Cloud computing has been one of the most disruptive technology trends of the past decade. The simple ability to run applications and store data via a web browser has led to software as a service (SaaS) becoming the norm, changing the way we structure our workplace and procure technology.
The benefits of this change are already being felt among Australian businesses. More than three quarters (78 per cent) of respondents to a report by the accounting firm, Deloitte, said cloud computing had boosted productivity. A further 48 per cent said it had allowed them to hire more staff.
Deloitte estimated that, Australia-wide, cloud computing had delivered cumulative productivity benefits worth $9.4 billion over the past five years.
This article explores the potential impact of cloud computing on Australian schools for students, teachers, IT managers and administrators.
Cloud computing in schools
It is one thing for businesses to move their operations to the cloud, but what about schools? The Deloitte study found that despite the popularity of cloud computing, Australian businesses still faced barriers to adoption, such as cost, lack of expertise and legacy systems.
Australia spends a lot of money on education. According to OECD figures, more than USD 20,000 was spent per student in 2015. That put Australia sixth among OECD countries, behind only Norway, Sweden, the UK, the US and Luxembourg.
Despite that, Australia’s public schools face significant budget pressure and are often caught in a political battle between state and federal government. A recent report by the Grattan Institute, a think tank, revealed that a decade of increases in federal public school funding had been offset by lower contributions from states.
Public schools are therefore always looking for ways to make their budgets go further. Cloud computing has the potential to help them do that.
Reducing IT hardware costs for schools
A report by the Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACCE), a professional association, predicted that the growing popularity of cloud computing in schools would “decrease IT support requirements”.
Schools would be able to reduce their on premise IT infrastructure, along with the associated support costs. They would switch instead to subscriptions for cloud-based apps that they could use to support students and administrators.
Some of the cost of using education software would then, according to the ACCE, be shared with students who might have their own licences that they used both at home and in the classroom. This opens up additional potential savings for schools.
Moving to the cloud also offers IT managers and school administrators access to more data that they can use to optimise and reallocate their budgets.
For example, it would be easy to monitor the usage and impact of different cloud-based education apps and use that information to decide what to keep and what to replace.
IT managers can also take this similar tactic to manage peripherals like printers and scanners with Managed print services which provides with a consolidated view of usage and costs of devices not bound by location.
Improving efficiency in schools
The ACCE report said this new, app-based way of learning would also lead to a rethink of classroom layout, with a greater emphasis on open plan, flexible learning spaces.
As well as cloud-based apps, schools will need to think about other connected devices, such as screens and printers.
Scalable, modern, networked printers can play a vital role in a cloud-inspired school learning environment.
Rather than disappearing to the secretary’s office or coming in early to tackle a mound of photocopying, teachers can print quickly and easily on the go. That could be in the classroom while running a lesson, or from home while planning it the previous evening.
This supports more flexible working arrangements for teachers, which can help them better manage their workload pressure.
Meanwhile, school-wide, smart deployment of the right printers and scanners will help IT managers and school administrators support the type of workflows they want to see.
A managed print services partner can help schools move away from large, centralised printers. They will also be able to advise on the best ways to reduce waste, energy usage and the cost of print supplies.
But what about security?
A common concern with cloud computing is security, with Schools facing increasing scrutiny over their handling of pupil data, does cloud computing become a move in the wrong direction?
The answer is, it depends. What is most certainly not correct is the assumption that because the data does not sit under the same roof as the IT department then it’s inherently less secure against attacks and there is less control of information.
According to Alastair Mitchell, president and co-founder, Huddle. “When the correct security policies for preventing attacks and detecting them are implemented, attacks are no more threatening to the cloud than any other piece of infrastructure,”
Cloud document management, for example, can provide control of information by simply setting up access controls so that scanned documents are organised into the correct networked folders only accessible by selected users which makes it much less likely that sensitive data about pupils will be misplaced. The same approach can also be applied to IoT devices like printers and scanners which interfaces with cloud platforms.
So, good governance, security and user access policies is key. What this means really depends on the school and the IT environment, having an experienced solutions provider to evaluate the specific situation goes a long way to address the security question. It should definitely not deter schools from adopting cloud-based applications.
Get in touch with the team today to see how our expertise can help your school roll out smarter, cost effective, secure and efficient cloud print solutions.