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Ohio U Migrates Student Housing System to the Cloud

cloud computing

Ohio University's Residential Housing Department has migrated its student housing system from the campus to the cloud, making it easier for the department to control its own system updates while providing students with an improved user interface.

Challenge of Self-Hosting

First- and second-year students at Ohio University are required to live on campus, and approximately 8,000 students live in the institution's 42 residence halls. For several years, the university has been using The Housing Director from Adirondack Solutions to manage its housing applications and room selection process.

Until recently, the university's Office of Information Technology (OIT) hosted The Housing Director, which interfaces with the university's PeopleSoft student information system (SIS). Whenever the Residential Housing Department needed to make a change, even something as simple as updating the text of the student housing contract from "2014-15" to "2015-16," the revision had to go through four levels of OIT testing before implementation.

"Testing is a great thing," said Jneanne Hacker, director for business operations and conference services in Residential Housing, "but it was very restrictive as far as deployment schedules, going through our testing protocols and getting baseline changes from the sandbox up to the production environment."

Working within the schedules of the Office of Information Technology also presented challenges whenever Residential Housing wanted to create a report that required an interface with other systems. "The Office of Information Technology services all of our campus partners across the institution, and so there are different priorities, different projects. Once again we were competing with different resources, different campus partners who have very specific needs, and so the responsiveness internally at times was not what we desired," said Hacker.

Migration to the Cloud

When Adirondack Solutions released version 4.0 of The Housing Director, the university made the decision to upgrade from 3.26 and move the system to its own dedicated server on Adirondack's cloud-hosted service, which is powered by Infinitely Virtual's cloud computing platform. "As we prepared to go from 3.26, which we hosted locally, to 4.0 in a cloud environment, we really had to evaluate all of our business practices and make the best decision that would create some operational efficiencies while also providing the best level of service to our students," said Hacker.

Ohio University's Office of Information Technology worked very closely with Adirondack Solutions for the migration from campus to cloud. As part of the process, the university had to go through its existing database to purge any obsolete attributes and reporting features and then conduct sanity checks to verify that the data would migrate successfully.

The timing of the migration was critical to minimize disruption of application timelines, room selection timelines and room change timelines, "so we had to pull together a timeline to make sure that those types of service options were limited, but also to ensure that we could remain fully functional to meet all of our business practice needs, to ensure that we weren't doing the migration during a period of time in which billing assessment was happening," said Hacker. "We had to make sure all of the charges and credits attached to a student — over 80 million dollars worth of transactions — were delivered from one system to the next."

According to Hacker, the transition process was quick and seamless. "Collectively, it was probably about a two-day process for all of the responsibilities that Ohio University had before the migration, and then it took about a week once we started passing data and Adirondack Solutions had it in the 4.0 environment on the hosted site to ensure that they were ready to deliver a product back to us that was going to be fully functional," she said.

The system interfaces with the PeopleSoft SIS to determine which students are eligible to live in housing, to deliver demographic data to The Housing Director and to share student residence addresses with campus partners such as the Ohio University Police Department, the Bursar and the Students' Office. The system also integrates with CASHNet from Higher One, a customization that the university developed with Adirondack Solutions several years ago to simplify the process for incoming students to pay their $200 housing deposits — the last step in the process that declares their intent to enroll at the university.

Results

According to Hacker, the updated interface of The Housing Director is easier for students to navigate, and they can use the system to select a meal plan, connect with roommates during the advance roommate search and select a room. "It's very streamlined now," said Hacker. "The upgrade from 3.26 to 4.0 truly has changed the look and feel of the program to make it more user-friendly from a student perspective."

Now that Adirondack Solutions is hosting the university's student housing software in the cloud, the Residential Housing Department has more freedom to manage its own deployment and upgrade schedules based on its own needs, without concern for conflicts with university business processes. "Being in the cloud environment with that level of control to avoid those disruptions is certainly an advantage," said Hacker.

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