Cloud Migration for Higher Education
It’s no secret that cloud-based environments have helped universities reduce IT costs, simplify access to information, increase their geographical reach of education, and, of course, help manage content. But what makes a file or cloud migration for higher education institutions unique? Universities often have extra challenges to overcome due to the many needs and the diversity of higher education organizations. We’ll explore some of these common problems higher education institutions face when planning or executing their cloud migration.
Migration Costs and Securing Funding
Some organizations don’t have cost concerns when planning their cloud migration or digital transformation in general. However, this is seldom the case for higher education institutions. And that’s why SkySync has an Internet2 offering for institutions of higher education. But from our experiences working with universities, we’ve witnessed some other tips higher education organizations can keep in mind when securing funding for their cloud migration project.
Avoid Vendor Lock-In
Avoiding cloud vendor lock-in can be as simple as having the right migration tool with built-in flexibility. A migration tool that offers out-of-the-box integration with all major cloud vendors can make it easy to transition between them, without having to invest in multiple “one-off” solutions or relying on the vendor to help you get your content out of their platform. At SkySync, for example, we imagine ourselves as a moving company: We don’t care what house or which city you’re moving to, we just want to move your stuff safely.
What is Cloud Storage Vendor Lock-In?
Cloud vendor lock-in is a problematic situation where one becomes dependent on a single cloud storage provider and unable to migrate without serious constraints, costs, or incompatibilities. In other words, when locked-in to one cloud storage provider, it can feel impossible to escape these increasing costs or technological incompatibilities by simply moving to another provider. By using a cloud migration tool that offers wide platform flexibility, higher education institutions can stay agile. For instance, a university could utilize multiple cloud storage services and move content among them in the most cost-effect manner. Or if one cloud storage provider becomes too expensive, the tools already exist to easily migrate to a new one.
Leverage Connector Flexibility
In the past, we’ve seen universities secure funding for their migration projects by presenting platform flexibility to their board. At some point an entire university could move to Google Drive, but years later the organization decides to move to Office 365. By having a migration tool with flexible integration to multiple connectors, that university would already have that option at its fingertips. The University of Miami leveraged this point to help them seal the deal on their funding, as they explained in this on-demand webinar.
Save on Costs by Retiring Legacy Hardware
Working with on-premises solutions long-term can be resource-intensive, making cloud migration a practical, cost-effective solution for higher education. For example, it’s the university’s responsibility to maintain the server and software & license updates. Therefore it’s crucial to have a central on-site IT team that manages the hardware, creating an extra cost. And considering the hardware lasts 3-5 years, universities will be devoting resources to maintaining, upgrading, and replacing them for a long time. As a result, departments will incur exponential costs as their content environment grows. Or if a university needs to scale up, it means that additional physical hardware must be purchased and maintained.
Unlike with on-premises, it’s the cloud storage provider who takes on the bulk of maintenance, software updates, and general troubleshooting. Without investing in hardware or maintenance, universities can reduce costs by using a cloud service for file storage and sharing. Cloud storage services are typically “pay as you go,” allowing universities to scale as necessary without the need for additional hardware space and costs.
To save on costs, Harvey Mudd College planned to retire its on-premises storage system and move to cloud storage. This way, HMC would no longer have to worry about continuously spending money on hardware and maintenance costs. And not to mention that their content would also become more streamlined too.
Consolidate to a Cost-Effective Platform
Today many universities are migrating to the cloud, but a lack of resources and funding can make this journey longer for some than others. Additionally, cloud costs can differ across environments, situations, and organizations. Cloud storage providers may also eventually increase their costs, making a migration to a more cost-effective cloud storage platform a clear choice.
Or, in another scenario, an institution may have content stored in multiple cloud storage platforms, like Google and Office 365. Let’s say Google has recently increased their prices. Before, the university didn’t mind keeping their extra Google storage around. But now that it’s become too expensive, they may consider consolidating their content to Office 365, which they already own.
Dispersed or Disorganized Content Environments
Oftentimes university departments use different or disparate cloud storage platforms. For instance, one department operates out of Office 365 while another works out of Dropbox. And quite possibly, a third department could be storing content in Box. This can make for a complex cloud environment that may make accessing content difficult.
Permissions and Fidelity
File permissions and file fidelity were common issues that came up during several cloud migrations for higher education institutions. “Permissions in the cloud are way different than your typical network file system or DFS model. So you have to pay attention to what type of permissions you’re going to grant on the cloud,” explained the University of Miami’s Senior System Administrator. Additionally, universities need control over which departments or staff can access certain content, so file permissions need to be maintained.
Another problem unique to cloud migrations for universities was that different departments, or even separate campuses, have different types of content. Not every content workload is going to be “cloud-ready.” This rang especially true for universities that have a medical department where the content can really vary.
A migration solution that offers synchronization capabilities allows universities flexibility and seamless collaboration by simply maintaining multiple existing cloud storage environments.
Though this university had embraced the cloud, it was difficult for the campus to consolidate to a single cloud platform. The university’s systems analyst expects that it’s unlikely ever to happen. “Even once we have everything moved to the cloud, we will probably always have periodic projects where someone wants to migrate from Box to OneDrive, or maybe OneDrive to DropBox,” the systems analyst said. “The end game is constantly evolving.”
A Constantly Changing Campus
Change never stops, and for higher education, that means constantly adapting. Adapting to the new means for students to learn, new technologies to enable remote learning or any other plethora of factors. Even right now higher education organizations have an obscure future; during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s unclear what tomorrow’s physical campus will look like.
Higher education institutions that have migrated to the cloud can take full advantage of what cloud collaboration has to offer and be prepared for the unexpected. For instance, while The University of Miami wanted more collaboration to enable remote work anytime, they also wanted to future-proof the campus in case of future emergencies, such as a hurricane. “Especially right now during COVID-19, this has been helpful to have all of these different collaboration tools,” said UM’s Sr. IT Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services.
In another case, Harvey Mudd College leveraged its migration tool’s platform flexibility by always being able to accommodate the needs of its staff and students. Ultimately, HMC’s students and staff have much more convenience with their content, and can even access it on mobile devices. Their file permissions are now much easier to manage, and HMC has a tool flexible enough for any future changes.