Mar 13 2024

Cloud Technologies Drive Change at K–12 Schools

Slow at first to adopt the technology, IT leaders are now leaning into the cloud for the financial and security benefits.

As technology becomes smarter and proliferates in schools, many K–12 IT leaders are turning to the cloud. Known for its storage and processing capabilities, cloud technology allows schools to operate more efficiently and implement more advanced hardware and software solutions.

Adoption is expected to grow. Technavio predicts that K–12 education’s cloud computing market will have increased by $1.74 billion by 2026. Schools are learning how much the cloud has to offer when it comes to modernizing their processes and infrastructure. They’re choosing cloud technologies for computing as well as online and physical security.

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Making the Switch to an On-Premises Cloud Model

When trying to finance another network operations center upgrade, Rick Roberts, the executive director of educational technology services at Grossmont Union High School District in California, turned his attention to the cloud.

“I followed closely the evolution of on-premises cloud solutions versus full cloud, and it seemed like it might be worth investigating,” Roberts recalls. Previously, his district’s team had always underestimated the cost of networking upgrades. When the time for additional refreshes came around, he decided to ask the team at HPE, the district’s long-time vendor, about migrating to HPE Greenlake.

“Everything is driven by the outcome we want, and the outcome we want is the best technology interaction between the teachers and the students in the classrooms,” he says. “Everything has to work all the time, and it has to be secure all the time.”

RELATED: K–12 schools bet cloud providers can better secure their data.

Using Greenlake for computing and storage, his IT team is now better equipped to manage the network, rather than spending its time on “the day-to-day minutia of managing servers,” Roberts says.

“We have much more control over the quality of service at each of the school sites,” he says. “The staff can be redirected to work activities that are more in line with ensuring that the connection is always there for the classroom.”

Backing Up K–12 Data in the Cloud to Avoid Disaster

An important component of maintaining a connection to online learning is a strong backup and recovery strategy for lost data in the event of a cyberattack or disaster. Kevin Gavin, chief marketing officer at Backblaze, notes that K–12 was initially slow to adopt cloud-based backup solutions but that there has been a huge increase in schools using this technology.

“We’re seeing a great transition in their mindset, their acceptance of the problem and the realization that the problem is not that hard to solve if you get the right vendors,” Gavin says.

Kari Rivas, senior product marketing manager at Backblaze, adds that K–12 IT leaders are also gaining a better understanding of what type of data they can and should back up. “Now, there’s a lot more emphasis on backing up Microsoft 365 data and Google Workspace data,” she says. “They’re understanding that anywhere they have data — and there’s a lot of data sprawl across all these systems — needs to be backed up through an alternative method.”

Rick Roberts
The Greenlake model really opens the door to far more services and far better service. Everything is there, functional, all the time.”

Rick Roberts Executive Director of Educational Technology Services, Grossmont Union High School District

Solutions like those offered by Backblaze can keep teaching and learning on pace in the event of an incident.

“Ransomware is one form of disaster. There are plenty of other forms of disaster,” Rivas says. “We’re seeing a lot more natural disasters, and if a school district is located in Tornado Alley or earthquake central, it can easily have its data systems wiped out.”

Storing data in the cloud isn’t just a way to keep an offsite copy of a school’s data. It also gives schools the option to make data immutable, which means it can’t be tampered with or changed. This protects it from employee mistakes and cybercriminals.

LEARN MORE: Upgrade to immutable storage to keep data protected.

“The attackers are getting pretty clever,” Gavin says. “Not only are they going after your onsite systems, but they’re going upstream after your backup versions, and they’re learning how to attack those as well.”

Supporting Physical Security Upgrades with the Cloud

Online safety isn’t the only security measure the cloud can provide. Schools are also finding the cloud invaluable for supporting their physical safety measures and technologies.

For example, the cloud works well as a tool for storing data-heavy surveillance video. Schools are also using the cloud to keep their artificial intelligence–based cameras and security tech connected at all times.

Grossmont Union High School District is exploring this option for its own physical security upgrades. “It’s been fascinating to step into the arena of AI-powered video surveillance,” Roberts says. “The Greenlake model really opens the door to far more services and far better service. Everything is there, functional, all the time.”


UP NEXT: Panelists discuss how to collaborate on K–12 school safety.

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