Why move to the cloud?
There are a number of benefits of moving a school’s learning resources and infrastructure online – as long as you choose your Cloud services provider carefully. But more of that later on.
Here are the advantages of adopting a Cloud-based approach for your school: Reduced storage costs: Storage costs are falling all the time, but when you’re talking about storing the data and work of lots of pupils, there is a significant drawback to using physical storage. For example, the fact that you may find that you don’t have enough storage to meet demand in the short-term. It makes much more sense to subscribe to services that can provide just the right amount of storage, whenever you need it. This means that you pay for what you are actually using rather than paying for what you think you might need.
Another benefit is interoperability, especially in large campuses. According to an article by Jeff Dunn for Edudemic, “Cloud computing encourages IT organizations and providers to increase standardisation of protocols and processes so that the many pieces of the cloud computing model can interoperate properly and efficiently.”
It’s common that a Cloud service provider can offer a higher specification software than an individual school could afford. For example, Microsoft Office 365 for Education provides online versions of Word and Excel free of charge.
By the same token, obtaining software as a service rather than purchasing it outright means that you are not faced with the need to worry about upgrading the software or even licensing issues necessarily, because that can all be handled as part of the cloud service package. In other words, the administrative burden on a school can be significantly reduced.
Also, of course, not having software installed on your own network means that you avoid having to concern yourself over physical space on a drive or memory upgrades.
A huge advantage from the pupils’ and teachers’ point of view of course is that pupils can share their work with each other and their teacher, and can access resources and data from anywhere at any time – without some of the complications that can sometimes arise from using a proprietary learning platform.
In principle, also, cloud storage offers a secure way of keeping data. If the school goes up in smoke, or, less dramatically, thieves break in overnight and steal the server, your data will still be there up in the cloud.
Another consideration is whether the cloud service you are using for storing pupil (and teacher) data conforms to EU data protection law. A useful guide in this area is the Information Commissioner’s booklet called Guidance on the use of cloud computing, available from the ICO’s website at http://ico.org.uk/. The advice given in it is aimed at organisations in general, but it does contain information of direct relevance to schools.
Cloud computing offers many advantages to schools, as we have seen, but when considering moving to the cloud, and which cloud service provider to go with, schools need to be worldly-wise as their corporate counterparts.