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Migrating to the cloud

Students working on laptops

Migrating from traditional on-premise services to cloud-based services will:

  • help schools shift to 21st century pedagogy and digital collaboration
  • provide access to anywhere, anytime learning
  • enable better stewardship of IT infrastructural funding.

Ministry of Education, Schools' cloud transformation project: Project objectives and proof of concept findings

What are cloud-based services?

"Cloud computing refers to the physical structure of a communications network, where data is stored in large data centres and can be accessed anywhere, at anytime, and from different devices."

The potentials of using cloud computing in schools: A systematic literature review  (2017)

Cloud-based services are ICT resources provided over the internet, rather than on individual computers or school servers.

These include:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) – software applications that run from data centres rather than individual computers, e.g. Google’s G Suite, Microsoft’s Office 365, student management systems like eTap and Edge, library software, and accounting systems such as Xero
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – servers that are hosted on hardware located in a provider’s data centre instead of running at your school, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.

"Merely using somebody else’s infrastructure to run the same services that used to be on a school’s server – known as Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS) – does not leverage enough of the benefits of cloud computing to make it worthwhile for most schools, because there is still too much technical expertise required to implement and maintain IAAS solutions. SaaS will inevitably render school servers redundant."

Ten trends 2017: The cloud

More information »

  • Ten trends 2017: The cloud  – An explanation of why cloud services are a key technological development for education in 2017.

The benefits of cloud migration

"The literature points to a number of advantages for cloud computing use in education, some of the most prominent being collaboration, efficiency, motivation, universal data access, and unlimited space for data storage."

The potentials of using cloud computing in schools: A systematic literature review  (2017)

The operational and pedagogical advantages for using cloud services include:

  • collaboration – cloud based services typically have collaboration as a key feature, simplifying collaborative practice
  • any time, any place, any device access – your files, applications, data, and email can be accessed readily from the cloud from any internet-connected device at any location
  • reduced cost and complexity
    • no need to purchase, install, and maintain internal servers for email or file storage
    • devices such as laptops and tablets may not need to be as highly specified, so cost less to purchase
  • from capital to operational costs – expenditure shifts from large capital outlays every few years to steady, on-going monthly costs
  • centralised updates
    • updates to cloud services are rolled out by service-providers, removing the need to install new software to devices individually
    • your devices are always running the latest version with the latest features and functionality
  • improved security – cloud service providers have the scale and resources to deliver robust standards of security and are highly motivated to deliver secure services as their reputation depends on it
  • improved data resiliency and service reliability
    • your data typically resides in multiple internet data-centres with robust back-up and disaster recovery procedures, and is less prone to incidents at your school such as theft, malfunction, or disaster
    • the scale of cloud-delivered solutions should mean services are more reliable than what can typically be provided via in-school hardware
    • increased reliability increases teacher and student confidence to use digital technologies for learning
  • elasticity – resources needed (e.g. file storage size or processing power) can be easily scaled up and down as needed rather than you having to predict use patterns up-front with the extra resources left dormant until the server eventually reaches capacity.

Connected Learning Advisory – Planning for a cloud migration

Planning for cloud migration

“The most important consideration is the needs of users.”

  1. Identify your motives for change and how well they align with your strategic planning.
  2. Choose a cloud-based application suite, SaaS (Software as a Service), that fits with your school's educational priorities.
  3. Establish policies, implementation plans, and budget for the cloud service.
  4. Plan a staged implementation process.To work towards a situation where your school-based servers are no longer needed, or are doing only a minimum of discrete tasks:
    • ensure your school’s network is fit for purpose before migrating to the cloud
    • budget (time & cost) for any remedial work to be done before the migration
    • be aware that some legacy systems do not run efficiently on IaaS.
  5. Prepare teachers for the change. Planning and leadership is needed to provide training and support teachers to:
    • see the value in cloud computing
    • understand how to use it an integrate it into their current pedagogy
    • handle data and consider security.

It is important that school leaders promote and establish an organisational culture that supports collaboration, and the creation of a genuine knowledge-sharing culture among teachers.

The potentials of using cloud computing in schools: A systematic literature review  (2017)

Costs of cloud migration

Plan and budget for migration to cloud and the ongoing costs of maintaining those services.

Consider:

  • current costs including the maintenance, backup, support, eventual system replacement and ongoing costs
  • set-up costs, including –
    • technical support to migrate to the new services. Migrating to use a Software as a Service solution (eg moving from a school-based SMS to a cloud-based SMS) is unlikely to require significant technical support whereas migrating to an Infrastructure as a Service solution is likely to require specialist expertise. Select an experienced and knowledgeable supplier prepared to provide both initial and ongoing assistance. Ask for references or case studies.
    • time required to be spent by school staff to undertake or assist with the set-up.
    • professional learning – both in-house and with the assistance of external providers.
  • on-going costs
    • expected monthly or annual cost of the cloud service (this may be nil – for example if migrating to Google Apps for Education, Microsoft Office 365 or using N4L’s services)
    • technical support and staff time required to maintain the cloud services. This may be offset by savings made by not having to support and maintain hardware and software systems at your school.

Connected Learning Advisory – Planning for a cloud migration

Support for schools

Ministry of Education logo

The schools' cloud transformation project (SCTP)  
An initiative by the Ministry of Education to assist Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako, schools and kura in moving to cloud-based products and services in a smart, safe way.

CLA icon
Connected Learning Advisory

Ministry of education schools' cloud transformation project pilot  

The Ministry of Education has been running cloud-migration trials with schools across the country as part of a pilot project. The initial trial found that schools who use only cloud services are set to make significant cost savings over those who are using on-site server infrastructure.    

Ministry of Education logo

Project objectives and proof of concept findings
Contains project objectives and proof of concept findings from the MOE's cloud-migration trials in New Zealand schools.

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