Mapping Out Your School’s Cloud Strategy

The difficulty in talking about modernizing school infrastructure is that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Some schools are already using cloud technologies like Google Classroom, while others are replacing bulbs on overhead projectors. Budgets and IT resources vary, but most educators and administrators agree that cloud tech has great potential to bring equity and insight to education. Cloud technology in the classroom prepares students for the future, encourages collaboration, and touches different learning styles; there are dozens of reasons ed tech is a good school investment.

In working with Fortune 500 companies over the past 15 years, I've seen the rise of cloud adoption and the benefits it can bring. I believe the education vertical is now poised to reap the same benefits. But any approach to cloud migration should be informed and systematic to be effective.

Modernize school infrastructure

It’s easier to upgrade to the next version of an app than it is to move from a whiteboard to web-based apps. This is exactly why cloud infrastructure is so important for schools — and why so many schools struggle to get on board.

Virtualization refers to resource allocation, including your compute power, storage, and networking. Cloud refers to how resources are delivered and presented. Most school infrastructure lies in resource allocation, which is the foundation of cloud computing. For example, you need high-speed internet for web-based applications, such as Newsela or Google Apps for Education (GAFE), to support a classroom of kids. Start by assessing what you have, and determine whether it’s possible to upgrade. First on the list should be high-speed internet, a necessity.

Address legacy applications

One issue you might have noted in your infrastructure assessment is legacy systems. How much time does your IT department spend creating patches for old software? With each missed upgrade, it becomes much harder to catch up, until there are so many patches and one-off customizations that it’s impossible for the system to connect to other systems. Over time, upgrades are no longer available and the product is no longer supported or secure.

Legacy applications and old servers consume valuable IT time and present major security risks, but they hold students back, too. Students should be taught technological fluency. The future classroom will contain few chalkboards.

Get ready for cloud migration

When the time comes for your school to move to the cloud, have a rollout plan. Audit your current IT workloads, and map out a theoretical cloud-based workload. Demand and scale, security requirements, and service level expectations should all be considerations. Talk with your teachers to get buy-in and to determine what they need, and ensure your IT resources can act as advocates for new technology.

Work in phases

Clouds are made up of millions of water molecules; the digital cloud is comprised of a huge number of applications. When you prepare to adopt cloud technology, start with the easiest targets. Email and data processing programs are the easiest (and often the cheapest) place to begin. Rather than word-processing programs with pricey licensing fees, consider Google Docs and Sheets or Microsoft’s Office 365 for Education, which are secure, free for education customers, and designed for collaboration.

Get smart with on- and off-site servers

If you have connected devices in your classrooms, odds are you probably have some degree of on-premise server: that cool, cavernous room full of benevolent whirring. Onsite servers might still be a great way to go. But as you think about cloud strategy, consider moving to a hosted data center.

Cloud-based data centers, like AWS or Azure, are scalable. Need to ramp up usage for one particular bandwidth-hungry class of sophomores? No problem. Data centers are also potentially much more secure. Thanks to built-in redundancy, data centers rarely experience network failure or data loss.

Most schools only transition from onsite to offsite servers when they’re faced with the tremendous cost of modernizing and expanding onsite technology — and this is a fine time to assess resources and consider the best way to support your students’ success.

We believe that moving to cloud infrastructure is a great way for schools to modernize by leveraging technology in a way that is inexpensive and effective — but it’s not the solution to everything. A smart assessment of current resources must be balanced against a realistic forecast of school technology needs. Your school’s cloud strategy solution is quite possibly a combination of on-premise and cloud-based resources.

Learn more about how schools are advancing learning with tech and the Intel solutions that can help.