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Seven things to consider about cloud services

Thinking of ditching your physical server and adopting computing in the cloud? Here Andrew Fergus of Lexel Education Solutions investigates seven server roles that your school should consider for migrating to the cloud.

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1. Email services

Email is the first function schools traditionally have looked to move to the cloud. The services from Microsoft (Office 365) and Google (GAFE) both have compelling feature sets. The biggest issue schools faced with locally-hosted mail servers used to be limiting the size of inboxes and attachments. However, with 30 to 50GB storage limits per user this is no longer a consideration.

2. Deploy and secure devices

Deploying and securing classroom computers have been implemented generally by a local server in both PC and Mac sites. With the popularity of BYOD devices, there’s no longer the need for a local management server. Mobile Device Manager (MDM) products are available that secure and deploy software from the cloud. Devices no longer have to be physically touched when policies are updated or additional applications have been purchased. Simply choose the settings to be applied and the next time the device connects they take place.

3. Data backups

Backups have long been the nightmare for the person in charge of ICT in schools. The requirements for financial and student records to be kept over multiple years requires the backup regime to be working in the event of a disaster. With ‘cloud backup’ locations available – and the multiple redundancy options this offers – the pressure is off the school and its IT team. Backup to cloud services allows automatic incremental copies of entire servers or specific data to happen at whatever interval is required. In the case of a site-wide disaster, a full copy of servers can be replicated from the cloud hosting site with minimal downtime for a school.

4. Spreading costs

Replacing your servers every four to five years can be quite a capital hit. When data is in the cloud, the monthly fees allow schools to simply budget for this cost, making the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) for cloud services more attractive over the long term. School boards and financial controllers appreciate annuity costs rather than unexpected large server replacements periodically.

5. Additional costs

Costs for cloud services are bundled into one monthly bill. There are two areas where schools are paying ongoing amounts that may not be accounted for in server replacement costs: power and cooling for the server room; and the cost of managing your own servers (from monitoring and patching to installing operating system upgrades).

6. Server co-location

With the emergence of fibre connections between schools, there’s enough bandwidth to co-locate servers at other campuses, allowing schools to store each other’s servers, perhaps for offsite backup. With the N4L network all that’s needed is the external IP address of the host school and the services can be tunnelled between each campus.

7. Phone systems

Unified communications through Lync (soon to be Skype for Business) allow schools to host phone systems in the cloud – as well as instant message, and voice and video call from computers or smartphones. If a PABX system is due to be replaced, the potential savings are significant. Schools can provide teachers with headsets for their laptops, allowing their phone number to terminate wherever their laptop is located.

Andrew Fergus is Education Business Manager at Lexel Education Solutions. For more on cloud computing, Lexel is hosting a workshop for delegates at next month’s INTERFACEXPO entitled ‘Cloud: More than Office 365
or Google Apps’.

Categories: Article, Issue 63