Cloud technology has swept across the business sector over the past couple of years. Based on the use of remote servers working in conjunction with local components to process information from a local browser, the potential impact on data management and storage for institutions is quite immense. Google has been offering 15-30GB of storage on their cloud-based ‘Drive’ service for years – but today there are third-party cloud infrastructure providers who help companies manage their email, file storage, customer relationship management, data collection, and more on a much larger scale.
As it happens, cloud-based application software is the ideal solution to problems experienced by IT departments in higher education. IT in higher education has always been hard-pressed to manage reams of user data on a conventional web application, which requires plenty of hardware to be stored on-site. With shrinking budgets and increased scalability issues, cloud computing offers a lot of benefits. Here are three key reasons why the cloud makes sense as a replacement for conventional web applications in the higher education technology market.
Integration is Key
According to Gordon Freedman, the key value of the cloud platform is its integrational application. While Freedman applauds campuses for making use of cloud storage capabilities, he stresses there is so much “cross-functional data processing” potential in user-end services that make sense for schools.
What exactly is Freedman referring to? The fact that a higher education institution could integrate all manner of student and faculty behavior, as well as resource allocation performance as part of a cloud service integration strategy. Given the fact that institutions currently spend a lot of money and time on separate software solutions to provide services and monitor performance issues in isolation from each other, integrating the entire IT ecosystem into one centrally integrated hub makes a lot of sense.
For students, integration means they will have easier access to a whole host of resources: from discussions with a teacher, to researching course material, finding out about construction work on campus, and so much more, all from one source. Integration makes a user-friendly experience for both faculty and students.
Mobility Is Easy with the Cloud
Research from Vion into the use of cloud computing in higher education produced some interesting results. For example, one of the most popular benefits to using cloud technology was its mobility – as many as 62% of respondents listed it as a benefit. As mobile use continues to replace desktop use, an ability for schools to offer a cloud-based mobile application to students and faculty is incredibly desirable. It can mean several different things depending on the budget of the school and the needs of their student body, including:
Cloud-Based Classroom Applications. This will allow students to literally take their homework with them wherever they go.
It Keeps Up with the Times. Students born after 1990 will have a familiarity with tablets and mobile devices by a very early age. Schools that can appeal to this form and delivery of learning in as many ways as possible will be more appealing to students because it will offer them a chance to solve problems the way they know how: by searching for it on the web.
The University Experience is Broader. Distance learning is a market that has grown and strengthened in the last decade. It is now possible to live in Australia and get a Certificate in Higher Education from Oxford University. Those who still neglect the opportunity of mobile learning and the changing nature of education have likely missed the boat, because the distance learning market has huge enrollment potential for schools. What does it take? A robust IT infrastructure that is scalable and able to meet the educational demands of 21st century learners. As you can imagine, cloud technology is the best technology available to underpin the global reach of education today. All a student needs is access to quality internet and they can enjoy the same educational access and opportunities as someone sitting in the classroom.
The Cloud Offers a Number of Service Models
As this informative research paper indicates, the cloud offers a number of effective service models for IT departments to consider. Rather than managing every level of the IT infrastructure (as is the case with traditional IT), a school could decide to purchase:
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). The school purchases everything but the operating system and hardware.
Platform as a Service (PaaS). The school purchases just the platform application.
Software as a Service (SaaS). The school purchases only the service-end the application. This is the most affordable because there is no hardware onsite.
As you can see, the benefits to a cloud-system are far reaching and impactful. Any IT department struggling with service delivery of even a marginally dysfunctional web application would benefit from upgrading to the cloud. The unique value of cloud technology is that it improves the end-user experience (the students) while cutting down immensely on maintenance, issues of scale, and monitoring work for the IT department.