Universities are increasingly looking to the cloud to provide their research management needs, reduce administration and improve access to education – for some very compelling reasons.
Cloud computing and shared services can:
- Reduce environmental impacts and financial costs
- Ease the load of developing or maintaining infrastructure
- Be more flexible and independent of location
- Enable new or better kinds of research
Jisc is currently doing work to help organisations better understand the benefits and costs of cloud computing and make decisions about how the cloud might fit their business models. Jisc received funding in 2010 from HEFCE to take charge of part of their investment in cloud computing – a £12.5 million HEFCE fund known as the Universities Modernisation Fund or UMF. It aims to help universities and colleges deliver better efficiency and value for money through shared services.
”Cloud computing is still a relatively new technology to many so we are trying to forward our knowledge in the area for all, looking at where there might be issues, such as costings and providing information so that everybody can make the right decision for them,”
says Sara Hassen, communications manager at Jisc specialising in cloud and the UMF.
“We’re working on getting balanced information out there and sharing all the options so that managers can then decide what’s the best possible approach for their own situation.”
1. Are you still thinking about how to make the best use of the cloud?
Our guide on cloud computing is a good starting point on the benefits and risks of cloud computing. It includes advice on cloud models and strategies, and explains how cloud computing can be funded without extensive capital outlay, while helping to save cost.
The Nexus service is an excellent next stop on the stairway to cloud as it seamlessly connects software applications to pass messages between applications, whether in-house or cloud based, without the need for expensive point to point integrations.
"There are people out there to help with the choices organisation have to make, and services like Nexus have already done some of the groundwork for you," says Sara.
2. Are you considering brokering some new cloud services?
Cloud computing involves working with commercial suppliers and our Janet brokerage service is all about "getting efficiencies for institutions and collaborative purchasing power," says Sara. "It can help you negotiate the complexities of making a transition to cloud." You may also find the ‘working with commercial suppliers’ infoKit helpful.
3. Do you want to get more from your suppliers?
Nexus and Janet brokerage are not just for those starting up in the cloud, but can also help those who are already engaged with cloud computing and would like to extend their provision; perhaps with thinking about administration processes or data centre services.
"Thanks to the services and projects we're funding through the UMF, people who are further down the line have now got people who can help them".
4. Do you need to persuade senior management of the value of cloud?
How about sharing some inspiring examples of institutions that are already using cloud successfully? The Bloomsbury media cloud hosts a digital media portal where six colleges collaborate in real time, and publish and share resources; Cumulus has enabled a consortium of universities to work with a major supplier to deliver and share curriculum management in the cloud;Kindura is helping researchers access external, in-house and shared repository-focused services from a "cloud-like" front end.
If senior managers have concerns about legal issues around cloud, then our cloud computing and the law toolkit could provide some reassurance. However, senior managers should be aware that cloud services are being used by institutional staff already because they see services such as Dropbox to be invaluable. Therefore, cloud services need to be embraced by institutions so that control over risk is regained.
The money-saving aspects of cloud might also be appealing to senior managers and Jisc is working on a number of projects that use the cloud to make institutional admin easier and more efficient. For example, a new cloud-based service for the secure distribution of electronic documents. Led by Liverpool John Moores University, Project DARE(Digital Academic Records Exchange) will deliver a system for the secure on-line delivery of degree certificates, transcripts, Higher Education Achievement Reports and other student data and documents as a shared service using the Nexus connectors. Another system which compliments this is the Higher Education Degree Datacheck(HEDD), a cloud-based service, which gives potential employers a method of verifying HE awards by job applicants. The current experience of institutions using HEDD is that it reduces staff activity in this area by a third.
5. Are you ready to join the debate on cloud computing?
Why not comment here (below) on this subject to help steer policy at the highest level.
This article originally featured in issue 35 of Jisc Inform (UK web archive).