Open Menu Close Menu


Cloud Needs to Be High on Higher Ed IT Priority Lists in 2021

Migrating to the cloud can help institutions meet the infrastructure demands of the current pandemic and beyond.

cloud computing

There's no sugar-coating it: Higher education is facing a truly unprecedented situation this school year. But it's not all dire. In my on-the-ground experience in IT in higher education, I'm confident we can rise to the challenge — and meet it head-on — with innovation. Now is the time for academic IT leaders to consider the financial and operational benefits of cloud migration that can help institutions stay online and thrive.

As we've learned at Widener University, migrating to a trustworthy cloud-driven environment outfits institutions like ours with infrastructure built to handle upticks in online traffic and demand for tools or services from students, faculty and staff.

Connecting People and Platforms

There's no doubt COVID-19 has accelerated higher ed digital transformation. However, there's still a ways to go for many institutions — especially those lacking budget and bandwidth to modernize legacy systems. At the same time, virtually everyone in higher ed today, from professors to political science majors to professional staff, needs access to the digital resources that allow them to learn, connect with colleagues or classmates, and assign or complete tasks.

At Widener, our ongoing IT planning and operations efforts have been informed by the pandemic's continued impact on our community. For IT, a sustained virtual and hybrid learning environment calls for a high-performing digital experience. Widener's IT staff purview covers everything from supporting the university website to ensuring digital tools and platforms used by staff, faculty and students keep working — and work together.

As we join the rest of the higher ed industry in carrying out a spring semester in an ongoing pandemic, there's more incentive than ever for IT leaders to migrate to cloud-based operations. When considering options, I encourage fellow academic IT professionals to assess cloud providers based on their ability to strengthen the digital connection between individuals and institutions, not alienate or further complicate the connection.

Cost-Effective Upgrades and Integrations

Potential cost is the most common barrier to entry in the path of higher ed institutions considering technology and infrastructure upgrades. That said, moving to the cloud is not an all-or-nothing scenario — the process can scale along with an institution's ability to shift operations to a hybrid, private or public cloud setup, as well as budget for initial investments and ongoing maintenance. Regardless, a central benefit of migrating legacy systems, platforms, tools and resources to the cloud stems from the ability to remove costly physical upkeep burdens of on-premises data centers. It can also minimize the amount of time IT staff spends on tasks related to disaster recovery and data monitoring necessary for continuously modernizing and maintaining physical infrastructure.

Migrating to the cloud offers higher ed IT leaders a chance to streamline and implement new platforms (like videoconferencing, learning management systems and digital libraries) or tools (like online chats and team collaboration software) that improve an institution's operations. It also provides an opportunity to take stock of IT team expertise, skill levels and adaptability to understand where there may be skills gaps. In both cases, bringing on an external managed services partner — we went with Contegix at Widener — that understands how to marry current academic IT systems with a new cloud solution or SaaS-powered digital tools can help offset extraneous IT costs.

While the cloud adoption and migration process requires advanced planning, upfront investment and potential external partnership, selecting the right cloud solution and infrastructure setup can save an institution money, time and IT team bandwidth now that delivers ROI for years.

Looking Ahead

Global demand for virtual higher education is not going away. COVID-generated trends of increased network usage, more maintenance requests and heightened security concerns will persist through the next academic year and beyond. Simultaneously, the need among higher ed institutions to offset financial consequences of the pandemic by prioritizing affordability and cost efficiency will persist across departments — including IT.

While Widener was already operating in a cloud environment before COVID, our decision was quickly validated when we sent students, staff and faculty home and our systems handled intensified digital activity across the board. By investing in cloud solutions, integrating digital infrastructure, and potentially bringing on a managed IT service provider, today's higher education IT leaders can place their institutions in better position to navigate an unprecedented spring semester, and what follows.

comments powered by Disqus