Around a year and a half ago, our economy experienced its greatest upheaval in more than a generation. No child’s education can be put on pause, and learning cannot be furloughed, so schools, colleges and universities had to move mountains to ensure learning went on as safely – and as unhindered – as possible.
This was no mean feat, and even now, with around half of the UK fully vaccinated, entire year groups are still having to isolate when new COVID-19 cases are detected. The future of the sector remains uncertain. While the priority will undoubtedly be to get children back in schools and students back on campuses, the pandemic has prompted the industry to be prepared for any eventuality.
Like businesses, educational establishments are working hard to ensure that, if required, they can switch to distance learning at short notice so that education is never interrupted like it was in 2020. But even with virtual classrooms and video calls, there are a plethora of challenges facing educators as they navigate the cloud-based world – some of them for the very first time. What are these challenges, and how can they be overcome?
Scaling technology in education
When a business moves its operations to the cloud, it strives to do so in the most cost-effective way possible. That means tapping into IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service) platforms to get the storage and computing power they need in a flexible way, never paying for more than what they need. The education sector is no different in this regard. This is particularly true of higher education institutions that often have tight budgets and limited spending capacity. Colleges and universities will also need to have the flexibility to dramatically scale up their processing and data-handling capabilities during annual application and clearing surges. Simply put, cloud services allow universities to cost-effectively upgrade communication and learning systems without massive capital investments in infrastructure.
Colleges and universities will also need to have the flexibility to dramatically scale up their processing and data-handling capabilities during annual application and clearing surges
Ensuring security in the cloud
The education sector was already a popular target for cybercriminals pre-pandemic, and this situation has gotten worse over the past 18 or so months. According to a report by Checkpoint, the number of attacks on educational institutions grew faster than any other sector in the first few months of the pandemic; a 30% increase compared to a 6.5% increase across all industries. Obviously, the sudden move by many educators to move their processes online will have led to cut corners and staff that aren’t yet adequately trained when it comes to recognising phishing scams and potential ransomware attacks. In June in the US, the University of California paid $1.14 million in Bitcoin to recover School of Medicine data vital to some of the university’s academic work. Similar attacks are becoming all too frequent at UK universities, but with a carefully mapped out cloud migration strategy that leverages a combination of private and public cloud solutions, universities can massively mitigate the risk of succumbing to such an attack.
Planning for long-term resilience
This is where the education sector differs from any other typical business sector. Educational platforms need to be online at all times in order for critical services such as e-learning and the ability to submit coursework to remain active and accessible. For those in higher education in particular, work never sleeps and is often a 24-hour endeavour, particularly where deadlines and last-minute submissions are concerned. By eradicating the need for on-premise infrastructure and moving to a more reliable cloud-management environment, universities and other teaching institutions can plan for the long-term instead of worrying about investing in new hardware.
Ultimately, migrating IT infrastructure off-premise to a cloud-based environment gives educational institutions the peace of mind that their servers will be easy to deploy and manage, and that they’ll always have the ability to scale up and down with changing demand. They can also stay competitive by freeing up their team’s time to focus on what they do best rather than the technology that facilitates it, all while enjoying greater performance, flexibility and increased cost-savings in a controlled and secure cloud environment.
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