The internet continues to change the way that schools operate and conduct business.
This change can become a kind of balancing act for schools, between staying at the forefront of technological advancements, costs, and having sufficient resources to manage and service critical infrastructure.
Juggling each of these moving parts isn’t easy, and so any major change to a school’s systems needs to be carefully considered.
The education sector has been late to adopt cloud technology, behind other industries where the use of cloud has snowballed; however, usage in schools has been steadily increasing over the last 2-3 years.
The alternative is sticking with a traditional set-up, where software applications are fully contained either on a user’s computer or dedicated on-premises infrastructure, which makes the ability to access data and programs heavily reliant on location or complicated VPN workarounds.
Your School Management System powers your entire school, so choosing where it lives isn’t a minor decision. If you are weighing up your options when it comes to continuing an on-premises solution or moving into the cloud, there are a few key considerations:
Where on-premises hosting was once considered the more secure solution, it’s now far less black and white.
For schools with the people and resources to dedicate to security, it’s definitely possible to maintain a high level of security with an on-premises solution.
However, modern cloud hosting options (such as TASS’ ISO 27001 compliant service) are built with security as a core priority, with staff and response teams who are solely dedicated to monitoring and identifying risks, preventing breaches.
The choice here comes down to whether your school can spend resources on managing security in-house - not just setting up a robust security management system, but maintaining and updating it as well.
If your school can’t, or would rather staff focus on other strategic priorities, outsourcing this to a managed service provider may be the better option.
When it comes to upfront cost, it’s no surprise that on-premises solutions come with a higher price tag. Purchasing server hardware isn’t cheap, especially once you factor in the time spent configuring and installing them.
Also, consider the ongoing cost of electricity used to power and cool your server room, the amount of time your IT Team will be spending on maintenance and support, and the price of replacement parts or add-ons that you’ll need if something breaks.
Alternatively, implementing a cloud-hosted approach can be a cost-cutting strategy. Cloud hosting is a subscription as opposed to a large initial purchase approach, shifting expenses from being classified as ‘capital’ to ‘operating’, which can have benefits to your school’s cash flow.
Time and Maintenance
School IT departments are usually a flurry of activity. From distributing and managing physical assets like school laptops, to maintaining and supporting digital systems, there’s no shortage of work to be done.
Implementing a cloud hosting solution means that your IT staff are no longer spending huge chunks of time doing the often menial tasks associated with managing server infrastructure.
This frees up valuable time for them to work on other tasks, reducing the backlog of IT projects that can often get pushed to the side for ongoing server maintenance needs.
If the COVID-19 situation has proven anything, it’s that schools need to be flexible and able to adapt to changing requirements and environments (often at the drop of a hat). Having all staff work remotely can be difficult if you’re tied to a physical server, and becomes even more challenging if something goes wrong whilst your IT staff are at home.
Contrast this with a cloud-hosted school, where technology barely even enters the conversation, as you’ll be able to access your systems and services the same way you usually do, without complicated workarounds to support remote work and online learning.
Having your systems hosted in the cloud means there’s less to go wrong, and if it does? It’s not your problem to fix. Specialist support teams and constant monitoring means that problems can often be solved before they even impact your school, and you don’t have to worry about whether you have the skills, knowledge or parts to fix the issue yourself.
Future-proofing and Scalability
There’s a limit to how much data you can store in an on-premises server before needing to upgrade your existing machines or buy more of them. The need to update and replace physical server assets – typically every five or so years – can also be costly and time-consuming.
A cloud hosting solution allows you to base your infrastructure purchasing decisions around your school’s immediate needs and scale them as required. This means you only have to pay for what you need now, not what you might need in the future – negating the need for significant reinvestment in infrastructure to support school growth.
It’s important to know where your data is stored and who has access, regardless of the hosting solution you choose. With on-premises servers, it’s obviously easier to know that your data is local, and you can monitor physical access by securing your server room and limiting the people who can physically enter.
However, this doesn’t mean that your physical server room is not vulnerable. Factors outside of your school’s control, such as natural disasters, power outages, or even just losing the key can put your school’s critical systems at risk.
As an alternative, cloud hosting adds an extra level of safety with data often spread across multiple locations or data centres, ensuring that if something does go wrong your systems can be rapidly restored from backups stored redundantly across all data centres.
Going with a well-established, secure solution like TASS’ Cloud Hosting Services also ensures your data never goes off-shore, with certified, local data centres that maintain data sovereignty.
Ultimately, the solution you choose comes down to how your school best operates. If you have the technical knowledge and time to maintain physical hardware and are confident with the level of security you’re able to provide, you may prefer to stick with what you know with on-premises servers.
If you want to reduce costs, and you are keen to lean on the experience of dedicated data security experts, you may be better off looking into cloud hosting options.
Whichever you choose, it’s important to thoroughly consider the positives and negatives of each to ensure that you’re making an informed decision.