May 23 2017

Is the Answer to K–12 Cost Savings in the Cloud?

IT professionals looking to cut costs and level the playing field may need to look beyond onsite servers.

In these uncertain financial times, K–12 school districts are always on the lookout for opportunities to save money and to subsequently invest the savings into other areas at school. One idea that is becoming increasingly popular is the use of cloud computing — technology that enables faster connectivity and cheaper hardware upkeep costs.

Cloud computing also offers users more storage space and improved access to data, especially for students’ laptops and tablets, many of which are now being issued by K–12 districts in one-to-one technology implementations. It levels the playing field between districts with deep financial pockets and those pinching their pennies. But despite the benefits, a sizeable percentage of IT professionals in K–12 have cold feet over making the switch.

It’s time for K–12 admins to warm up to the idea. According to a report released last summer by Gartner, many IT professionals in charge of infrastructure and operations have a difficult time understanding how cloud computing works, and consequently struggle to develop strategies to reap the technology’s benefits. Some IT leaders also aren’t sure how to initiate cloud computing projects, and may miss some opportunities to capitalize on the technology.

The solutions posited by Gartner include having IT leaders identify what IT services they want to offer or procure ahead of time, and to document any internal processes that will be affected by offering cloud-based services. Gartner also suggested that these leaders map applications and workloads to those services.

CDW’s recent Cloud 401 Report, which surveyed more than 1,200 IT professionals involved with cloud computing, also stressed the importance of planning and preparation for migration and integration. The report found that, outside of security and other concerns, the complexity of migration and integration was a struggle for 59 percent of the survey’s respondents.

Is moving to the cloud worth it? The respondents to the CDW report seemed to think so. One respondent, a CIO for a K–12 public school district, said cloud computing “has enabled us to invest more money back in the business.” But what about security concerns with the cloud? Those considering a migration worry about data breaches, malware, insecure APIs and denial of service attacks from cloud-based services.

Cloud-based technology such as Google Admin Console allows IT professionals, such as Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Valerie Truesdale, to disable missing or stolen Chromebooks, or to block certain apps and extensions from being used.

The cloud-based management lets Truesdale block apps and extensions and configure settings such as single sign-on, which prevents students from logging on to sites or using apps that are not vetted for school work.

“While we can customize screens for each child, we can also enforce policies across the entire learning environment,” Truesdale told EdTech for an article. CDW has 200 cloud offerings and 45 cloud partners, 35 of which Gartner defines as cloud-based services. With some advanced planning, K–12 school districts can reap the benefits and apply the cost savings elsewhere.

This article is part of the "Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology" series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.

[title]Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology

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