In recent years, cloud computing has gained momentum among K–12 school districts, following expectations, as personalized learning, connected classrooms and one-to-one device programs add a significant strain to school networks.
Districts integrating cloud computing are able to tackle broadband and network capacity issues — one of the top three focus points for K–12 IT professionals — as well as enable educational benefits, including expanding and reinvigorating STEM learning programs.
Moving to a hybrid cloud model can help schools achieve a slew of other significant advantages, including the ability to take advantage of existing IT resources, quickly scale out new resources, maintain a higher level of control over and visibility, and tie various systems together for a seamless end-user experience.
Yet the transition can be a big one, requiring leaders to plan for shifts in culture, licensing, processes, system compatibility and a host of other issues.
When considering a move to a hybrid cloud model, IT decision-makers should think through several considerations and determine what impact they may have on their own schools.
1. Evaluate Cost Savings Unique to Your School District
Every school district is different, a fact that renders broad proclamations such as “the cloud saves districts money” almost meaningless. While it is true that some districts end up paying less when they start delivering IT resources via a cloud model, some end up paying more.
Pushing resources to the public cloud will certainly reduce on-premises infrastructure costs, but these costs are sometimes replaced or even exceeded by new networking expenses, different administrative burdens and a proliferation of shadow IT.
Putting significant resources into the public cloud can stretch a school’s WAN infrastructure, and some schools have difficulty coming up with the funds necessary for upgrades that will provide the required level of network redundancy.
2. Understand the Effects of Cloud Control and Management
Schools that take advantage of cloud platform services run a risk of locking themselves into a single provider — thus removing one of the main potential benefits (flexibility) of a move to the cloud.
Additionally, other types of cloud services are typically architected quite differently depending on the vendor, making it difficult or even impossible to “forklift” infrastructure back out of the public cloud.
Some schools have specific performance or availability requirements, which may make it difficult to find a public cloud solution that meets their standards.
3. Keep Learning Software Licensing Agreements in Mind
Managing software licenses for traditional software can create significant management hurdles for schools. Even cloud software licenses can create compliance issues for schools that don’t properly manage and monitor their environments.
But trying to navigate licensing and cost restrictions while migrating applications to the public cloud can quickly move the needle from “headache” to “nightmare.”
Schools attempting to push their on-premises software out to the cloud while maintaining compliance with vendor licensing agreements may want to consult with a third-party expert to ensure they do not inadvertently violate rules and open themselves up to audits and fines.
4. Develop Skills to Support the New IT Environment
For those who have never undertaken a major move to the cloud, it might at first seem simple. After all, the thinking goes, the cloud is meant to simplify life for IT and end users: removing management burdens, creating instant scalability and adding flexibility.
However, managing a hybrid cloud environment requires a different skill set from managing traditional on-premises infrastructure. If an IT team’s skills lie primarily in the latter department, that can result in a rocky transition.
Some cloud use cases have matured to the point where they really are fairly simple. These include Software as a Service migrations of infrastructure applications, which are so well documented and well understood that they’re widely considered to be slam dunks.
Moving certain applications to the cloud, however, can be a more stressful experience, with an accompanying level of risk, complexity and expense that might cause some schools to hesitate.
5. Prepare Staff for the Cultural Shifts of Cloud Computing
For some schools, student data privacy regulations may prohibit the placement of certain workloads into the public cloud.
At other schools, administrators may simply be uncomfortable with the idea of placing resources outside the school’s security perimeter — whether these fears are legitimate or not.
Finally, cultural concerns within the IT department may slow down schools’ journeys to the cloud. Some schools' data centers are staffed by the same workers who have “kept the lights on” for years or decades, and a move to the cloud will force system administrators into the new roles of cloud service managers and brokers.
For some, these new roles are either unappealing or simply don’t align with their skill sets.
Learn more about the potential benefits of incorporating the cloud into your infrastructure in the CDW white paper "Hybrid Clouds Deliver the Best of Both Worlds."