Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Moving On Up... in the Cloud...

As a member of the NAACE Technology in Education Advice Network, I was invited to contribute to their first 'Guidance' document on cloud computing... With my tongue firmly in my cheek, I wrote the following in response to the question they posed... 

There is much talk of schools using free online systems or 'cloud computing' to replace software and systems that they have previously bought. There are pros and cons involved in doing this. What are the key questions schools should be asking before making such a move?

Exactly. There’s much TALK about it… if I was a Head of a School considering ‘the cloud’, I'd first try and find out exactly what it's all about... surely someone's written an article I can understand somewhere...

Next the question: ‘Has anybody already been and DONE it? And what do they say about it? And not just in the short-term or at the school where the hardware supplier has invested to prove the concept!

Who’s already taken the leap of faith from a system where I can tell my Network Manager/Technician to fix it, to resources that are ‘out there’ in the ether (sometimes the cloud metaphor really isn’t helpful!).

As a school leader I’ll know that someone might have got to my Finance Manager / Bursar and baited the trap with promises of untold savings that could be made in the long-term if they just spend x amount now… so I’ll need to know what the upfront costs are going to be – for the Broadband provision to enable us to take advantage of all the pluses of cloud computing, for the necessary backup systems, for staff training to take us over the hump of adopting new technology and systems.

I’d also want to know whether I was going to get any surprises 9 months later… of the ‘to make it work better (as it should..) you’ll really need to invest (aka spend more) on a better this, that or other…

I’d consult my crystal ball to see if 'cloud' is just a flavour of the month approach to the age-old resources problem… or is it actually THE BEST WAY of delivering the services I want or just the cheapest? What is better… 25gb of storage via skydrive or physical storage on the school’s network?

However, I’d also want someone to remind me of what’s important and that schools – especially those faced with the prospect of revenue-only based investment for the foreseeable future – should actively investigate what savings they could make via 'cloud' for re-investment in technology that goes into the hands of the pupils and teachers…

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