Why higher ed institutions should go all-in on the cloud

By Frank Suglia, director of global technical sales, BitTitan

Educational institutions worldwide have risen to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Instruction has shifted entirely online and school campuses, once buzzing with activity, sit as quiet reminders that much has changed and remains unknown about what the educational environment will look like moving forward.

In the face of such uncertainty, there is an urgent need for higher ed institutions to plan, adapt and innovate to maintain learning environments and stay afloat. While most schools have adopted cloud technologies for their remote learning initiatives, there is an opportunity to more fully embrace the cloud across institutions and realise the full range of benefits for enhanced student and faculty engagement.

Improved collaboration and productivity

Remote learning is just the tip of the iceberg with regards to how cloud technologies can improve educational delivery and operations. Having all files centralised in the cloud unlocks opportunities to more easily share data and assets across departments that could lead to increased collaboration and efficiency, as well as valuable insights from the ability to easily analyse data across the institution. Students and faculty can access this data in remote locations at any time from anywhere, allowing for increased productivity.

Beyond delivering classroom lectures and assignments through remote platforms, the cloud can enable enhanced collaboration between students and faculty, leading to improved overall student engagement. By leveraging the cloud, participation and collaboration can continue in virtual classrooms.

Streamlined orientation training

With a slew of new students arriving at universities every year, the student orientation experience and familiarising with the technology infrastructure can have a sizeable impact on their success and satisfaction. The cloud enables IT departments to automate and simplify many aspects of this, making the process easier and more effective. The cloud can automate training by providing step-by-step tutorials for core applications and security training that can be scheduled for completion, pushed out to students and faculty, and revisited from a central location on an as-needed basis.

Tighter security and data governance

In any education environment, security and data privacy are top priorities. The cloud enables IT departments to employ single sign-on for its many users across the institution, including students, faculty, administrators and facilities staff. Single sign-on improves IT control over access to sensitive data by streamlining the ability to add or remove users from a centralised location. It allows IT to set role-based permissions that apply to all applications, reducing the possibility for errors. The cloud also helps with the critical task of data governance at a time when organisations in all industries are producing digital data at exponential rates that need to be managed properly.

Cost control and workplace integration

The centralised nature of the cloud means that higher ed institutions can have better control over their IT spend. With the ability to easily audit past software purchases and licenses from a unified cloud portal, IT can assess how effectively software is being used. This enables organisations to make decisions that can maximise past investments and lead to cost savings by eliminating resources no longer being used.

The cloud also enables easy integration of workplace systems, which can improve productivity across departments and increase the ability to analyse data for better organisational decision-making. Many of the applications used throughout an organisation now have built-in integrations with major cloud programs, such as Office 365. These integrations can be completed with a single click and reduce the need for senior-level developers to code the integrations using APIs.

Cloud migration tips

For educational institutions interested in taking the next steps to fully leverage the benefits of the cloud, planning is a good place to start. It’s important to look at a cloud migration holistically and have a plan in place before moving forward. How this looks for each institution will differ depending on their goals and needs. There are many ways to approach a cloud migration and making the move in phases – starting with specific groups, or types of data and workloads – can be a good approach. And don’t try to rush the process; successful migration projects are often more of a marathon than a sprint.

In addition to a solid plan, achieving a successful, wide-scale cloud migration requires the right tools and expertise. Universities can leverage cloud migration tools, such as BitTitan’s MigrationWiz, to streamline and simplify the process. Enlisting the help of an outside partner can be a wise investment to ensure all data is migrated properly, the appropriate configurations are made, and old infrastructure is properly decommissioned, which is an important step towards realising the full return on investment in the cloud.

The current public health crisis has forced the education sector to pivot quickly to enable remote learning, though the upside for many institutions may be fast-tracking to more innovative and long-term technological upgrades. With so many well-documented benefits of cloud environments, those that fully leverage the cloud will be better positioned to provide enhanced services to students and faculty for continued collaboration and engagement.

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