Leveraging the Cloud to Address District Challenges

Benefits of using the cloud

 

Today’s school districts have just only begun to scratch the surface of how the cloud can be used to support their data center strategies. Making use of this technology can also help IT staff with the problems they face. In a recent edWebinar, Simone Welter, ENA Product Manager Cloud Solutions, and Alan Greenberg, Senior Analyst & Partner for Wainhouse Research, reviewed how the cloud can be used to address some of the challenges in school districts today.

A lot has changed for district IT providers, and IT staff is feeling the pressure. Just a few of the tasks they are overwhelmed with include: providing a safe internet experience for students; keeping data secure, available, and recoverable; being constantly on defense against malicious cyber threats; dealing with skill gaps; facing resource constraints; and staying on top of compliance obligations. According to one technology coordinator, IT staff needs to be in a “constant state of alert” in order to stay ahead of new technology and know how to support it.

An IT leadership survey from cosn.org lists the top three IT priorities in K-12 education as cybersecurity and broadband/network capacity, data security, and budgets. “Schools are having to align themselves with the rapid consumerization of technologies…we’ve got an amazing pace of change where we’ve opened up classroom walls, and all kinds of new products and services that forward-thinking educators and learners increasingly are asking for, and demanding, in fact,” said Greenberg.

How the cloud can improve IT

So, what is the cloud? The National Institute of Standards and Technology lists five characteristics that make up the cloud: on-demand provisioning, broad network access, resource pooling, elasticity, and measured service. Welter notes, while the cloud isn’t the solution to every problem, it’s a powerful tool to have and has the potential to solve quite a few. Districts should first determine what’s right for them by evaluating objectives and goals, cost benefits, existing technology, and all vendor offerings.

The cloud can be used to improve district IT through data center replacement. In this scenario, a district may be up against aging infrastructure and grappling with the cost of replacing hardware, or may want to reduce the burden of data center maintenance. Rather than replacement, some districts may use a hybrid model and use the cloud as additional capacity for workload, or use the cloud for internet-facing workloads allowing the public broad access without inviting them onto a secured network.

The cloud is commonly used for offsite backup, which provides easy access to backup data wherever needed. Also, education providers are increasingly expected to make services and systems available 24/7, so they’re starting to lean on cloud technology to add resilience and redundancy to ensure high availability of certain features. Most important to many districts, the cloud can save money because it doesn’t require big capital outlays or upfront investment, there are no depreciating assets to dispose of, and there is little to no data center maintenance.

With this technology, IT staff can focus more on the technology that is closer to the classroom and spend time on other initiatives that fit long term visions and goals. “IT is no longer considered a byproduct of the classroom mission, but rather a key enabler of the mission itself,” Welter said. As Welter mentioned, the cloud may not be a cure-all for every problem, but without a doubt, it can help lift certain burdens off ­IT staff and simplify district data center strategies for the better.

This broadcast was hosted by edWeb.net and sponsored by Education Networks of America (ENA)

WATCH THE EDWEBINAR RECORDING

The article was modified and published by EdScoop.

About the Presenters

Simone Welter is a senior product manager at Education Networks of America. Having spent the past decade delivering cloud products to IBM customers across all industries, Simone is delighted to bring ENA’s uniquely designed cloud services to K-12 schools, libraries, and institutions of higher learning.

Alan Greenberg, Senior Analyst & Partner at Wainhouse Research, is an expert on collaborative meeting and educational technologies and the application of these to team productivity, education, and e-Learning. He is also an expert on video conferencing, virtual classrooms, lecture capture, streaming video, and ideation technologies. He has more than 25 years of experience as a consultant, analyst, communicator, and strategist, and has significant experience helping start-ups launch their products, larger vendors devise new products and services, and educational institutions deploy and better adopt collaborative technologies. He holds a B.A from Hampshire College and an M.A. from the University of Texas at Austin.

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