relay’s experience also highlights another potential obstacle to cloud adoption: the effort that may be necessary to help staff make the transition. Relay’s senior director of technology products and support, Joaquin Alvarez, says the process isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. But it’s manageable, he says. Relay’s strategy was to recognize that there would be a transition period to work through and to minimize bumps through staff preparation and communication.
The potential for a skills gap is real, and it’s one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Institutions unable to align staff competencies with required skills, particularly in a department as critical as IT, may find themselves unable to achieve their objectives efficiently, innovation and digital transformation. In addition to developing a plan to address existing skills gaps, IT leaders should also be forward-looking. Many institutions find that, over time, their cloud adoption expands, and managers would be wise to anticipate the need for cloud experts may increase as well.
The beauty of the hype about cloud computing is that, in the end, it isn’t just hype. Crafting the right solution for your institution may take time, but the rewards are well worth it.
This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s UniversITy blog series.