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Cloud Services 101: An Almanac for Higher Education Leaders

Cloud services are becoming more and more omnipresent, and rapidly changing how companies and organizations conduct their day-to-day business.

Many higher education institutions currently utilize cloud services for learning management systems (LMS) and student email systems. Yet there are some common misunderstandings and assumptions about cloud services, especially among higher education administrative leaders who may lack IT knowledge. The following information will provide these leaders with a better understanding of cloud services and how to develop a cloud services strategy.

What are cloud services?

Cloud services are internet-based technology services provided and/or hosted by offsite vendors. Cloud services can include a variety of applications, resources, and services, and are designed to be easily scalable, cost effective, and fully managed by the cloud services vendor.

What are the different types?

Cloud services are generally categorized by what they provide. Today, there are four primary types of cloud services:

Cloud Service Types 

Cloud services can be further categorized by how they are provided:

Private cloud services are dedicated to only one client. Security and control is the biggest value for using a private cloud service.
Public cloud services are shared across multiple clients. Cost effectiveness is the best value of public cloud services because resources are shared among a large number of clients.
Hybrid cloud services are combinations of on-premise software and cloud services. The value of hybrid cloud services is the ability to adopt new cloud services (private or public) slowly while maintaining on-premise services that continue to provide value.

How do cloud services benefit higher education institutions?

Higher education administrative leaders should understand that cloud services provide multiple benefits.
Some examples:

Cloud-Services-for-Higher-Education


What possible problems do cloud services present to higher education institutions?

At the dawn of the cloud era, many of the problems were technical or operational in nature. As cloud services have become more sophisticated, the problems have become more security and business related. Today, higher education institutions have to tackle challenges such as cybersecurity/disaster recovery, data ownership, data governance, data compliance, and integration complexities.

While these problems and questions may be daunting, they can be overcome with strong leadership and best-practice policies, processes, and controls.

How can higher education administrative leaders develop a cloud services strategy?

You should work closely with IT leadership to complete this five-step planning checklist to develop a cloud services strategy: 

1. Identify new services to be added or consolidated; build a business case and identify the return on investment (ROI) for moving to the cloud, in order to answer: 
  What cloud services does your institution already have?
    What cloud services does your institution already have?
    What services should you consider replacing with cloud services, and why?
  How are data decisions being made?
2.  Identify design, technical, network, and security requirements (e.g., private or public; are there cloud services already in place that can be expanded upon, such as a private cloud service), in order to answer:
    Is your IT staff ready to migrate, manage, and support cloud services?
    Do your business processes align with using cloud services?
    Do cloud service-provided policies align with your institution’s security policies?
  Do you have the in-house expertise  to integrate cloud services with existing on-premise services?
3.  Decide where data will be stored; data governance (e.g., on-premise, off-premise data center, cloud), in order to answer:
  Who owns the data in the institution’s cloud, and where? 
  Who is accountable for data decisions?
4. Integrate with current infrastructure; ensure cloud strategy easily allows scalability for expansion and additional services, in order to answer:
  What integration points will you have between on-premise and cloud applications or services, and can the institution easily implement, manage, and support them?
5. Identify business requirements — budget, timing, practices, policies, and controls required for cloud services and compliance, in order to answer:
  Will your business model need to change in order to support a different cost model for cloud services (i.e., less capital for equipment purchases every three to five years versus a steady monthly/yearly operating cost model for cloud services)?
  Does your institution understand the current state and federal compliance and privacy regulations as they relate to data?
  Do you have a contingency plan if its primary cloud services provider goes out of business?
  Do your contracts align with institutional, state, and federal guidelines?

Need assistance?

BerryDunn’s higher education team focuses on advising colleges and universities in improving services, reducing costs, and adding value. Our team is well qualified to assist in understanding the cloud “skyscape.” If your institution seeks to maximize the value of cloud services or develop a cloud services strategy, please contact us.

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