From education to employment

An education on Cloud

An Education on Cloud

Using technology to become more competitive, more responsive to change and able to deliver a more immersive learning experience is essential for growth. And so the emergence of Cloud technology could not have come at a better time to help institutions address these issues.

Recent studies show that the Education industry spends on IT, as a proportion of its income, over 25% above the average. Yet in spite of this additional investment many colleges are still reliant on very traditional IT environments. Other industries understand that there are new smarter ways of delivering IT which are more cost effective and flexible – enabling them to respond dynamically to business changes.

Further Education is amazing at delivering education excellence and does so to the largest cross section of society. So how does it get back to core business? Well Cloud is certainly the buzzword in the industry right now, and could provide the answer.

What is Cloud?

Cloud technology means different things to different people but in essence it means a new way of delivering and consuming IT resources, in a more flexible way and on demand. A parallel is often used with air transportation – why buy a plane when you can just reserve a seat on a flight?

Let’s take a look at an example of cloud computing called Desktop Cloud, which is already widely adopted in other industries and is a perfect fit for many in Further Education.

Colleges have to support on average 3,000 desktops – some as many as 10,000. Volumes like this offer a real, quick and significant opportunity for cost savings .

As the traditional desktop environment becomes more complex and student numbers continue to grow, the effort on deployments, upgrades, security, patch management and end-user support can grow exponentially. The Desktop Cloud approach addresses this by virtualising the physical desktops and storing their virtual images centrally thereby providing an environment in which they can be secured and managed on a mass scale.

More specifically, the typical benefits are:

  • Security. The Cloud better controls end-user access and moves data away from the desktop where it can be compromised.

  • Resiliency. The Cloud can centrally back-up and recover virtual desktops.

  • Reduced storage. By employing data de-duplication

  • Accountability. Cloud can provide a concurrent usage-based, subscription price linking the resources used to users, departments or organisations.

  • Easier Management. A centralised approach normally allows rapid installation and deployment of applications and services.

In spite of these advantages, perhaps the most important consideration is the impact on the students themselves. Desktop Cloud could allow them to access a personal PC desktop from anywhere, using any device (such as iPads, thin clients, old desktops, netbooks, or laptops) and should give them the immersive environment they seek. With 24/7 access, students can make the choice to learn at a time that suits them which will hopefully contribute to their motivation and eventual success.

There are two primary methods of implementing a Cloud strategy – an Internal, Private Cloud or an External, Public Cloud.

Internal or Private Cloud

In this scenario, an educational establishment continues to use its existing IT infrastructure to centralise the desktop environment. Since the software platform is created on top of an existing infrastructure, the approach is comparatively easy to adopt and can be very quick to implement.

External or Public Cloud

This scenario is based around a fully managed, pay-as-you-go subscription service provided by a third party using its own IT infrastructure. Cost savings are achieved through the economies of scale provided by a datacentre, as is the scalability of the service. The utility based model enables an establishment to only pay for what it uses, so for example, over holidays and off peak periods this flexibility can bring significant savings.

Whether Internal or External, Cloud technology can also help open up an international market for education delivery, giving a college a vehicle for growth. The technology can be used to extend the use of lecturing resources by delivering webinars, video conferencing and collaborative team rooms to a potentially large number of geographically dispersed students.

Cloud Success

One good example of Desktop Cloud can already be found at Pike County Schools, which is responsible for over 2,000 students across more than five sites in North America. By using a Public Cloud service to support 1400 desktops it saved 64% on the costs of maintaining its traditional IT environment. Furthermore it was able to free support staff from mundane administrative tasks and redeploy them to higher value projects.

So, Cloud Computing, it might just be the secure, scalable, pay-as-you-go service that brings Further Education the cost savings and flexibility that many are looking for. And if it also opens up an international market for education delivery while ensuring students get an immersive learning experience, then can anyone in this sector really afford not to have their head in the clouds?

Cailean Hargrave is Further Education Business Development Manager at IBM, the multinational technology and consulting firm

Contact Caliean at [email protected]

Related Articles