Resistance to the Cloud - Mythbusting Cloud Technology for Education Decision Makers
Often a school will have competent IT technicians and a knowledge of IT requirements, but there is often a gap between the school’s strategic vision and understanding of available technologies versus budgets available to deliver on that vision. Whilst the head teacher and senior leadership team have a clear understanding of where they want to develop their school, they do not necessarily have the knowledge or skills to marry technology to this vision. For many, this is where the disconnect lies.
Before technology has a chance to really benefit schools, there has to be a fundamental shift in thinking. Technology vendors and service providers must work to reposition IT within the mind-set of the professionals working in the education sector. IT departments or IT advisers must educate the head teachers by demonstrating the tangible benefits of IT to the school system, from a budgetary standpoint and from the ways it improves the educational experience for students, teachers and parents.
The traditional deliverables of both a curriculum and administration network remain fixtures within a school system. Other challenges, such as delivering data outside of the physical network in a secure way to allow pupils access to files for homework, are now fairly standard too. This may give the impression of a private cloud, but these “clouds” often provide just the required data, not the required application.
The likelihood of additional funding becoming available to bolster staff IT skills and experience, especially during a period of austerity, is unlikely. A school needs to look beyond its own IT staff and select a knowledgeable and experienced service provider that can provide both initial and ongoing assistance. In time, this may lead to a new breed of education supplier or IT offerings which accurately fit the specific needs of a school and communicate with school systems in a language that is not alien to them.
Examples of schools embracing virtualisation and benefitting from using cloud computing in education are plentiful. Many are exploring ways in which a centralised virtual data centre can further enhance the pupils’ experience.
So lets bust some myths that we’ve come across within education. Cloud Computing in schools is:
All or nothing
Actually, schools can determine how much and what gets served over the cloud. They also decide whether their cloud is private (for the school or school district), shared (with other districts in their state or region), or public (accessible to a wider group, such as Internet users). Hybrid clouds may offer a combination of restricted and public access.
Just 'Thin' platforms
Schools will want to determine the combination of rich client platforms and cloud services that best meets their needs. Thin platforms are one of the many possibilities offered by cloud-based solutions. The thinnest platforms are hardware that receives most or all of their applications and operating systems from the server. With thin platforms, some applications and operating systems are installed and some delivered through the cloud. Schools can find the right balance for their application and operating system mix and student needs. Whatever choice you make, cloud computing works with any combination of platforms— desktop, laptop, or tablet.
It's not secure
Security needs to be managed with cloud, as with any other computing strategy. Clouds can help IT centralise and control infrastructure and data, and ensure backup. Shared and public clouds can be monitored to prevent security risks. If working with a service provider, schools can look for a comprehensive Service Level Agreement (SLA) that includes robust security, and protects confidential student information.
Cloud computing can bring cost savings, but it is not free. Server consolidation can significantly reduce power and management costs, while increasing productivity for IT. Many open source and Internet browser-based applications are available for free to educators. Licenses are still required, however, for many of the common applications and operating systems used in this one-to-many delivery model.
Written by Johnathon Martin
A former teacher, SLT member and IT lead, now Google Certified Trainer looking after our clients as head of the Client Success Team