Get the benefits of cloud computing in higher education with a smart migration

A white paper

At this point, the benefits of cloud computing in education are well known. It’s not a question of whether you want adaptable resources, stronger security, tighter budget control and more innovation for faculty and students. It’s a question of how to get them fast enough.

The key to a successful migration is thinking about what your stakeholders specifically need. There are so many uses for cloud computing in education that it’s easy to get lost in abstract features instead of sticking concretely to the elements that will make your migration successful. To get the most value out of cloud with the least amount of spend, ask these three (okay, four) questions at the start:

  1. What advantages of cloud computing in education do I need most?
  2. What applications and data need to move to the cloud to make that happen, and what requirements do they have?
  3. Who can I rely on for support?

This article will help you find the answers to No. 1, and our whitepaper on how to build a cloud migration plan that works will walk you through the steps of answering No. 2. As for No. 3, you’ll have to identify the stakeholders and champions within your own organization. We also hope you’ll take the time upfront to find the right cloud partner for your university, because it will save you waste and headache on the backend. (And if you decide SCTG might be it, well, we’d love to start a deeper conversation.)

3 examples of the roles cloud computing can play in education

There are as many models for cloud computing in higher education as there are types of institutions. Public, private, small, large, research, trade — save for a need to support Netflix, there’s not a lot of overlap in these schools’ IT needs. If the clouds they run on don’t look the same, their migrations shouldn’t either.

Consider three examples of cloud computing in education that we worked on directly: DePaul, Penn State and NEIU. DePaul University is private, sitting in the heart of one of Chicago’s priciest neighborhoods and serving nearly 25,000 students. One of the first universities to fully weave data into its decision-making process — like phasing out test scores when it found they didn’t contribute to student success — DePaul needed an infrastructure so hassle-free departments would want to go to IT first, keeping that data centralized. It also had to balance those needs against a lot of legacy systems that would need to be completely refactored to take advantage of public cloud. For DePaul, the right migration wasn’t one straight to cloud, but one to colocation. Set up securely in the SCTG data center with what’s essentially a private cloud, DePaul’s IT team can focus on how to use cloud computing in education going forward, instead of how to keep its servers running.

Penn State, on the other hand, is a public institution home to almost 100,000 students. It’s already using the cloud to develop innovative new tools. The plant sciences program at Penn State, for example, is developing an app that allows you to upload a picture of any plant to the cloud. There, it’ll be crunched by an algorithm and matched to the nearest lookalike, spitting out an identification. The cloud is the only way to make that level of processing efficient and affordable.

The last, Northeastern Illinois University, is a relatively small public college of 9,000 students in Chicago. In the past, a university of that size would be effectively barred from cutting-edge technology, unable to afford the massive infrastructure and installation projects to support it. The cloud changed that story. We were able to help NEIU develop a dark fiber ring connecting its campuses with top-tier technology. Then we set them up with a cloud capable of running the leading ERP system it hoped to use. Without the cloud, it would have cost NEIU a prohibitive $3.1 million more to host that software. With the cloud, NEIU got the tools it needs to create a competitive experience for its students, with improved stability and agility.


Learn more about how we brought NEIU to the forefront of technology


Understanding these 6 benefits of cloud computing in education

The way you end up using cloud computing in education may look like one of the examples above, or it may look completely different. The point is that it serves you best. Your ultimate goals, your funding sources and budgeting cycles, the overall size of your campus, all of these things should inform your cloud migration and ultimate infrastructure solution. Before you finalize anything, we recommend thinking about how cloud computing can be used in education, including these six benefits, and letting them guide your plans.

Get out of data center management

This first benefit of cloud computing is one that all of our education sector partners require. university IT teams are tasked with serving so many masters and so many goals, servicing servers on top of that is just too much.


By offloading the everyday management of their infrastructure — either through colocation or a full cloud migration — our partners are able to reclaim their time and reallocate it to the initiatives that improve student and faculty experiences and provide platforms for innovation.


Get tighter security

It’s shockingly common to see a university running on ancient servers riddled with security flaws — at a certain point it’s just too hard to stay on top of the updates, patches and replacements needed to keep on-prem infrastructure secure. Moving to the cloud comes with its own security issues, to be sure, and those need to be considered in your migration. It is, however, far easier to keep security features up-to-date and to stay on the right side of FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Get control over budgets


Not only does cloud allow you to avoid the huge CapEx outlays that can be so hard to plan for, it gives you far more insight into where your infrastructure expenditures are actually going.


You can see exactly how your cloud resources are being used, throttling or expanding them as needed and gaining total visibility into where your money is going. You can also set a static rate, something many of our university clients do so they know exactly what their infrastructure costs will be month-to-month.

Get money back

At the end of the day, cloud services have to be the cost-effective choice for education. All three of the university partners we mentioned above saved money by moving from sole ownership to shared services. By choosing SCTG as their colocation and/or cloud provider, the institutions are effectively able to share their maintenance costs with our other partners. And they’re not adding headcount to keep it running — our 24/7/365 customer service is there for everyone.


All that money saved, from the capital expenditures to the service to the staff, can go back into much needed upgrades and innovations on campus.


Get access to on-demand resources

By definition, the cloud is just someone else’s computer. Instead of building a new one when they need new resources, our partners can simply tap into the computers we already have. The departments that need elasticity — think research, development, etc. — can easily get it as needed, jumping on to additional resources, then leaving them when they’re no longer needed, letting SCTG handle the long-term costs.

Get opportunities for innovation

This last benefit is the most critical, and the most varied. The applications of cloud computing in education are nearly limitless — crunching data, processing video, hosting information and creating connections. We can’t predict how your students, faculty and staff will take advantage of those capabilities. We just know they’ll open up all kinds of opportunities to build things that haven’t been thought of before. And because you’re not stuck managing servers, you’ll be right there with them, figuring out how to move the university and its technology forward.

Let the future you want inform how to use cloud computing in education

All those benefits above, they all support one fact: The cloud allows you to adapt. We may not know what the next three, five, 10 years hold for university IT. But we do know students and faculty will continue to use compute power in imaginative and world-changing ways.


A smart migration, focused on the benefits you want and the realities you work within, will set your community up with the resources it needs today, and prepare you to adapt to the ones it will need tomorrow.


As you consider the role cloud can play in your institution, we hope that you’ll reach out with any questions.