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Higher Ed Cloud Adoption on the Rise

Cloud investment is mostly expected to grow next year in higher education; 81 percent of IT leaders or professionals said their institutions would be increasing spending on cloud computing in 2017. Sixty percent said they're integrating cloud thinking into their IT strategies. But it will take a few more years before the majority of applications in colleges are running in the cloud. Today 39 percent of apps are cloud-based; by 2021 it could be closer to 62 percent.

Those results came from a survey done among IT respondents who work in government or higher education by MeriTalk, a publishing company focused on government IT, on behalf of sponsors NetApp and Avnet, which are both technology providers. All of the participants that provided information for "Destination Cloud: The Federal and SLED Cloud Journey" work for agencies or institutions that have adopted cloud technology.

The three top cloud-based applications currently in use are email (86 percent), web hosting (84 percent) and custom business applications (82 percent).

Half of cloud offerings run on private clouds, which, as MeriTalk explained, are set up for "exclusive use" by a single organization that has multiple users. These may run on-site or offsite and may be "owned, managed and operated by the organization, a third-party or some combination." A third of cloud-based services in higher ed run in public clouds, which are hosted on the premises of a cloud provider. And a scant 15 percent are hybrid solutions, cloud infrastructures bound by some kind of technology that enables data and applications to port between or among them.

The majority of colleges and universities (roughly 69 percent) cite cost savings as their primary drivers for cloud adoption. Increased flexibility, scalability and speed are the next most popular reasons for moving operations to the cloud, each cited by between 40 and 50 percent of respondents. In fact, seven in 10 (71 percent) reported that they've seen cuts in application costs with their moves to cloud-based computing. Other premiums are improved customer service, mentioned by 77 percent of higher ed respondents, and increased productivity, referenced by 76 percent.

The most common concern revealed was related to privacy and security, specified by 55 percent of respondents.

The survey solicited advice from participants for others considering the move to cloud. As one higher ed cloud adopter suggested, "Develop comprehensive training manuals for how to use cloud based-products and services." Said another, "Build strategic relationships with cloud providers."

Among all 300 respondents, the survey found few adopters are taking the necessary steps to prepare for the transition to cloud. Less than half have taken steps to assess the required computing, network or storage needs; develop a cost model; or prepare the workforce for the transition. A large number said they believe that their email (41 percent) and backup services (36 percent) still need updating before they can confidently make the move.

"Cloud adopters are working to understand the rules of the road and want roadside assistance," said Milo Speranzo, director strategy and compliance at Avnet, in a prepared statement. "To get in the fast lane to real cost savings, cloud adopters need clear migration strategies, appropriate cost models, and to prioritize the most critical cloud-ready apps."

The full survey results are available for registration on the MeriTalk website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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