Great article on moving to the cloud…any budget-strapped administrators listening?
- Demystifying Cloud Cloud computing can be confusing, with enough terminology to befuddle the most tech-savvy CTO. (Software as a Service? Virtual Private Cloud?) This guide explains what you need to know and how cloud can help your district.
- Districts are saving money, improving service, and retaining flexibility by switching to cloud computing.
- cloud computing
- definition was simple: technology the district could use without owning hardware.
- We have Google Apps Education as our cloud for all students and staff,” she says. “We’re also extended to Google e-mail. We outsource our e-mail archiving through Google’s Postini—all of that is also cloud based.”
- The learning curve comes not with training the kids, who were born into a constantly changing technological world, but rather with training their teachers, says Simon. She recommends adding a professional development focus for switching over to the cloud and allowing enough time for repetitive learning. “We had curriculum initiatives and online courses for staff,” she says. “We found spending a whole year on it prepared them to lead students and gain their own confidence.”
- steve Nelson, chief iIT strategist for the Oregon Department of Education, saw his own state turn to Google Apps, a move that he estimates saved $1.5 million. “Every user has e-mail, and we don’t want to do it all by ourselves for a subset of that many students,” Nelson says. “You could get free Gmail from Google but the problem was getting filtering and archiving. Bridging accounts between the two was a nightmare.”
- “They included the Postini filtering service at no cost for K-12 and that opened up things,” he says. “Integration into their applications also worked well. It makes for a feature-rich application, so we can take Google Docs and get into the learning management system.”
- “It saves a lot of money because even though the cost of bandwidth increases, you can move enormous communication infrastructure to Google and you don’t have to buy servers or licenses for proprietary software,” he says. “What you’re really trying to do is slow the growth curve of cost. The financial burden each year in terms of [technological] growth is fairly daunting. Now the key isn’t so much long-term costs but long-term cost avoidance!”
- Among the first questions to answer is whether schools should use a public or private cloud. Private cloud applications can be customized, but public cloud offerings are one size fits all, says Pete Reilly, founder of the Ed Tech Journeys blog
- Sensitive data may be more secure on private clouds. But up-front costs are higher, since districts must purchase servers and applications and hire staff to set up and manage the cloud. With public clouds, districts pay one vendor for shared use of Web-based software.
- “Get as much as you can from the public cloud, which may be 65 percent of your applications,” he says. “Instead of running software that doesn’t yet have public versions on a local desktop hard drive, I would load those on a server. Everybody can access them 24/7 and districts get the benefits of cloud.”
- By 2015, Reilly says, software vendors will migrate all applications to the Web, reducing the need for private clouds. But by then, he adds, the new challenge will be building powerful wireless networks.
- the challenge with cloud computing is ensuring the district’s infrastructure has enough bandwidth. “We have a real challenge trying to anticipate the bandwidth needed to support the software educators may throw at us,” he says, adding that educators don’t always alert IT regarding their future needs. “They’ll say, ‘We want you to build us a boat.’ Then I ask, ‘Do you want a rowboat or an aircraft carrier?’ They say, ‘We don’t know, but when we get ready to get into the boat, it better be big enough.’ ”
- If a district experiences a slow response only when using a cloud, the problem is probably on the host’s end. But if a district’s response time is typically slow or fine until 5,000 students are added, then the district must buy more bandwidth, which is costly.
- implement a short-term solution called quality of service, or QoS, that prioritizes Internet traffic, making the cloud application a high priority. But as response time deteriorates, districts will have to increase bandwidth.
- cloud technology does streamline the educational process and maximize instructional time.”
- Based on his research, it didn’t take long before district administrators gave him the green light to switch to Google, which now hosts e-mail for 140 teachers, board of director members, and other staff—all for free.
- the district abandoned a policy requiring the replacement of 200 to 300 computers every five years. Instead, it purchased thin clients, which use minimal energy, don’t have a hard drive, and cost significantly less—roughly $350 each. Now, when any of its administrators, teachers, or 1,000 students log in, they automatically connect to a cloud or application server that populates their desktop with a variety of software programs.
- “The real power is students who haven’t purchased a $400 package of Microsoft Office can still access those applications from ClassLink’s cloud,” he says. “You want to have these tools kids are using in the classrooms and future jobs available 24/7.”
- Testing the Waters of Cloud Computing cloud computing will save your district money and time.
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