20130922_icloud-icon_0029Access to the cloud and to cloud services is a high priority for colleges and universities today, as indicated by recent independent surveys from the Center for Digital Education and Educause. The reason? The cloud is seen as an effective way to address evolving service needs while holding the line on budget.

Further, CIOs tell us that the prime motivators revolve around supporting student and faculty access to curriculum — which is in addition to more traditional and direct technology issues that can be addressed with a well-developed cloud services solution.

But CIOs still have some concerns and have therefore been slow to adopt a cloud strategy for their most prized data assets. Currently, only about half of higher education institutions have more than one-third of their data in the cloud, while only 17 percent say they store more than half of their data in the cloud. And about half of respondents tell us that cloud migration is a priority for the next few years and that more institutions have developed a strategic plan for cloud implementations.

One recent cloud adoption trend has been to support ERP functionality. Although adoption has been slower, traction for this critical service is gaining. A primary reason for this reticence was risk — but it was not the only one. Respondents also say they’ve been thwarted by limited options from providers and are reluctant to trust others with their most valued assets. The fact that the institution’s IT department may lose the level of control they require over these assets should they be placed in the cloud was also a concern.

Despite this, however, the majority of respondents agree that the cloud can offer a reliable and secure solution to meet institutional goals. Between two-thirds and three-quarters of respondents from higher ed institutions of all stripes say the cloud is a viable ERP strategy and that it should play an increasing role — even in ERP applications.

They also agree that cloud computing must be considered to help reduce IT costs, noting that cloud solutions can provide campuses with these six institutional needs:
1.Function – academic, institutional, financial
2.Economic – providing services for less money
3.Management – reducing overhead and increasing responsiveness
4.Scalability – tailoring IT support to match seasonal demands
5.Flexibility – addressing program changes more responsively
6.Resiliency and Recovery – better preparing the institution for 24/7/365 operation

Specifically, they want cloud solutions that will let them:
•Experience cloud benefits with limited front end development
•Implement a financially sustainable solution
•Strengthen business continuity and flexibility
•Reflect seasonal demand using right-size data center operations
•Utilize established applications for a better business value for cloud-based media services, such as U-Tube
•Meet legal and institutional compliances

What is the cloud outlook at your institution?