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Storage, Conferencing Drive Campuses to the Cloud

Cloud computing in colleges and universities is growing and is expected to consume up to a third of the IT budget within the next four years. What's driving the growth?

Higher Education and the Cloud
According to a study released last week by CDW Government, storage is the top application in higher education, with 31 percent of campuses turning to the cloud to house their data. Messaging and conferencing came in as the second-most-used application, at 29 percent. And "compute power" came in third at 25 percent.

That aligns fairly closely with cloud practices across other sectors, where storage, conference, and collaboration were consistently in the top 2, according to the report, entitled "2013 State of the Cloud Report: Silver Linings & Surprises." Other top services and applications in education, healthcare, business, and government included messaging, business process applications, and compute power.

In higher education, those making the decision to move services to the cloud cut across departments. Decisions are being made in large part by IT directors, with 61 percent of respondents saying the IT director is one of those in their organizations who has made the choice to move to the cloud. Fifty-nine percent also indicated that CIOs and CTOs are cloud decision-makers. But 41 percent also indicated that non-IT C-level executives have made that decision. Figures add up to more than 100 percent because respondents were asked to select all that applied.

Within the next year, according to the report, the cloud will make up 20 percent of the IT budget in higher education. In four years, that figure will reach 33 percent.

Survey respondents from the higher education sector also reported that within one year, the percentage of the IT budget they expect to save on cloud computing will be 14 percent, and that will jump to 20 percent in four years.

Across sectors, among organizations that are implementing or have implemented cloud services, respondents said they're saving on average 13 percent in costs currently, with savings in the coming year anticipated to be 17 percent and in four years 25 percent.

On the down side, higher education IT pros indicated the top impediments for moving to the cloud included:

  1. Security of proprietary data and applications, with 52 percent citing this as a concern;
  2. Performance of cloud services (31 percent); and
  3. "Ambiguity of service level agreements with vendors about who's responsible for what" (27 percent).

Cross-Sector Findings
Aside from cost savings, other benefits cited by organizations across sectors included:

  • Efficiency (55 percent);
  • Employee mobility (49 percent);
  • Ability to innovate (32 percent);
  • Freeing up IT staff (31 percent); and
  • Ability to offer new products or services (24 percent).

Other cross-sector findings included:

  • 66 percent of IT professionals (63 percent in higher education specifically) reported that their personal use of cloud technologies influenced their recommendations in the workplace, and 73 percent (48 percent in higher education) reported that employee use of the cloud significantly influenced decisions to adopt cloud technologies;
  • 68 percent of respondents reported that employees have increased their requests for cloud technologies over the last year;
  • More than a quarter--27 percent--or respondents said cloud services are being purchased without involving the IT department;
  • 47 percent of respondents reported they are currently or in the process of transitioning to "charging the costs of IT services, hardware or software to business units in which they are used," while another 24 percent are considering it; and
  • The majority of respondents factor in the costs of software management (65 percent), software licenses (63 percent), and IT labor (52 percent) when contemplating moving to the cloud as an alternative to traditional IT services.

"Organizations' adoption of cloud computing has steadily increased, which comes as no surprise given the growth of mobility and the consumerization of IT," said Stephen Braat, general manager of cloud solutions at CDW, in a statement released to coincide with the report. "By aligning cloud services with critical applications and preferences of employees that use mobile devices, organizations can better capture business value that includes cost savings, increased efficiency, improved employee mobility, and an increased ability to create innovative new products and services."

He continued: "Although the continued migration to cloud computing has presented new challenges, the benefits continue to outweigh the risks. The fact that personal use of cloud computing among employees and IT professionals is influencing the rate of adoption within organizations speaks volumes about the emerging business case for cloud computing, and the need for solutions providers to take steps, as CDW has, to expand our portfolio of cloud services."

The complete report is freely available on CDW-G's site with registration.

About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 29-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEDavidNagel (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).

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