If I had to sum up the excitement at EDUCAUSE this year, I’d use one word: Cloud. Almost every vendor in the exhibit hall is featuring a product that operates partly, or wholly, in the cloud.

I attended a session outlining how an institution could develop a business case for using cloud services over developing in-house. The pros were clear:

  • Actually improve service levels, as SaaS is designed to scale
  • Predictable cost models, by avoiding periodic technology overhauls. Cloud software is a moving target that improves over time at the same ongoing cost.
  • Scalability is now a reality for smaller institutions trying to become bigger players.
  • No more requirement for in-house support staff, which can be cost prohibitive.
  • Communicating outside the institution is much easier.

The main challenges raised could be easily addressed upfront in a legal agreement.

  • Undetermined backup scenario.
  • Overseeing policy compliance.
  • Privacy challenges.
  • “Consumerization” – i.e. not all technology decisions are made in IT anymore.

Joe Weinman’s blog on the 10 Laws of Cloudonomics sheds more light on the overall cloud landscape and how it fits with all types of industries.

My questions for you, the institution:

Q: In the SaaS realm, how important is the ability to change the ‘packaged’ product? Do you change your workflow to adopt what the product deems appropriate, or do you insist on working with the vendor to change things?

Q: We’ve heard that cloud software reduces costs, saves time, allows for a scalable infrastructure. It sounds like a no-brainer. if you’re not using any cloud software, what fundamental factors are still holding you back?

Q: What key indicators do you look at for determining adoption from a training/marketing perspective? Meaning, a piece of software could be perfect for your institution, but the strategy for informing students/staff might be lacking. Do you track that?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Myke Nahorniak