The conversation happening around the topic of cloud computing is complex. How much risk are higher education institutions willing to take on? What data or applications should move to the cloud first? What security protocols will change as a result?
Higher education CIOs are tasked with leading their colleges into the next generation of computing while also juggling a massive increase in bandwidth demand, changes in classroom technology and many other technology challenges. Historically, higher education has pushed technology forward in terms of research and innovation but lagged behind in IT services. Will the cloud change this?
In many technology arenas, higher education exhibits two behaviors. As regards networking and high-performance computing, higher education enjoys a reputation as an innovator. The world’s first computers were developed at Harvard, MIT, the University of Manchester, and the University of Pennsylvania, and the first four nodes of the Arpanet were located at UCLA, Stanford Research Institute, UC Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah. Research universities, often in concert with the National Science Foundation, continue to lead the way in networking (NSFnet, Vbns, Internet2, NLR) and in supercomputing, where 25 of the top 100 supercomputers are operated at universities. On the other hand, higher education is a relative late adopter in the applications and IT support arena. This relates chiefly to the unique policy environment that regulates the acquisition, storage, and dissemination of higher education information (FERPA, HIPAA, GLB, and others) and also to a unique perspective that arises from viewing one’s organization as perpetual.
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At the 2012 EDUCAUSE conference, EdTech spoke with several CIOs about their cloud strategies. Their answers were revealing and thought provoking. Here are some of our favorite quotes:
“We have to keep focusing on why we would want to move to the cloud. And the two drivers are economics — can we deliver functionality cheaper? — and the other is increased functionality.” — Dennis Cromwell, Indiana University
“Our students, who we know are going to leave us in a few years, are now creating this tremendous portfolio of digital information that they want to take with them. One of the topics that we are wrestling with now is how we can provide that long term. We’ve chosen to go to the cloud for a lot of these services, but right now our services don’t port with our students when they graduate. How can we help them transfer whatever they have at Wake Forest beyond their life at Wake Forest?” — Nancy Crouch, Wake Forest University
“It really frees up the campus IT team — from watching blinking lights and kicking around boxes into racks — and allows them to engage more with the learning community, whether those are faculty, students or others involved with instruction design.
“In ten years’ time, I have no doubt that this move towards the cloud will be completely second nature to everybody. In fact, nobody will even have this conversation, because the conversions will have essentially taken place.” — Lev Govnick, Case Western Reserve University
Read more about return on investment for cloud computing in higher education.