With the recent push for online courses, digital lesson plans, and remote learning, cloud-based platforms are more important than ever.
One Canadian school district reported annual IT cost savings of $12,000 after switching to an Azure-based cloud environment (BuiltIn). This also allowed their IT teams to focus on more important work.
In another case involving a school in Canada, a single institution saved $500,000 while improving the service levels of their IT help desk.
Cloud computing offers significant advantages to education, from K-12 schools to university students. But what do administrators need to know before moving forward?
The Main Benefits and Challenges of Cloud Computing in Education
To help you decide if cloud education solutions are suitable for your institution, here’s a quick rundown of the five main benefits and considerations of cloud computing in education.
5 Benefits of Cloud Computing
1. Long-Term Cost Savings
Cost reduction is a top benefit of cloud education software. Compared to managing an on-premise data center, cloud migration supports an IT ecosystem. It does so by helping companies shift from capital expenses to predictable monthly operation expenses.
These predictable monthly expenses bring several benefits to institutions, including:
- Reduced data storage costs
- Minimal data center maintenance
- Less money spent on replacing aging physical IT hardware
This is a cost effective way to enhance your learning environment and create new educational opportunities.
2. Better Collaboration
Real time collaboration is an important aspect of cloud computing education. Cloud software helps to:
- Support student communication
- Create teacher management portals
- Power remote learning virtual classrooms
Cloud management in education creates plenty of new collaborative possibilities. It’s the easiest way to create an environment where educators, students, and parents can stay on the same page.
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3. Easy Access and Resource Availability
A cloud based education platform also improves physical and digital access to resources. It makes it easier for students to access the same materials and learning resources, regardless of the devices or internet browsers they use.
Virtual solutions like cloud computing also provide ongoing learning opportunities for all students. They are often implemented in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
The WCAG is a list of recommendations that improve the accessibility of web-based content for people with disabilities and across mobile platforms.
WCAG-compliant online learning ensures that students with mobility issues or learning impairments can receive personalized instructional programs that properly address their needs.
Compared with scaling on-premise data centers, cloud based software helps to reduce costs associated with facility growth.
No matter how many students you have or higher education facilities you manage, your cloud system can grow alongside you.
5. Modernizing Learning Environments
Solutions like the VMware cloud for education, available through Microsoft DaaS, are the best way to prepare educational institutions for the future. These technologies make your school more desirable for incoming students and allow you to provide a higher standard of learning.
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5 Considerations of Cloud Computing
Despite its benefits, there are also a few cloud computing issues and challenges in education.
1. Dependence on Internet Service Providers
An unfortunate reality of cloud computing in education is its reliance on internet access. Unlike traditional classrooms, service outages or poor bandwidth experienced by internet service providers can detract from online learning.
Working with a managed service provider helps to quickly determine whether the source of the issue is the end user or the cloud provider. A solution can then be implemented to provide you with improved access and connectivity.
2. Less Control
Although a benefit of cloud is accessibility to services and platforms in the education sector (like Blackboard), the concern is you have less control over updates, training, and other features.
Since the solution is being handled “as a service,” the infrastructure is handled by the cloud service provider and abstracted from your in-house team.
Everything is hosted off-site, so you’ll have less control over the infrastructure and the system setup. These are handled by your cloud service provider.
3. Vendor Commitment
Cloud solutions for higher education depend on the services of a single vendor. You typically can’t switch between service providers.
Working with an MSP can help you choose the right vendor for your needs. Moving the educational workload to the cloud is critical in picking the right provider.
A good provider listens to you, understands your risk and manages it from beginning to end, eliminating any unforeseen issues that may occur.
In most cases, once you sign with a provider, you will be locked into a service contract with them. However, most providers will let you out of a contract, but will charge you a penalty for breaking the contract early. This may not be a problem if you’re satisfied with your services, but it’s worth mentioning all the same.
Cloud-based education technology is secure when set up correctly, but there are inherent security risks when all assets are hosted online. Improperly-secured cloud systems may be vulnerable to cyberattacks, and data security becomes a bigger concern
This concern escalates when users access resources across devices. If a device with saved credentials gets stolen, the cloud platform becomes accessible to an unauthorized user.
To avoid these issues, you’ll need to make security a priority. This begins with a proper setup of your cloud infrastructure and ensuring that all users are trained in cloud security best practices.
For example, considering an MDM management or multi-factor authentication from a MSP would offset many security concerns. This would also provide more protection from end user device vulnerability.
5. Up-Front Costs
While cost reduction is one of the primary benefits of cloud computing in education, there are also some up-front costs.
The migration may be costly, depending on how many applications or services you’re moving to the cloud. There’s also an opportunity cost in the time required to train staff on the new system and security best practices.
The savings come more from long-term reductions in operational IT costs, but administrators will need to be prepared for the long-term savings it will yield.
Summary of Cloud Computing in Education
While there are pros and cons to cloud computing, the comparison can be outlined as such:
|Benefits of Cloud Computing||Considerations of Cloud Computing|
|Long-term IT cost reduction||Higher up front investment|
|Seamless collaboration||Risk of downtime|
|Complete resource availability||Potential security vulnerability|
|Scalability of IT assets||Vendor commitment|
|Modernized learning environment||Less control of IT Environment|
Administrators should weigh the benefits against their needs and determine which solutions will provide the best outcomes for their learning environments.
Cloud computing and education are certainly compatible, provided you have the right integration partner behind you. If you need guidance or support, contact us at Buchanan Technologies and we’ll be happy to walk you through the details.