Gerald Haigh, an education writer and journalist, is also an ex-head teacher and as a result he still has close contacts within many education establishments. It was because of this that we asked him to interview a wide group of people about the use of Cloud services in education, which meant understanding what's going on today, as well as what the future might look like. The results of this work is now available as a white paper - "Baby steps into the Cloud - ICT as a service for education"
We think that in the future you're likely to see a more dynamic mix between on-site IT systems and cloud-based ones. And this white paper is designed to help identify, discuss and address some of the key considerations as more choices become available.
One of the key questions is whether we expect the delivery of ICT services to fundamentally change direction in the future. I remember being told by Becta that UK education could never reach its carbon emission reduction targets whilst we had so many servers in schools. But does that mean taking them all out, and replacing them with Cloud services instead? And what does that mean about the role of IT managers? Well, the white paper doesn't have all of the answers - but it sets out to consider some of the questions that are being raised.
We don’t normally expect a school, college or university to generate its own electricity. There’s no building with a bank of generators, no “Manager of Electrical Generation”, leading a team of technicians and adding to the woes of a vice-chancellor, principal, head or business manager. That would surely be absurd, when all that’s really needed is a big “On-Off” switch and a phone to shout down when the service fails.
But we have expected our education institutions to be experts at running their own “IT Power Stations”, generating their own utility service. Even though, as consumers, we are increasingly using IT as a utility service – to communicate, collaborate, work and play.
You may see where this is going. We believe we are at a critical turning point, and it’s time to debate the future provision of IT in education. And at the centre of this change is “the Cloud”.
Attempts to define Cloud computing often make the analogy with the development of public utilities - electricity, gas, water - where the move from on-site, or very local generation, through to national and international distribution has brought increased efficiency and lower costs.
So, goes the argument, why not provide computing power in the same way? It can be “generated” remotely by a factory-size bank of powerful computers (“servers”) and delivered over the internet to subscribing consumers who can take as much, or as little as they need.
The white paper includes interviews and thoughts of some of the early adopting customers - people who have already had extensive experience of our Cloud services, and share their experiences and thoughts:
And we've also tracked the thoughts from key people in the Microsoft team:
You'll be glad to hear that we haven't produced a technical document - instead Gerald has worked hard to get to the issues behind the technology, and understand the issues which might guide your thinking as you develop your future IT strategy.
Download your own copy of the Microsoft Education White Paper - Baby steps in the Cloud