2: Education and the Cloud
Following the recent spending review and budget, Rishi Sunak has announced that the government will pump an extra £4.7 billion into school funding by 2024-25. Coupled with the spending increases announced in 2019, the additional cash would “restore per-pupil funding to 2010 levels in real terms” – equivalent to a cash increase for every pupil of more than £1,500.
The spending review cash will also be “supporting delivery” of the government’s commitment to increase new teacher salaries to £30,000 – suggesting schools will have to fund future pay rises. Staff, then, is naturally an important element in education funding, but the chancellor also promised to “to deliver on our commitment to schools” which should allow for an investment in infrastructure and equipment.
Cloud computing solutions in education allow efficient management of business processes and effective knowledge delivery to students. This results in higher student engagement, better collaboration among stakeholders and improved student performance. The growing need for a centralised system for the management of academic processes and competition among academic institutions are the major driving forces of the cloud computing in education market.
Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) service models are expected to be the largest contributors in the global cloud computing in education market during the forecast period. SaaS and IaaS are expected to be the major contributors in the service model segment of the cloud computing in education market. These service models continue to develop as business drivers for education as they enable institutions to increase their global reach and target students from every corner of the world.
Hybrid cloud and community cloud deployment models are expected to show significant adoption rate in the cloud computing in education. Hybrid cloud is gaining traction among educational institutions as it leverages the advantage of both private and public cloud. Due to the difficulties involved in collaborations among various educational institutes and agreements on sharing resources, community cloud is the least preferred choice. Educational institutions that are aiming at collaborative learning and inter-domain research are mainly adopting community cloud. These cloud computing deployment models are fast becoming an attractive option for the delivery of education services.
The North American region is expected to contribute the maximum market share to the overall cloud computing in the global education market. The high adoption of cloud technology in North America, particularly in the U.S. and Canada, is the major reason for the growth of cloud computing in education. Furthermore, the market is in the emerging stage in the regions of Asia-Pacific (APAC), Europe, and Latin America owing to growing technological developments in the field of cloud, analytics, and the emergence of mobile technologies.
Such is the commitment to cloud sourced solutions, the global market is estimated to grow from USD 8.13 Billion in 2016 to USD 25.36 Billion by 2021, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 25.6% from 2016 to the present day.
This growth in demand for cloud solutions has prompted many education buyers to adopt new strategies. By removing licenses and other IT barriers to accessing resources, the cloud has created equity of access; becoming a fully realised everyday solution for educational users by providing an ease of access to the necessary resources. Another key focus is on security in the cloud, which is available at a significantly cheaper cost compared to downloadable firewalls and security software, making cloud a cost-effective solution for education in this area.
Does this mean that the cloud is the ‘go to’ resource in every circumstance? Whilst there are cloud-based management information systems (MIS) available that are more than capable of managing the requirements of education institutions. A lot of schools and colleges have preferred to stick with their on-premise MIS solutions. Likewise, some courses have preferred to maintain on-premise management and delivery systems, as integration into the cloud has proven more expensive.
Accordingly, there are specific application areas where the Cloud may not be the best choice. Whilst there are some fantastic examples of where the Cloud has transformed education delivery and learning, such as with the Adobe Creative Cloud. Other courses like Engineering have struggled to translate their high-level teaching delivery into the Cloud, which has proven to be very expensive in comparison to on-premise management systems.
Similarly, there is a reluctance from departments such as Finance and HR to move confidential files into the Cloud environment. Whilst the cloud amongst AV and IT professionals has successfully demonstrated its security abilities, legislation like GDPR and perspectives on internet storage has meant that these branches feel safer with on-premise solutions. Concerns about security and localised legislation aside, Cloud sourced solutions can give rise to problems of support. particularly in institutions lacking in-depth expertise.
Such is the momentum behind the Cloud today that the on-premise alternative is the exception rather than the rule. Nick Mawer Marketing Manager, Kramer Electronics UK Ltd, explains that: “In the higher education setting, some universities are using the Cloud to deliver live lectures, in place of having large groups gathering in lecture theatres. This can be beneficial to the students as the traditional format limits the opportunities for engagement and interaction, whereas online platforms open up the option of collaborating in real-time.”
“Other institutions are using the Cloud to deliver pre-recorded sessions, which means they remain accessible to students who can watch them in their own time around other working schedules, or when they need a refresher ahead of exams. There are still challenges around issues such as copywrite and who owns the recording once it has been uploaded and where it can be used in the future.”
Mawer continues: “Cloud offers an immediate ability for adoption into teaching and learning practices thanks to those additional special benefits. For IT and AV managers, the cloud has huge benefits in helping them to manage devices across a network. They can assess what rooms and technologies are being used most and put preventative maintenance strategies in place to minimise downtime. This can be done on campus and even multi campus wide from a centralised and convenient location.”
Support and benefits
The Cloud is a vital development in education resource management so structures like Google Workplace for Education – Enterprise Edition give educators priority ticketing access to their support desk. This is made even easier by being accessible over email, chat, and telephone. This service is important because beyond the deployment of new technology, users need this maintenance support in order to improve the chance of successful adoption.
From experience, Google Cloud absolutely provides a holistic solution that supports the delivery of education at all levels with training, maintenance support – with Google Drive, and Google Meets being just a couple of examples. The same cannot be said for on-premise bought packages which do not come with continuous support packages, they tend to work for some users thanks to years of trial and error. “There are fewer use cases within education for on-premise only solutions, versus the benefits that an effective hybrid education strategy presents. An example would be if a higher education institution was working on research that had a high security concern,” says Mawer.
“In general, for most applications, the Cloud is now widely trusted as a secure resource. In our own lives, we trust it on a daily basis for data sensitive interactions, such as online banking, so it is secure enough for most education applications.”
COVID-19 accelerates a journey to the Cloud
When the first national lockdown in England happened back in March 2020, many businesses initially panicked but believed that by summer, life as we knew it would return to normal. Now, over a year later, organisations have quickly come to realise that this is not a temporary problem, which in turn means, they can no longer justify a temporary solution.
COVID-19 accelerated the shift towards cloud-based services, with new research revealing that 40% of businesses are accelerating their move to the cloud, with 51% planning to move more applications to the cloud. Rob Hancock, Head of Platform at Giacom explains how the cloud presents numerous opportunities for business continuity during unprecedented times. We’ve weathered the storm this far, but if businesses haven’t yet made this change, they need to act now, or face being left behind.
Remote and/or hybrid working is now at the top of many businesses’ priority lists, so it is critical that ITCs offer the right tools and services to facilitate their customers’ transition. New research has revealed that two-thirds of UK workers feel uncomfortable returning to a physical workplace. This highlights the need for businesses to quickly mobilize themselves by moving their infrastructure to the cloud in order to continue as we head towards a ‘new normal’.
The cloud fundamentally offers organisations a central location where they can store their resources online, meaning anyone in the organisation can access the necessary information wherever they are, allowing them to operate in an optimum way.
It’s not just a centralised hub that businesses can gain value from. It’s important to ensure that workforces are also taking advantage of the features included in their cloud subscriptions. By working with the right Managed Service Provider (MSP) that can provide training, education and support around shifting to the cloud, companies can benefit from a comprehensive list of additional features within their packages to help them manage and grow a business in today’s world – one which will remain uncertain for some time yet. The role of the MSP is to make this switch as seamless as possible by taking on the planning and implementation, as well as having the expert knowledge of how cloud infrastructure can benefit the business and smooth over any possible obstacles.
For example, many businesses had access to Microsoft365 packages, but did not utilise Microsoft Teams across their company network before COVID-19. Now, Microsoft Teams has seen a 70% increase in users due to remote working restrictions, which is clearly a tool that has been taken advantage of to drive productivity, collaboration and communication during lockdown. This is where ITCs have a vital role to play in educating their end-users on how to gain the most value and productivity from technology with the resources available.
Secure in the Cloud
With remote working, data access and greater flexibility comes a need for much tighter security controls and processes within businesses. However, security was pushed to the bottom of many organisations’ priority lists at the beginning of COVID-19. As the number of cyberattacks continues to increase, with almost half of businesses suffering from a cybersecurity breach or attack in the last 12 months, the emphasis on data security must be reinforced
There’s no single one-size-fits-all solution. Both small and large businesses need to have the correct security infrastructure and unique measures in place to suit their organisation’s needs. Additional functionality can be added to cloud networks, including Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), Single Sign-On, and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) solutions to ensure a secure cloud environment. Getting the basics right will put your clients in a position to build their business and engage with staff and customers in a safe and secure environment – the cloud.
Flexibility and agility
We have all had to quickly learn that to get through this pandemic, remote working and implementing digital solutions is essential. Microsoft’s Chief Executive, Satya Nadella, has said that they’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months, including remote teamwork and learning and critical cloud infrastructure and security. The recovery to the ‘new normal’ places the migration of physical servers to the cloud as a priority, not only to facilitate secure remote working, but to provide businesses with greater flexibility, scalability and more efficient resources.
COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst for businesses needing to be both flexible and agile. If companies are unable to respond to unexpected situations when they occur, such as the pandemic, then they could potentially face devastating effects. More disruption is anticipated, let alone any hurdles that we don’t see coming, so flexibility and agility are core components for business survival.
To continue with a ‘new normal,’ organisations have to adapt and implement a long-term solution, or they could seriously disadvantage themselves compared to their competitors. It’s survival of the fittest; businesses need to be flexible, agile and able to cope with change. Digital transformation, particularly cloud migration, is a long-term commitment and can fundamentally shift a company’s capabilities and how it operates. Now is the time to start future-proofing your customers’ businesses.