Cloud computing has taken the business world by storm. Climate controlled rooms full of servers are quickly being replaced by remote storage technology, whimsically referred to as "the cloud." Over half of U.S. businesses use some form of cloud computing to back up their important data and improve productivity. Instead of trying to find the capital to pay for a secure server structure, businesses are subscribing to cloud services and paying for more storage as their needs grow.
The practical uses of cloud computing technology also translate to K-12 classrooms. Simply put, cloud storage saves space, money and time for teachers, parents, students and administrators. A report by CDW Government found that over 40 percent of schools use cloud applications to store their data and by 2016, schools are expected to spend 35 percent of IT budgets on the cloud. The savings add up though. Right now K-12 schools report that their cloud initiatives are saving them an average of 20 percent on IT costs. By 2016, those savings are expected to reach 27 percent.
So how exactly are K-12 schools using cloud computing and what are the benefits? Let's take a look:
- Stronger communication through access. Through K-12 cloud platforms like Edline, teachers have better communication with parents and students regarding assignments, tests and projects. Parents can log in from anywhere (including their phones or tablets) and instantly know how their kids are progressing. Teachers can post important messages and keep an archive of completed work in one spot. Depending on the school, cloud forums may even allow parents and students to contribute in the application for a two-way dialogue.
- Disaster planning. Schools collect a lot of information on their students and that data impacts decisions and the well-being of the kids. It takes a lot of time to build student databases and maintain them. If a man-made or natural disaster threatened the physical location of school records, whether hard copies or stored on servers, it could mean a catastrophe when it comes to student information. Using cloud computing ensures that student records are secure and accessible, no matter what happens to the physical school building.
- One-stop shopping. Cloud platforms are able to bring together data pools that were previously unconnected so that educators and administrators have everything they need in one spot. Since there is no physical equipment that schools must purchase to get started with cloud computing, there is also a pay-as-you-go mentality. Schools do not need to pay upfront for infrastructure and can add cloud storage as their needs increase. It saves money, space, time and other resources.
- Fast recovery of data. If you've ever experienced a server crash on a personal or professional level, it can be a long time while you wait for your information to come back. Cloud-based businesses recover data quickly and often handle any technical issues that might arise in a "crash" situation. A word that is often associated with all cloud applications is "redundancy" because the technology eliminates any chance of single-point failure.
Some peripheral benefits of cloud computing are decreased energy costs and high security features to ensure protection and privacy of student information. As K-12 schools move toward cloud computing, student information will be better preserved and shared content more accessible. While use of the cloud does not have a large direct impact on classroom activities it does improve teaching efficiency overall. It also has long-term savings attached which is always a bonus when it comes to K-12 technology spending.
Does your school use the cloud yet? If so, how has it improved your school efficiency?