Schools should consider moving their networked resources to the “cloud.” In cloud computing networked software programs and stores of data files, such as word processing, spreadsheets, and the like, exist in a data center or multiple data centers outside the organization. The district’s financial system may reside in one data center, student information system in a second, email in a third, and file storage in a fourth. The most important component of this idea is that the end customer does not know the difference. The data centers are better equipped than schools to manage equipment, back it up, and prevent fires. Yes, the unknown and unspoken issue among school CTOs is that school district data centers are high risk operations because of their lack of redundancies, under capacity cooling, and stretched electrical capacities. Simply stated, school district data centers are fire hazards.
Further schools cannot keep up with the upgrade paths required of newer technologies, especially in an era of reduced budgets. School districts are pulling back rather than focusing forward. The paths are unsustainable to meet recommended upgrade cycles, and impossible for those on shoe-string budgets. New servers and new operating systems push limited human resources beyond their capacities.
Further school districts’ technology staffs will be concerned about jobs. New servers and new software require new learning by the technical staffs to meet the upgrade cycles. Formal training is expensive. It’s difficult for staff to learn new systems while they are implementing them.
Further technical staff will be need to maintain the data in the systems, to create reports, and serve as the link to the data center for various purposes.
So schools should move their operations to the cloud and let the data center providers worry about the upgrade paths. The technology staff can be put to higher value operations, such as assisting trainers and directly assisting teachers to make technology work in schools.
Such a move will require a policy creation and a sense of confidence in the move. Data centers are likely more “secure” than local school data centers. Afterall what’s there to steal from a school data center? Schools do not have nuclear secrets and what would the headline read, “Data Center Hacked, School’s Powerpoints Revealed” or “Data Center Hacked, Exams Posted Online?” Who would want the files schools have on their servers? Schools are low-yield hacks.
Moving to the cloud is more an emotional consideration than a technical, budgetary, or staffing initiative. The leaders of the school district need confidence and assurance that the data and operations are better in the data centers than in the school district’s data center. As a strategic leader, the CTO can address issues that executive administration and the board of education have. Additionally, the CTO can develop a plan to put bring the technical staff into a higher yielding support system rather than chasing upgrades of hardware and software.