Cloud computing has become essential in the modern world. Recently, it has played a critical role in keeping us all connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. As organizations move from crisis management to business continuity and then onto the new normal in a post-coronavirus environment, higher education institutions are further prioritizing long-term success by digitalizing and modernizing operations through the cloud.
In today’s world, the cloud grants the agility, scalability, and flexibility needed to adapt to rapid and unpredictable changes. Similarly, the cloud opens IT cost-saving opportunities as well as operational advantages over institutions still using legacy on-premises architecture.
Cloud technologies come in all shapes and sizes. Software-as-a-service (SaaS) models, for example, enable the use of applications over the internet. Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings on the other hand enable developers to build and host tools over the web, allowing them to bypass the traditional step of setting up the underlying infrastructure of servers, storage, etc. Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) solutions essentially allow individuals or organizations to rent virtual machines, networks, operating systems, and other architecture components from a cloud provider.
There are also several different types of cloud hosting options, including private, public, and hybrid environments.
At its core, cloud computing enables organizations to be agile. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the cloud’s scalability and business continuity capabilities were given the spotlight. The ability to restore operations and support connectivity across time zones and regions helped higher education institutions to pivot quickly and adopt work-from-home practices and online learning models.
The cloud can scale computing resources and application functionality up and down as institutional and students needs shift and as new market opportunities arise. Institutions experience surges during enrollment periods and lulls during breaks. Delivering computing capacity to handle those surges is often a balancing act. Without the cloud, institutions need to over-purchase significant capacity for 95 percent of the year because of the demand they have for the other 5 percent. When computing demands vary, such as the peaks caused during online registration, cloud resources can be scaled up and adjusted as demand decreases.
SaaS applications can also make rolling out applications easier and less expensive for many campuses. SaaS solutions enable intuitions to add new solutions, users, and functionality when needed. Institutions can also see financial benefits from rolling out cloud applications and services thanks to the minimal ownership of hardware and lowered maintenance. According to McKinsey & Company, adopting the cloud allows organizations to reduce overhead costs by 30 to 40 percent.
This level of operational and financial agility enabled through the cloud can give higher education institutions unique advantages, while allowing them to move faster and adapt easier to both unforeseen and planned changes.
The cloud is no longer considered a future technology; it is now an essential foundation for operating as a digital entity. It proved to be a key enabler that kept institutions operating during the COVID-19 crisis by quickly enabling remote work and online learning. In the long-term, operating as a digital organization will become increasingly vital in higher education, especially as Millennials graduate and are replaced by Gen Z students, the first truly digital-native generation.
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