Lessons from higher education's gradual move to the cloud

Lessons from higher education’s gradual move to the cloud

As higher education IT professionals are now tasked with managing and securing growing networks for online and blended learning, more and more universities have migrated their data centers to a cloud operating system to streamline data management and free up limited staff for other tasks. A recent report by global analytics firm Astute Analytica predicts that the global higher education cloud computing market will grow 22% by the end of the decade, and this move has already empowered IT managers see the benefits of data storage and security and rethink where their staff should focus their efforts.

Beneficiaries of universities’ recent move to the cloud and the digitalization occurring in education generally include technology companies such as Ellucian, which operates in 50 different countries and offers student information systems. cloud-based students (SIS) and enterprise resource planning. (ERP), supporting payroll and finance functions. According to an email from Ellucian spokeswoman Lindsay Stanley, about 2,200 institutions use its software and services, including about 80 percent of community colleges and about 66 percent of historically black colleges and universities in the United States.

At Wilkes University in Pennsylvania, executive director of information technology services Gerald Korea said the university recently adopted Ellucian cloud tools and moved its web presence and other on-premises servers to AWS.

He said one of the biggest challenges of migrating to the cloud is rethinking what his department does. He noted that the move allowed staff to “focus more on new development and customer service and away from traditional IT tasks” such as hardware and software upgrades and system maintenance.

“For us, the benefits were twofold. First, it was a cost saving in the fact that we didn’t have to host hardware that would eventually need to be upgraded, and because of that, we were able to reduce the size of our server room. for additional savings,” he said, adding that it made his IT department more efficient. “Secondly, we didn’t need to have a large staff to provide quality service to the university, because not having to take on traditional IT roles like database administrators and server resulted in savings on the bottom line.

“I think the biggest lesson was adapting to the ‘new normal’, which didn’t have to worry about updates, hardware replacements, etc.” he added. “Asking my staff to rethink their roles and adjust them to more strategic planning and planning than maintenance has been a bit of a challenge for these very set-in-the-box employees.”

Another major player in the university exodus to the cloud, IBM is helping universities take this leap through a variety of higher education initiatives and ed-tech software products to better manage storage, security, and computing. data analysis. According to an email from IBM spokeswoman Carrie Bendzsa, several U.S. higher education customers have recently adopted IBM Cloud Paks hybrid cloud software, which helps set up cloud infrastructures faster through software-based features. pre-integrated and AI-powered that users can build once and run. everywhere.

Bendzsa added that the idea behind much of its cloud offerings is to give institutions full ownership and responsibility for their data and management, noting that even IBM as a cloud provider cannot access it, unlike some cloud providers who tend to take over security and management. higher education IT systems management responsibilities with recurring costs for institutions.

According to IBM’s Andy Rindos, head of the Research Triangle Park Center for Advanced Studies, the company also offers an IBM Cloud Satellite and IBM Cloud for Education, which he says help IT departments build, deliver and manage applications in a hybrid multicloud environment. The Education Platform and Paks are built on Red Hat OpenShift, which Rindos says extends consistent, on-demand, fully managed cloud services and controls across on-premises, edge, and public cloud environments. of a customer, even on other clouds.

“A lot of the universities we work with seem to be leveraging the traditional cloud,” he said.

Rindos said IBM has recently partnered with schools such as the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, where faculty plan to use the cloud to better manage large data sets in research.

“We’ve moved a lot of our systems to the cloud – our email system, a lot of our internal systems are on the cloud – just because obviously it’s a lot easier for the university IT system to have the support cloud providers rather than managing and maintaining a large data farm,” said Karuna Pande Joshi, director of the Center for Accelerated Real Time Analytics and UMBC professor of computer science. internal data still active to do research and things like that.We have increasingly explored cloud providers for our research, especially when we have large datasets to analyze, and in a cost effective way… I think all university systems – especially in the United States, but I won’t be surprised globally – are exploring this [question] from, ‘What does it mean to take an online course and how do you ensure that students get the best of services and the same experiences as in-person learners?’

Among other uses, cloud technology can help streamline communications, according to Leonard De Botton, CIO of Berkeley College. He said the college recently moved its phone systems to RingCentral’s cloud platform and was using a combination, or hybrid, of cloud and on-premises systems for a variety of educational and administrative functions, similar to most universities today. today.

“We’ve had on-premises systems for years and years, and now that we’re looking at newer systems, like Salesforce, which is software as a service, the ones we’re going to be using are all cloud-based. Office 365 is a major player, along with Canvas, which hosts our learning management systems. These are probably our three biggest [programs] that are in the cloud,” he said. “You still have to administer the system, but gone are the days of middle of the night upgrades when people aren’t on the system.”

And while migrating to the cloud for any use isn’t free, like those of third-party data management services, Joshi and Korea said their recent moves have bolstered network and data security, alleviating a part of these expenses for a limited staff.

“When it’s an upgrade or a 2am outage, it’s now [the vendor’s] work to figure out why the system crashed,” Botton added. “Obviously, companies like Salesforce and Microsoft have infinitely more resources to deal with these issues than a typical college, even with security…and they give you a better product.”

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