Saline Area Schools in Saline, Mich., became an early adopter of cloud technologies after signing on with Google Apps for Education in 2008.
Since then, Google Apps has saved the district $172,000 per year. Heather Kellstrom, director of instructional technology for Saline Area Schools, attributes the savings primarily to reducing administration and server, storage, backup and licensing costs. The district has reinvested that money in IT infrastructure and educational applications. “With the combination of instructional and information technology, we are now more closely aligned to the strategic framework of the school district than ever before,” she says.
Along with the Google Software as a Service cloud applications, the district plans to use Infrastructure as a Service offerings for disaster recovery, network monitoring and a Voice over IP system.
“We’re not quite there yet with IaaS, but we’re headed in that direction, especially with the VoIP system, which we plan to deploy this summer,” Kellstrom says.
Mark Bowker, a senior analyst for the Enterprise Strategy Group, adds that while cloud services aren’t always the least expensive, the operational efficiencies they deliver can be worth the investment.
“Cost savings are important, but there’s also a lot to be said for the way the cloud lets IT departments easily provision IT services to end users,” he says. “Organizations can scale services up or down as they need them, which makes them more agile.”
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Big Savings, Better Focus
Gary Brantley, CIO for DeKalb County School District near Atlanta, says the district saves $300,000 annually on licensing fees alone by deploying Microsoft Office 365 for email. “We’ve also saved on two engineers, plus we’ve been able to take some of that money and focus on educational applications and infrastructure,” he says.
The district’s 113,000 users will be fully migrated to Office 365 for email and productivity applications by October. It has also integrated its virtual desktop infrastructure with the storage service offered in Office 365.
“We can take the 25 gigabytes of free storage per user we get from Office 365 and map it to the VDI environment,” Brantley says. That enables the district to reduce storage costs and use that money for other IT projects.
In Search of Cloud Architects
As organizations move applications to the cloud, IT staff will spend less time on infrastructure management and more on system design and deciding which applications make sense for a cloud provider.
The percentage of IT managers who say their organization uses SaaS applications
SOURCE: “2014 Public Cloud Computing Trends” (Enterprise Strategy Group, March 2014 )
According to a recent Enterprise Strategy Group survey on IT hiring trends, 35 percent of IT managers say they’ll add IT architecture and planning positions in the next year.
“Anyone with experience in architecting applications and delivering them through the cloud will be in high demand,” says Bowker. “Organizations also need people who understand the economics of cloud computing as well as how to negotiate contracts and service-level agreements.”
Of course, there may be a skills shortage as organizations vie for the available talent and take the next 12 to 18 months to retrain their staff. The survey also reports that 24 percent of IT managers expect to have problems finding people to fill those positions in the next year.