Should Your Charter School Use The Cloud?
What You Need To Know
You may have heard about the cloud when discussing technology for your charter school. While it may sound a bit nebulous, it’s actually pretty common. You’re probably already using cloud applications.
If you use Office 365 or Gmail, you’re already “in the cloud.” Basically, what the cloud means is you’re accessing programs over the internet instead of off your computer’s hard drive. The easiest way to think of the cloud is as a metaphor for the internet, according to itproportal.com.
So what do you need to know about cloud applications and their use in charter schools?
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How Prevalent Are Cloud Applications In Charter Schools?
The majority of applications that charter schools use are web-based, while there are still some legacy, or on-premises, applications.
While some schools may still have their email server onsite, most schools are moving over to Gmail and Google for Education or Office 365 for word processing, email, spreadsheets and slides.
Many schools also use cloud-based anti-virus and backups. Like Google for Education and Office 365, the school’s data is stored off-site in virtual servers so that even if the building was destroyed, the data is protected and the backups can still be accessed.
What Technology Isn’t In The Cloud?
What’s most commonly still on-premises are servers and some older copies of Office that have been installed on computers. More schools are looking at moving their servers to the cloud and using virtual machines. This gives schools the ability to add new servers as needed, usually more quickly and with less expense than on-premises servers.
What Do You Need To Know About The Cloud?
The most important thing to remember about the cloud is that when the internet goes down, you won’t be able to access any of your cloud applications. Most schools are using fiber for their internet connection, but in order to prevent issues, it’s important to have a backup option like cable to ensure consistent, reliable access to your applications.
How Secure Is The Cloud?
One issue that a lot of school leaders worry about is the security of their data in the cloud. While it may feel safer to host your data on site, it can be as safe or safer in the cloud.
You need to invest in the proper security procedures, ensuring you have control of who can access your data and how. You want to make sure all devices have the proper security so that they can’t be stolen and used to easily access school information.
You also need to secure access to portals and make sure they’re properly managed for remote teacher and student access. It’s also important that you or your IT staff are regularly deleting access to the school’s applications when students, teachers and staff leave the school. You should also have the ability to access all student, teacher and staff accounts.
Can I Trust Vendors To Protect My Data?
Due to the nature of the cloud and the fact that your school’s data is stored on servers you don’t control, you also need to know how they store and protect your data. Ask them who can access it, what security measures they use and where it’s stored.
In addition, you need to know what their disaster recovery plan is, how they back up data and how long it will take to recover data if their servers go down.
What Happens If I Want To Change Vendors?
In addition to security, you also need to think about how easy or difficult it will be to switch cloud providers. Take your email for example. If you want to move from Office 365 to Gmail, what will it take to move all the inboxes of your teachers, staff and students? Will the cloud provider help you move all that data? What will it cost – both to move that data and to host it on the new site?
If there’s not a good plan to move the data or it will take too long or be too expensive, you may end having all your old data in one place and all your new data in the new application. Not only is this costly and inefficient, but you run the risk of missing some critical information because it’s not easily accessible.
Any Other Factors To Consider?
The last thing to think about is how your cloud applications will work with all your other systems. Is it easy to share data or connect them with other systems? It’s critical to understand what systems you have and how they’ll interact with the new cloud applications you’re using. This should all be part of the due diligence your IT team does as part of the selection process.
Cloud applications can bring more flexibility and ease of use to charter schools, just make sure you take the time to find the right solution for your school’s exact needs.
Share Your Experiences:
What cloud applications do you use in your school? Are you considering adding more? Have you had any issues with the cloud? Do you have any advice you’d share to make the process easier? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
- While “the cloud” can seem like a mystery, it’s just a metaphor for the internet
- There are a lot of good cloud applications for charter schools
- Make sure you do your due diligence before moving to the cloud
- Ask the cloud vendor where your data is stored and who can access it
- Think about what systems you need the cloud application to connect with and make sure connectors are available