There can be massive benefits of using cloud data storage and virtualisation services in the UK education sector, but schools and other public sector departments are holding back on this. What are their reasons and how can moving to the cloud benefit the education sector?
There are many ways that the education sector can take full advantage of moving to the cloud. Unfortunately, there are also lots of challenges to using the cloud and virtualisation services in this sector.
Often many schools have IT technicians who are competent and who have a good understanding of IT requirements and of education backups in the UK, but the cultural challenges in academic environments can often be great. A huge gap can sometimes arise between the strategic vision of moving to the cloud, and the available technologies needed to do this with the budgets available to deliver the vision appropriately. The Head Teacher can often sit much like a CEO at the top, but unlike a CEO, the Head Teacher has little or no interest in IT systems, moving to the cloud or virtualisation.
This is often where a big disconnection can lie, there are often significant opportunities for improvement and streamlining the IT services to the cloud in schools and the academic world.
Schools usually see IT as a “necessary evil”, and Head Teachers can have little strategic IT vision which could help guide their delivery in terms of IT and using the cloud. There is some apathy surrounding what IT companies can offer to schools, yet go to any academic conference and stands that offer things such as school photography are immensely busy compared to stands that offer IT services. It shows that IT just doesn’t have the same importance as other more traditional parts of academic life and is often wrongly ignored.
A fundamental shift in thinking is necessary for schools to really start to see key benefits of cloud backups, with service and technology providers working closely to implant backups and the importance of IT within the mind-set of professionals working in the educational sector. County IT advisors and IT departments must stress the importance of Backups and the IT sector to Head Teachers and demonstrate the huge benefits to schools of investing in IT, from a budget point of view and also the ways it will improve the educational experience for students, parents and teachers.
A great way of getting the cloud and virtualisation into schools is to build it into the curriculum. The traditional deliverables of both a curriculum and administrative network are key fixtures in a school system, and other challenges include delivering data outside physical networks in a secure way to allow pupils to access key files so they can do their homework.
Vendors such as Microsoft are starting to realise this and are offering products such as Office 365 to schools, but unfortunately there are issues with this. Office 365 does not readily give teaching staff easy access to work uploaded by students. There are other products such as Lync 2010 which help to create virtual classroom settings, but a huge shift in thinking in schools will be needed for these to work well in an educational setting.
At a time where funding is extremely limited for schools, the chances of gaining additional money to bolster IT departments and IT skills within schools is small, and so searching for the right provider is key. Service providers that can help schools move to the cloud and implement virtualisation services into educational institutes are in short supply, and the support of outside providers will become even more prevalent as schools consider the positive impacts of moving to the cloud, such as cyber security and data protection.
Moving to the cloud is a huge consideration for any school or educational establishment, and only when the Head Teacher sees IT as an integral part of teaching and not a necessary evil will the journey towards cloud computing in education be completed.