The Cloud market in education today

The adoption and use of Cloud technology is still being held back by justified concerns in the minds of many headteachers, bursars and IT managers

In October 2012, Exponential-e commissioned research from UK IT decision makers on the barriers to Cloud adoption. The findings were shared in a report: Building the silver lining and although most respondents saw Cloud as key to increasing productivity and reducing the total cost of ownership for physical infrastructure, many had a number of significant concerns:

• Security

• Inadequate or unreliable network connections

• Cost

• Interoperability

• SLAs

IT managers are becoming well aware of the huge potential benefits of moving to Cloud, whilst the penalties can be painful for those who do not take the time to ensure that the solutions are reliable and resilient. Highly respected in the industry as one of the UK’s leading technology innovators, Exponential-e is now at the forefront of creating what is seen as a third generation of Cloud services that integrate and use the speed and flexibility of a world-class high speed Ethernet network combined with the latest in compute and storage virtualisation techniques. This combined model has finally started to allow Schools to move their critical services to the cloud environment.

Islands in the Cloud

The standard model for Public Cloud operators is to create islands of Central Processing Unit (CPU) and storage infrastructure accessed using Internet Protocal Virtual Private Networks (IPVPNs) across the Internet. The lure of this ubiquitous access perceived as “free” is one of its fundamental commercial strengths but can also be Clouds’ critical weakness. More specifically two significantly different reasons to access applications running in the Cloud and/or data stored in the Cloud are:

  • Public facing web-based e-commerce systems.
  • Back office systems and databases relocated to the Cloud.

The former absolutely requires access to the Internet and also requires the protection of firewalls in order to maintain the integrity of these systems helping to protect against the ever-present threat of fraudulent attack. 

However, providing the mobility of location or the elastic augmentation of back office systems is all too frequently provided using a VPN across the public Internet. The benefits of this design are all too tempting as no new connectivity needs to be installed and security is maintained by the VPN terminating on existing public facing firewalls. The consequences of using a VPN for this second use case severely reduces or even eliminates, much of the desirable functionality required to make Cloud computing and storage an inherent, seamless extension of your schools existing infrastructure.

Providing additional processing power and data storage in this way usually results in “big bang” projects to export multiple systems into the Cloud along with their associated databases. Not only are this type of “lift and shift” projects quite risky, but they leave applications now running in the Cloud isolated from any remaining in-house systems and databases, creating another set of problems. In contrast, for instance Exponential-e’s Cloud solutions have been designed from the ground up as 3rd generation, combining 12 years of leadership in the world of the enterprise WAN with the capability of offering the kind of affordable secure, low latency and high capacity connectivity between existing server LANs and multiple Cloud data centres offering the kind of application and data mobility that is ideal to augment existing IT capacity.

For advice on how we can help your school please contact our Public sector team at: publicsector@exponential-e.com

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