Learn how to transform big data into powerful and actionable educational insights to improve student outcomes on your campus in this Special Report.
Both the 2010 and 2011 Horizon Report from the New Media Consortium suggest that cloud computing will become mainstream in the next year in K-12 school districts. A number of states, including Oregon, have already signed agreements with Google so that any district in the state can choose to move to Google Apps.
On the higher education side, members of the California State University system have adopted both Microsoft Live@edu and Google Apps. But other universities have halted Gmail pilots because they're concerned that research information being stored outside of the United States could become public.
The CDW-G 2011 Cloud Computing Tracking Poll surveyed 1,200 IT leaders in eight industry sub-groups. Keep reading to find out their organizations' stance on cloud computing.
|All 8 sectors||K-12||Higher ed|
|Percent of institutions with a written strategic plan for adopting cloud computing||38%||31%||29%|
Large business and higher education industries lead the pack when it comes to cloud adoption. Thirty-seven percent of the 150 respondents in the large business category are implementing or maintaining cloud computing in their organizations.
And of the 150 respondents in higher education organizations, 34 percent are doing the same. Comparatively, 27 percent of K-12 organizations are implementing or maintaining cloud computing.
While the majority of the IT leaders surveyed have at least one cloud application in their organization, most of them don't have an adoption strategy for cloud computing.
In general, most organizations are struggling to keep the lights on, said Nathan Coutinho, solutions manager at CDW. In K-12, IT leaders are still trying to virtualize as much as possible and deal with compatability issues as they upgrade to Windows 7 and Office 2010. And they're doing it with skeleton staff.
"What's happening is that there's very little research going on, very little chance to be proactive, and that's what really holding people back on trying to build an actual adoption strategy," Coutinho said. "Just being able to discover what's going on is kind of a challenge."
And it's even more of a challenge because new companies and cloud models come out all the time. With the changing landscape of cloud computing, IT managers see it as noise and decide not to worry about cloud computing until it becomes real to them.
Once they get past the mundane tasks of upgrading and migrating, they can look at a strategy. In a year, Coutinho predicted that the poll would find different results.
Eighty-four percent of organizations say they use at least one cloud application. The most commonly used cloud services are commodity applications, including Gmail, Google Docs, Microsoft LiveMeeting and WebEx.
Half of higher education institutions use Gmail and Google Docs. In K-12, 57 percent use Google Docs and 39 percent use Gmail.
K-12 administrators choose these apps because they don't have the time to plan or the budget to maintain something they build.
In government, "You're seeing a lot of Gmail, a lot of [Microsoft] BPOS, because it's secure, it's done by someone else, and you can have it instantly available in hours as opposed to months and months of planning," Coutinho said.
Of the 320 IT leaders who are implementing or maintaining cloud computing, 32 percent said security concerns hold them back from continuing to implement it. And of the 880 leaders who aren't implementing, maintaining or considering cloud computing, 45 percent cited security as their top concern.
|Security concerns||The % of respondents with these security concerns
|2. IT management doesn't believe the cloud is as secure as our facility||40%|
|3. The organization's users don't trust the cloud's data security||36%|
People want to see data, touch it and back it up, Coutinho said. And when they start thinking about putting data somewhere else, they have to think about what network data will go over to it and how secure it will be on the cloud provider's end.
If it's somewhere else, it's unsecure, people say. And that's partially true, Coutinho said, because not every cloud provider is the size of Microsoft and Google. Those companies take things seriously. They build mega centers that are geographically redundant, and not everyone can do that.
When Amazon's cloud service crashed in April, it took many businesses down with it. And some of those businesses lost data in the process.
But businesses that put a disaster recovery plan in place like Dropbox and Netflix came up instantly in other data centers. So part of overcoming the security concerns is understanding the capabilities of the provider and creating backup plans, Coutinho said.
In addition to security, cost came in second on the list of roadblocks among the respondents. Many times, cloud computing is expensive, but what you're getting for your money is different.
In a small organization with 500 users, one administrator manages Exchange, backs up the server every night and doesn't look at logs or servers unless there's a complaint. The administrator costs and initial software and hardware costs are cheap.
But when you look at Gmail or Office 365, you're getting world class engineers, data backup and redundancy for say $27 a user. A number of higher education organizations have tools to calculate how much it costs them to run Exchange down to the powerwatts used by a virtual machine or server. And until you get down to that level, you can't compare cloud services to university-based services.
"Cost is all relative. You have to do an apples to apples comparison, and to my point earlier, you have to understand what this thing really costs you."
To address these security and cost concerns, administrators need to do their due diligence. From a security perspective, IT leaders should walk through the sites of cloud computing providers, look at references, visit data centers and ask them about redundancy.
They should also ask to do an audit or have a third party do an audit of the data center. Some companies don't like doing that, and if they don't, that's a red flag.
From the cost perspective, they should understand the true cost and whether they're comparing an apple to an orange. Also they should assess whether they really need the high level of class or service that Microsoft and Google provide. If they don't need that high level of service, they could go with a community cloud or other type of cloud.
And as the market evolves, they need to track what's going on in cloud computing.
"You have to keep a sharp eye on it and know what's happening in the market because it is literally changing every week."
In March 2011, 1,200 IT decision makers were surveyed online. This sample size resulted in a ± 2.7 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level.
Of these decision makers, 150 answered from each of the following industry sub-groups: small business, medium business, large business, federal government, state/local government, healthcare, higher education, and K-12 public school districts. This sample size resulted in a ± 8 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level.
You may use or reference this story with attribution and a link to