How Moving to the Cloud Can Help Schools

The UK public sector can enjoy the same benefits of virtualisation and cloud services that commercial organisations enjoy. But worryingly, school IT departments are overlooking a strategic view of how to use cloud computing in education.

Here are ways in which education departments can take advantage of virtualisation and cloud technologies

Schools need to view IT as important

Schools see IT as a necessary evil. Head teachers have little strategic IT vision which could help guide their IT deliverables. IT does not command the same importance as other more traditional areas of school life; it is largely ignored.

Before technology has a chance to really benefit schools, there has to be a fundamental shift in thinking. Technology vendors and service providers must work to reposition IT within the mind-set of the professionals working in the education sector. IT departments or IT advisers must educate the head teachers by demonstrating the tangible benefits of IT to the school system, from a budgetary standpoint and from the ways it improves the educational experience for students, teachers and parents.

Build IT and services into the curriculum.

The traditional deliverables of both a curriculum and administration network remain fixtures within a school system. Other challenges, such as delivering data outside of the physical network in a secure way to allow pupils access to files for homework, are now fairly standard too. This may give the impression of a private cloud, but these “clouds” often provide just the required data, not the required application.

Microsoft and other vendors are starting to position their cloud offerings to schools, but there are difficulties. For example, Office 365 does not currently give the teaching staff easy access to completed work uploaded by pupils but this service does still have a role to play and should be considered.

Partner with expert solution providers.

The likelihood of additional funding becoming available to boost staff IT skills and experience, is unlikely. A school needs to look beyond its own IT staff for assistance. Select a knowledgeable and experienced service provider that can provide both initial and ongoing assistance. In time, this may lead to IT offerings which fit the specific needs of a school and communicate with school systems in a language which makes sense to them

Today, service providers that can help school IT professionals successfully use virtualisation and cloud computing in education are few and far between. The support of outside providers will become even more important as schools consider wider impacts such as data protection.

Use technology to make the most of existing infrastructure.

For schools with sizable investments in on-premises infrastructures, a migration to cloud-based services may be a way off. So their challenge will be to maximise the computing, networking and storage resources that they already have. The trick is for schools to recognize the technology products and services available to them.

Oaklands college had a very old IT infrastructure.  Graham

Consider storage capacity limitations for example. The usage of digital video cameras for pupil use will eat storage.  A deduplication approach has a big role to play within schools as it can maximise available storage and anticipate the capital investment in more storage.

Benefits of using virtualisation and cloud computing in education

More and more schools are embracing virtualisation and benefitting from using cloud computing in education. Many are exploring ways in which a centralised virtual data centre can further enhance the pupils’ experience.

Has the relationship seen the successful introduction of virtualised servers and desktops? Has this brough resiliency and clear operational benefits for staff and pupils?

Graham Lane, CEO of Cheeky Munkey is the Vice Chair of Oaklands College. Oaklands have recently installed virtualised servers, a new network infrastructure and new desktops.  As a result the college is now enjoying the benefits of a more reliable network which has enabled students and teachers to connect to the internet much fast providing a better user experience.

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