K-12 School Computer Networking/Chapter 35/Cloud Computing

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Contents

CLOUD COMPUTING[edit]

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY[edit]

INTRODUCTION[edit]

If saving money is a priority for your K-12 institution, you should review and analyze “cloud computing” alternatives as a potential next step for your technology department. Usage of “cloud computing” resources and capabilities is rising most rapidly among colleges and universities, but thousands of K-12 educational institutions — as well as hundreds of non-profits and dozens of municipal, state and Federal government entities — have already made, or will soon make, the move to the “cloud.” If you choose to switch to cloud computing, it’s likely that your job and your department’s responsibilities will change dramatically.

CHAPTER FORMAT[edit]

This Chapter Presented in an Exceptional Format for This Wikibook Due to Importance of Subject - Both 1) an executive summary and 2) a longer, detailed discussion of cloud computing will be presented. The initial summary contains links to additional relevant information in the following detailed section should you wish to enhance and enrich your understanding of a given facet or factor presented. In 2009 and beyond, we believe we should provide access to an above-average amount of information on something that may change your job as profoundly as cloud computing very potentially will. This chapter format, however, makes the review of more in-depth critical thinking overtly discretionary — offering an easily skimmed summary of key cloud computing facts and issues if your time is tightly constrained. Indeed, an even greater distillation of this chapter can be gleaned solely from the clickable box of headers above, a true birds-eye view if you're flying very quickly. Of note to frequent flyers, however, our more detailed “how-to” counsel primarily resides, by necessity, in the lower "detailed discussion" sections.

Bold and Italicized Font Indicate Summaries and Signposts - Bolded questions and italicized condensations of answers and other relevant perspectives are provided as telegraphic signposts for skimmers on the fly.

WHO SHOULD READ WHAT LEVEL OF DETAIL[edit]

A Version for Each Reader[edit]

  • Tier 1 - Those who are simply interested in the issue of cloud computing can garner a good deal of preliminary information by simply reading the clickable box of blue headers (clicking any of interest, of course).
  • Tier 2 - Those who are considering cloud computing for their K-12 institution, but haven't set any timetable for the process of vendor review and analysis will acquire a good background of knowledge by skimming or reading the Executive Summary preceding the detailed discussion.
  • Tier 3 - Those who are actively considering cloud computing as a near- or medium-term option for their K-12 institution should reference whatever detailed discussion seems appropriate to your selection process. We may well offer solutions to problems you haven't yet thought of.

WHAT IS “CLOUD COMPUTING” (abbreviated “CC” often below)?[edit]

Definition of CC as Shared Web-Sourced Computing and Storage on Demand[edit]

Where One Stands on CC Often Depends on Where One Sits - One can find numerous definitions of “cloud computing” so it’s important to define what you mean in any conversations with non-technology staff. “Experts” tend to define CC in ways most meaningful or useful to them or their companies.

Everything Old is New Again - As with other so-called Internet "revolutions,” many aspects of CC consist of “old,” existing technologies used together in new ways. In aggregate, however, CC is truly, as Wikipedia states, a “paradigm shift” that is an important factor contributing to an increasingly mobile Web 2.0 computing environment and user base.

Essential Characteristics of CC - The current consensus definition of Wikipedia editors in late 2009 is that cloud computing is “Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on-demand, like the electricity grid.”

The essential elements of this Wikipedia definition are:

  • Web Locus - Browsers access a “cloud” located “virtually” in the global Internet or World Wide Web.
  • Resource Pooling - Provision of “shared” resources, software and information, often from multiple locations to multiple consumers.
  • Broad Network Access - Capabilities are available over a network accessible with a range of mobile “devices.”
  • Highly Flexible Levels of Consumption - The user manages consumption of products and services “on demand,” whether scaling up or scaling down.
  • Metered Usage - The provision of cloud computing products and services should be able to be finely measured and reported, especially for any billing.

Selected CC Service Models Range from Software to Platform to Infrastructure as a Service[edit]

In past years, Wikipedia and others have cited three, somewhat overlapping service models as part of definitions for cloud computing. These are:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) – The consumer runs easily accessible applications on the cloud, usually without any control of the infrastructure.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) – Consumer-created, proprietary or customized applications are supported by the cloud computing provider in the cloud, but the consumer still has no control over the underlying cloud infrastructure.
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – The consumer may manage provision of fundamental computing resources including storage, processing and networks. The provision of computing power is occasionally considered separately from data storage and termed “Computing as a Service” (CaaS).
  • Other Terms Describing Cloud Computing – Other commonly used phrases that might help you explain cloud computing to less knowledgeable students or teachers at your school include “IT as a service” or “Desktop as a service.”

More descriptive details are included in the detailed discussion of “What is CC?” below.

HOW DO K-12 SCHOOLS MOST OFTEN USE CC?[edit]

Storage and Applications Primary CC Capabilities Sought[edit]

As stated in Chapter 30 and Chapter 33 of this Wikibook, data hosting and Web-based software applications are the two capabilities most commonly sought by K-12 technology coordinators considering a switch to cloud computing.

Email and Collaboration Are Top CC Applications[edit]

When evaluating cloud computing as an option, applications that 1) provide a cloud-based email function or 2) enhance online collaboration are typically the top priority of most K-12 school technology coordinators. Beyond basic software applications, many are now attracted to cloud computing applications that facilitate creativity and collaboration among a range of client users.

WHY DO K-12 SCHOOLS CHOOSE TO SWITCH TO CC?[edit]

K-12 Institutions Save Money and Time, While Enhancing User Collaboration[edit]

The top two reasons why cited by K-12 technology staff as rationale for switching to CC are 1) cost savings and 2) reduced staff labor hours. Key facets of these important benefits, plus the potential added advantage of increased user collaboration are as follows:

  • Substantial Technology Budget Savings Desired - Currently, K-12 institutions can secure a large amount of CC data storage and many sophisticated Internet-based applications at no or low cost. More information on CC providers is presented below .
Examples of K-12 Scenarios Where CC Should Be Considered - Scenarios that might prompt you to consider cloud computing are those in which 1) finding new ways to save money is a high priority for your department, as it is for many schools in a period characterized by technology budget pressure and cuts or 2) your computing needs are up-and-down, hard-to-predict or expanding, potentially forcing upfront investment in capacity that’s either infrequently used or only eventually needed in the future.
  • Reductions in Staff Time Spent on Maintenance and Support Valued – Most technology departments at educational institutions experience significant reductions in staff labor hours necessary for ongoing infrastructure maintenance after moving to CC. In addition, many have also reported declines in staff time needed for user support after an initial labor-intensive transition period of several weeks.
Use of Surplus Time Produced by CC is Discretionary - Some switchers state this freed-up technology staff time is now being invested in achieving better integration of technology to help meet classroom educational goals. You know best what you would do with the extra time almost always afforded by CC.
Long-term Reduction in Overall Staff Labor Hours Possible – A switch to CC might make it possible to cut staff or duties from your department. Be aware, though, that moving to CC also yields a host of new responsibilities, so do not move too quickly. As discussed below, many create a special CC-focused full-time or part-time position.
  • Enhanced User Collaboration Also Seen to be Beneficial - Faculty, staff and students at your K-12 school or schools clearly may benefit from expanded opportunities for online collaboration available via CC.

The potential benefits — as well as concerns with — cloud computing are discussed in much more detail below

HOW FAST IS CC GROWING IN GENERAL?[edit]

Overall CC Growth is Dramatic[edit]

CC Category Revenue Seen Tripling by 2013 – Most experts believe that revenue from CC will at least triple from 2010 to 2013 to more than $150 billion in aggregate.

CC Category Bigger Than Microsoft or Apple – For perspective, the most conservative projection for future CC annual revenue exceeds that for America’s second- and third-largest corporations: Apple and Microsoft, respectively.

More details on CC growth are provided below.

HOW FAST IS CC GROWING FOR EDUCATION SPECIFICALLY?[edit]

Spurred by Email Outsourcing, Growth Also Dramatic Among Educational Institutions[edit]

Cloud Computing Even Hotter Trend for Educational Institutions – Evidence of a trend towards CC among K-12 institutions is, at present, plentiful — but only anecdotal. Among colleges and universities, however, reliable broad-scale surveys have revealed a boom in CC since 2008, especially for email. Similar technology trends for K-12 institutions often lag, but roughly follow, those in higher education. We expect the K-12 trend towards cloud computing will rapidly accelerate.

Over Half of Total College/University Student and Faculty Email Likely Now Outsourced – The most recent published results of the trusted annual Campus Computing Report of college and university technology directors (effectively data from early 2009) were as follows:

  • About two-fifths (42.4%) of those surveyed “had migrated,” or “were about to migrate” to an “outsourced student email service.”
  • An additional three in ten (28.3%) were reviewing outsourcing options for students during the 2008-2009 academic year.
  • Less than a fifth (14.8%) of institutions had migrated to outsourced email for faculty by mid-2008, however, but many were considering doing so in the near future.

Thus, the estimated percentage of colleges and universities outsourcing email and other functions in 2010 is likely over 75%. Based on institutional size, the proportion of total college and university users — including faculty, students and staff — who likely now employ outsourced email capabilities is even higher as you read this.

K-12 Schools Currently at Lower Levels, But Rising Extremely Rapidly - Among K-12 institutions, there is no source of data as broad-based and reliable as the Campus Computing Report for colleges and universities. Evidence for growth does exist in a wide number of varied sources, notably 1) online articles or announcements by public K-12 school districts (some among the largest in the country); 2) similar articles and announcements from individual schools or 3) Google or MS testimonials or case studies from K-12 institutions. The current level of CC usage among K-12 institutions appears to be lower than that for colleges and universities, but expanding at comparably dramatic levels.

Anecdotal data strongly supports a general statement by Google that Google Apps for Education is now being used by millions of K-12 students and faculty and thousands of K-12 institutions — and Microsoft's Live@edu could almost certainly make the same statement.

More details on the remarkable growth of CC, including interesting additional survey data, are provided below.

WHAT CC PROVIDERS DO SCHOOLS USE MOST OFTEN?[edit]

Google and Microsoft Dominate CC for Education Clients[edit]

As noted, K-12 trends tend to lag, but roughly follow, the following trends in colleges and universities:

  • Google and Microsoft Supply 95% of CC for All Schools – With free offerings, Google and Microsoft dominate the education market. Projections of the annual College Survey above indicate that Google and Microsoft together very probably now account for over 95% of CC usage among educational institutions, with open-source Zimbra serving over 4% of the rest. (Zimbra received little mention from K-12 users, but it, and other potential resources, are viable options that should be considered.)
  • A Majority of Colleges and Universities Use Google – In 2008, the Campus Computing Survey found that a majority of colleges and universities outsourcing student email had opted for Google (56.5%), while two-fifths (38.4%) used Microsoft and 4.8 % used Zimbra. These proportions persisted through 2009, with Google edging higher.

Proposed Teachers College (TC) Contract Google Apps for Education Provides Insight – The public April 2010 recommendation by Teachers College Academic Computing Department to switch all faculty, staff and students to the Google cloud will be an informative case study for this chapter. Much of this discussion will be presented in the detailed section below.

Other details, including interesting additional survey data, are also provided below.

WHAT CC OPTIONS SHOULD K-12 INSTITUTIONS CONSIDER?[edit]

Free Google Apps for Education and Microsoft Live@Edu Used Most By K-12 Institutions, but Other Options Exist[edit]

Google, Microsoft and Zimbra Are The Top Three - Google (with Google Apps for Education), Microsoft (with Live@Eu) and Zimbra all now offer a suite of products and services at no charge to all accredited K-12 educational institutions. Google and Microsoft, in particular, are hotly competitive in the K-12 education market.

Don’t Settle Without Reviewing Options! - If you are considering switching to the cloud to save time and money, you should keep checking for updated offerings since new features are being added almost monthly. Other CC options available through either larger (e.g. Red Hat Solutions for Education and Amazon Web Services in Education) or smaller vendors (any online search will yield numerous candidates) should also be considered in any comprehensive forward-planning review you conduct for your K-12 institution. These options are growing and changing almost daily.

Consider Open Source Options to Reduce Your Dependence on Private Companies – Open source options are really the only way to be free of the potential whims of a private company. You could start your strategic review at sites like schoolforge.net, eduforge.org or osalt.com. You could also join helpful discussion groups, such as the Open Source Initiative Education Project.

All of these alternatives are discussed below in very extensive detail, including a detailed section on the reasons why vendors are offering schools free CC resources.

[These issues are discussed in much more detail below.][edit]

Easy Scalability[edit]

The fact that you consume only what you need, classic “pay-as-you-go” metered usage, means that you maximize dollar efficiency as you're scaling up and down . Formerly necessary upfront investments in hardware or software for eventual or possible needs are not needed anymore, minimizing overall investment. Any changes in your CC network can made with less time, trouble and money required.

More Flexibility[edit]

Upgrades of software and hardware tend to be much cheaper. Thus, there is a heightened ability to experiment with various options. Any decision can be reversed relatively easily if dissatisfied. CC systems can typically accommodate multiple document formats. Documents are much more accessible in cloud, dramatically reducing the need to store anything locally.

Increased Mobility[edit]

Multiple devices can now access the cloud, including not only laptops and home users, but netbooks and mobile phone browsers — including higher end “smartphones” or “app phones — and other devices. Computing is made far more mobile.

Less Maintenance and Support[edit]

Those that switch to the cloud almost always experience a substantial drop in staff time for maintenance (reportedly now a majority of dedicated staff labor hours for most K-12 institutions). One factor contributing to lowered maintenance is elimination of the need to install or service applications individually. Many report less time needed for ongoing user support after an initial transition period of several weeks (the transition time is usually much less than feared). Some have reported that they now can spend this surplus time on integration of technology, but obviously that choice would be yours.

Lower Costs[edit]

All of the above factors will likely have positive effects on your costs. Put simply, by doing more with much less “on the ground,” the utility computing approach slashes need for investment. Separate analyses we did each showed total direct and indirect savings can be conservatively estimated at roughly $50 per user per year or $200 per computer with an average user ratio (the bases for these estimates are discussed at length below). Another factor in decreased costs is that cloud computing vendors’ economies of scale yield customer savings.

Other Potential Benefits Include Security and Reliability[edit]

Cloud computing may well offer better security and reliability than your current school computing network. Because there are also concerns with each of these factors, however, both the pluses and minuses will be discussed below in the “What Are the Potential Concerns with CC?” section.

WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL CONCERNS ABOUT CC?[edit]

[Many more “how-to” tips on addressing concerns included in detailed discussion below.][edit]

Security[edit]

Security and privacy are the most common concerns with CC. In diagnosing your security vulnerabilities, it is important to assess the relative weight of your various different security priorities, whether it be operational and organizational security; general physical security, including ensuring the integrity of the server; security of applications; or protection from threats from hackers or unauthorized users. When you move your data to the cloud, you are relinquishing much of your control over security features.

On the other hand, the cloud computing vendor may be able to employ more sophisticated and up-to-date security measures than you can, especially the larger ones who can spread enhanced security costs and staff over a larger user base. They may also be able to move more quickly to find solutions to the ever-changing array of security risks, devoting greater resources than you can afford with your much smaller staffing and budgets. The nature of the cloud also enables security updates to be put in place as soon as they are developed, an especially important factor when dealing with a substantial and newly emerging threat.

The following issues related to security are discussed in much more detail below: 1) centralization vs. de-centralization 2) security of server/storage locations; 3) issues with multi-tenancy; and 4) the fact that the highest vulnerability is typically at the local level.

To start to gauge your security risks, ask if the CC vendor has passed a standard “SAS 70” security audit. Be aware that full and transparent CC vendor reporting to you is essential to security. Because these reports may be too voluminous or detailed to screen by yourself, you may want to consider engaging one of the fast-increasing number of providers of cloud monitoring services.

One of the most important factors promoting private vendor consciousness of security - as well as privacy, compliance, and, to some degree, all of the concerns below - is that the vendor knows well 1) that their reputation depends on maintaining the highest standards and 2) that their reputation is the rock on which all future business success must be built.

Privacy[edit]

Privacy and security are so inter-related that many of the issues directly or indirectly relevant to privacy are touched upon above in the “Security” section, as well as in sections like "Compliance" below. Multi-tenancy is a potential privacy threat that can be largely addressed by good vendor reporting.

Because of the Google hacking incident in China, many people wrongly have sizeable concerns about data requests from foreign governments to servers situated internationally. The simple fact that those security breaches were hacks by unknown individuals versus anything formally approved and organized by the Chinese government efforts is sometimes forgotten. Foreign governments are very unlikely to request data housed for another country’s educational institutions by a private multinational CC vendor. Even if they did request it, Google and any other CC vendor would adamantly refuse to surrender it, citing overwhelming legal precedent. In rare cases, such as that of a homicide in which meaningful information could be proven to be held by a CC vendor, there might be discussions as to whether limited evidence might be disclosed.

U.S. K-12 institutions should be more concerned about data requests from U.S. governmental entities. U.S. Federal and state law clearly does provide extensive privacy protections to individual students and schools, but cases like the National Security Agency’s (NSA) successful request for phone data on suspected terrorists or their accomplices illustrate that the prevention of possible, but uncertain, future negative events may be considered the basis for data requests from the U.S. government. This is a slippery slope, but we’ve yet to slide down very far.

Advertising[edit]

The issue of receiving unwanted advertising concerns many who consider Google Apps for Education or Microsoft Live@Edu. Both Google and Microsoft set clear contractual limits. Unlike Gmail, Google states that it will not serve any advertising to anyone but alumni who still use the school’s Google account. Microsoft states that it will not serve any “third-party” advertising, but opens the door to advertising Microsoft’s own products and services to school users.

Compliance[edit]

Both Google and Microsoft, as well as other vendors, assure compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). In general, privacy and compliance are linked and there will always be issues, even if breaches are due to vendor or user “mistakes” alone.

Portability[edit]

Future data portability is critical to ensure, but inexplicably often ignored or dismissed. Portability is part of the larger issue of the importance of an exit strategy. Before entering any contract, especially with a smaller vendor who may be more likely to store data in their own idiosyncratic format, it important to make formal provisions that ensure future data portability.

Recovery[edit]

Your ability to recover may be enhanced by CC, but concerns remain. It is paramount that any new CC functions be incorporated into an updated disaster recovery plan should you make the switch. Unlike business, Recovery Point Objective (RPO) may be more important to your K-12 institution than Recovery Time Objective (RTO), but your priorities need to decided upon. Google and Microsoft have contractual parameters for recovery which should be reviewed for acceptability if you are considering choosing either Apps for Education or Live@Edu.

Assessment of All Costs (including Hidden and Indirect Costs)[edit]

While calculation of the Total Cost of Ownership of your current K-12 school network is critical for determining cost savings achievable by switching to the cloud, calculation of the potential costs of a CC system are just as important in determining whether such a move makes sense financially. The lowered costs of upgrades, maintenance and support in dollars and staff time are obvious estimates to make. Indirect costs are harder to estimate, but they must be identified and approximated if you are to present an accurate financial picture for options and ultimate recommendations.

Separately, K-12 technology coordinators who engage billed CC services must understand exactly “how they are billed for what” before signing any cloud computing contract. Usage of all cloud computing resources must be measured with accuracy. Billing for CC usage, whether for applications, data storage or any other product or service, should be reported on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis. Whether working with smaller private CC vendor or a large "free" vendor special staff function and, potentially, a monitoring service should be designated to help you stay on top of necessary tracking.

Should you decide to join the many who are switching to the cloud, the effort you put into preparing in advance for the new direct and indirect effects of a CC network on your department's functioning will yield many positive results — making the short-term transition smoother and your long-term job more satisfying.

DETAILED DISCUSSION OF CLOUD COMPUTING[edit]

DETAILED DISCUSSION OF "WHAT IS CLOUD COMPUTING?"[edit]

Detailed Discussion of Definition of Cloud Computing[edit]

Where One Stands on Cloud Computing Often Depends on Where One Sits - On the Internet, in print and other media, one can find numerous definitions of “cloud computing” that vary in small or more significant ways, so it’s important to define what you mean in any conversations with non-technology staff. As with other umbrella terms widely used online, such as “Web 2.0,” “experts” tend to define “cloud computing” in ways most meaningful or useful to them or their companies.

Essential Characteristics of Cloud Computing - The current Wikipedia definition in early 2010 is that cloud computing is “Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on-demand, like the electricity grid.” The essential elements of this definition are:

  • Web Locus - Identification of the global “Internet” or World Wide Web as the locus of cloud computing. Web browsers are the means to access the cloud.
  • Resource Pooling - Provision of “shared” resources, software and information, often from multiple locations to multiple consumers. Examples of pooled resources include storage, processing, memory and network bandwidth
  • Broad Network Access – Capabilities are available over a cloud computing network accessible with a range of mobile “devices,” including laptops, smartphones and PDAs in addition to desktops.
  • Highly Flexible Levels of Consumption - The user-managed consumption of products and services “on demand.” Cloud computing offers users rapid elasticity in consumption, whether scaling up or scaling down.
  • Metered Usage - The last parenthetical reference to “the electricity grid” in the Wikipedia definition is a layman-friendly analogy illustrating the metered usage that characterizes cloud computing. The provision of cloud computing products and services (storage, processing or bandwidth, for example) should be able to be finely controlled, monitored, measured and reported in a transparent manner, especially for any billing tied to consumption.

What’s Old is Sometimes New Again - The segment’s growing popularity has also prompted some vendors to newly rename products and services they’ve long offered as trendy “cloud computing,” a phenomenon dubbed “cloud-washing” by Forrester Research. Anyone using Hotmail in the years since 1997 or Gmail since 2004, for example, has essentially been using cloud computing capability. In fact, the first successful demo of software for a cloud-based “Webmail” occurred in 1995.

Detailed Discussion of Service Models for Cloud Computing[edit]

In past years, Wikipedia and others have cited three, somewhat overlapping service models as part of definitions for cloud computing. These are:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) – The consumer runs easily accessible applications on the cloud, usually without any control of the underlying infrastructure or even individual application capabilities except for limited user-specific configuration settings.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) – Consumer-created, proprietary or customized applications are supported by the cloud computing provider in the cloud. The consumer thus may manage deployment of applications and, potentially, configurations of the applications’ hosting environment, but still has no control over the underlying cloud infrastructure (e.g., servers, operating systems or storage).
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – In this service mode, the consumer may manage provision of fundamental computing resources including storage, processing and networks. The provision of computing power is occasionally considered separately from data storage and termed “Computing as a Service” (CaaS). Some IaaS cloud computing vendors will allow the consumer to deploy and run client-specific, customized software including operating systems and applications. The consumer thus may control operating systems, storage and, possibly, select limited network components like host firewalls in addition to deployed applications.

Other Terms Describing Cloud Computing – Other commonly used phrases that might help you explain cloud computing to less knowledgeable students or teachers at your school include “IT as a service” or “Desktop as a service.”

Not a Cloud in the Sky – Graphic depictions of cloud computing for laymen typically use a visual of amorphous “virtual cloud” floating in the sky. The “cloud” is actually a graphic often used in network diagrams as a symbol for whatever’s connected externally, but depicting a “cloud in the sky” may mislead those less knowledgeable. The reality is that, while it may be accessed "over the air," your data will be located on computers or a physical server (or servers) in a data center (or centers) somewhere on Earth's surface. This fact helps explain why many of the concerns associated with cloud computing are those that would result from any outsourced physical storage and processing.

DETAILED DISCUSSION OF “HOW DO K-12 SCHOOLS MOST OFTEN USE CC?”[edit]

Storage and Applications Primary Cloud Computing Capabilities Sought[edit]

As noted above, Chapter 30 and Chapter 33 cite data hosting and Web-based software applications are the two capabilities most commonly sought by K-12 technology coordinators considering a switch to cloud computing.

Email and Collaboration Primary Cloud Computing Functions Sought[edit]

When evaluating cloud computing as an option, a cloud-based email function is the top priority of most K-12 school technology coordinators. Beyond basic software applications, many are now attracted to cloud computing applications that facilitate creativity and collaboration among a range of client users.

DETAILED DISCUSSION OF “WHY DO K-12 SCHOOLS CHOOSE CC?”[edit]

K-12 Institutions Save Money and Time, While Enhancing Collaboration[edit]

This presents typical goals cited by K-12 technology staff as rationale for switching to cloud computing. The potential benefits of – as well as concerns with — cloud computing are discussed in more detail below.

Substantial Technology Budget Savings Desired - Cost saving is most often cited as a reason to consider cloud computing alternatives. Currently, K-12 institutions can secure a large amount of cloud computing data storage and many sophisticated Internet-based applications at no cost. Examples of scenarios that might prompt you to consider cloud computing in your next forward planning or strategic review of resources and capabilities include those in which:

  • Finding new ways to save money is a high priority for your department, as it is for many schools in a period characterized by technology budget pressure and cuts.
  • Your computing needs are up-and-down, hard-to-predict or expanding, potentially forcing upfront investment in larger-than-ongoing-average capacity that’s either infrequently used or only eventually needed in the future.

Reductions in Staff Time Spent on Maintenance and Support Valued – After moving functions from a local network to the cloud, most technology departments at educational institutions experience significant reductions in staff labor hours necessary for ongoing infrastructure maintenance, of course, but many have also reported declines in staff time needed for user support after an initial transition period. Some switchers state this freed-up technology staff time is now being invested in achieving better integration of technology to help meet educational goals. Some schools initially thought that cloud computing would enable them to cut back on systems administration staff overall, but many found it wiser to create new cloud administrator-type position or positions.

Enhanced User Collaboration Seen to be Beneficial - Faculty, staff and students at your K-12 school or schools may benefit from expanded opportunities for online collaboration available via cloud computing products and services.

DETAILED DISCUSSION OF “HOW FAST IS CC GROWING IN GENERAL?”[edit]

Overall Cloud Computing Expected to Triple by 2013[edit]

One of “Hottest Topics” in Information Technology – Especially since early 2009, cloud computing has often been described as one of the hottest topics in IT. One piece of informal evidence of cloud computing's current salience is that a search of the phrase “hottest topic” with “cloud computing” and “IT” on any search engine yields dozens of hits.

Cloud Computing Category Estimated to Triple by 2013 – One common way to measure the size and growth of any business sector is by revenue and its associated rate of increase. While estimates of current and future business levels vary in terms of absolute dollars, there is general agreement that revenue from cloud computing will triple from 2010 to 2013 to up to $150 billion.

Cloud Computing Category Bigger Than Microsoft or Apple - For perspective, even the lowest projection of 2010 aggregate yearly cloud computing revenue exceeds the aggregate annual revenue for both of America’s second- and third-largest corporations: Apple and Microsoft, respectively, growing ever closer to Exxon Mobil in terms of both annual corporate revenue and market capitalization.

DETAILED DISCUSSION OF “HOW FAST IS CC GROWING FOR EDUCATION?”[edit]

Spurred by Email Outsourcing, Growth Dramatic Among Educational Institutions[edit]

Cloud Computing Even “Hotter” Trend for Educational Institutions – Evidence of a trend towards cloud computing among K-12 institutions is, at present, only anecdotal. Surveys have revealed a marked boom in cloud computing among colleges and universities since 2008, especially for email. Similar technology trends for K-12 institutions often lag, but roughly follow, those in higher education. We expect the K-12 trend towards cloud computing will accelerate.

Over Half of Email Likely Now Outsourced by Higher-Education Users – The Campus Computing Report conducts an annual survey of college and university technology directors. Statistical calculations show that, given the sample of 500 in a total universe of 4000-plus public and private two- or four-year colleges and universities, the following survey percentage results on 2008 email outsourcing trends are reliable at the 95% confidence interval within +/- 5% for the general population:

  • About two-fifths (42.4%) of surveyed “had migrated,” or “were about to migrate” to an “outsourced student email service.”
  • An additional three in ten (28.3%) were reviewing outsourcing options for students during the 2008-2009 academic year.
  • Less than a fifth (14.8%) of institutions had migrated to outsourced email for faculty by mid-2008, however, but many were considering doing so in the near future.

Free summaries of any Campus Computing Survey report from 1994–2008 can be downloaded here. For $75, the full 2009 report can be ordered in .pdf format here. Full print copies of any report from 1994–2008 can also be ordered for $35.

Majority of Higher Ed Users Likely Now Use Outsourced Email - The proportions of outsourced email for faculty and staff very likely jumped in the last two years since that survey was taken. The percentage of colleges and universities outsourcing email and other functions now is probably closer to 75% than 50%. Given typical faculty-to-student ratios, it’s safe to say a majority of college and university users now employ outsourced email capabilities.

K-12 Use of Outsourced Capabilities Lower But Expanding Rapidly - Among K-12 institutions, there is no source of data as broad-based and reliable as the Campus Computing Report for colleges and universities. Evidence for growth has been gathered from varied sources, such as 1) online articles or announcements by public K-12 school districts (some among the largest in the country) and individual schools or 2) Google or MS testimonials or case studies from K-12 institutions. The current level of cloud computing usage among K-12 institutions appears to be lower than that for colleges and universities, but expanding at comparably dramatic levels. Anecdotal data strongly supports a general statement by Google that Google Apps for Education is now being used by millions of K-12 students and faculty and thousands of K-12 institutions – and Live@edu could almost certainly make the same statement.

DETAILED DISCUSSION OF “WHAT CC PROVIDERS DO SCHOOLS USE MOST OFTEN?”[edit]

Google and Microsoft Overwhelmingly Dominate Cloud Computing for Education Clients[edit]

Google and Microsoft Are Top Cloud Computing Suppliers for Schools – Two companies are the suppliers for practically all of the cloud computing email and collaboration systems for education. With free offerings, Google and Microsoft dominate the education market. Statistically valid quantitative data on cloud computing providers’ comparative share among educational institutions is only available for higher-education institutions, but K-12 trends tend to lag, but follow, these kinds of trends in technology for education. Conservative projections of the respected, large-scale annual Campus Computing Survey indicate that Google and Microsoft very probably now account for over 95% of cloud computing among educational institutions together in 2010, with open-source Zimbra serving over 4% of the rest.

Most Common Reasons Why for Google and Microsoft - When choosing between Google and Microsoft for a given school, senior spokespeople usually mention. Those who choose Google Apps for Education most frequently say that Gmail is already being used by most of the students so its popularity with a large number of users is proven. Those who choose Microsoft Live@edu tend to point to the fact that the school already uses Microsoft’s products and services, such as MS Exchange, and that MS software is most familiar to faculty and staff — both factors easing the transition in their eyes. Testimonials from those who’ve made the switch indicate the transitions from any system to Google Apps for Education and MS Live@edu is almost always quick and easy. As discussed below, K-12 technology directors should far more factors than ease of transition in assessing next steps

A Majority of Colleges and Universities Use Google – In 2008, the Campus Computing Survey found that a majority of colleges and universities outsourcing student email had opted for Google (56.5%), while two-fifths (38.4%) used Microsoft and 4.8 % used Zimbra. Less than 0.5% thus used any other cloud computing vendor. These proportions persisted through 2009, with Google edging higher.

Market Share by Type of Institution Also Shows Google Dominance – Slides of select data from the 2009 Campus Computing Survey (CCS) are viewable in a video of a presentation by the CCS director posted on the 2009 EDUCAUSE Conference website . These slides show that Google’s relative share of outsourced email at private research universities and four-year colleges neared two-thirds of the total market. Microsoft remained strongest at public research and four-year institutions, with over one-third of the outsourced email market. Two-year community colleges were the only category that favored Microsoft (55% versus 40% for Google). Zimbra’s share of market was generally a low single-digit market percentage, only registering as high as 8% at public research universities last year.

Proposed Teachers College (TC) Contract Google Apps for Education Provides Insight – The public April 2010 recommendation by Teachers College Academic Computing Department to switch all faculty, staff and students to the Google cloud will be an informative case study for this chapter. We will be able to provide you with agreed-upon details of what appears to be a typical Google Apps for Education contract, as well as the rationale offered for the TC technology department’s proposal.

DETAILED DISCUSSION OF “WHAT CC OPTIONS SHOULD K-12 INSTITUTIONS CONSIDER?”[edit]

Google, Microsoft and Zimbra all now offer a suite of products and services at no charge to all accredited K-12 educational institutions. Google and Microsoft, in particular, are hotly competitive in the K-12 education market. If you are considering switching to the cloud to save time and money, you should keep checking for updated offerings since new features are being added almost monthly.

Other cloud computing options available through smaller vendors or open source applications should also be considered in any comprehensive forward-planning review you conduct for your K-12 institution. These options are growing and changing almost daily. All of these alternatives are discussed below.

Free Products and Services Provided by Google, Microsoft and Zimbra[edit]

Extensive Free Packages Offered to K-12 Institutions – A summary of each vendor’s cloud-based products and service follows, with further discussion of benefits and concerns continuing below. The resources and capabilities you can get free may well be satisfactory for your K-12 institution without any paid add-ons. Incremental services such as 1) more extensive archiving and discovery (needed for more rigorous compliance) and 2) extra security features may be purchased on a discounted, per-user basis (though Google currently offers a full security package free to K-12 institutions only).

  • Google - Google Apps for Education for K-12 schools includes Google’s Gmail, Docs, Sites, Groups, Talk and Video, all free for K-12 institutions. Extra security features now free for K-12 Google clients cost up to $15 per user for higher-education institutions, non-profits and government entities, but this offer for free extra security may not last beyond 2010. The pending TC contract for Google Apps for Education specifies TC’s 1) full ownership of all data with privacy guarantees that are well beyond FERPA specifications, 2) full control of all accounts and feature selection and 3) school-specific email addresses (jdewey@tc.columbia.edu, for example, not jdewey@gmail.com). Very importantly, Google guarantees no advertisements or data mining for life of any contract with an educational institution.
  • MicrosoftMicrosoft Live@edu for K-12 schools offers “co-branded” Exchange email and calendar functions at no cost. Microsoft’s Live@edu collaborative products and services for K-12 students and faculty include MS Office Live Workspace, Windows Live Skydrive and Windows Live Spaces. Microsoft (MS) offers IM capabilities with its Windows Live Messenger; MS also touts its Windows Live Writer as an easy way to compose blog posts, whether on Live Spaces or an existing class blog. MS policy on ads or data mining and we don’t have access to a pending contract like we do for Google and Teachers College; it’s quite probable that that MS matches these features of Google’s privacy policy for educational clients, however. To compete even more effectively with Google Docs, it’s rumored that MS may soon offer pared-down versions of MS Office software like PowerPoint, Word and Excel to Live@edu clients. In another major competitive move in 2010, Microsoft announced a “strategic technical collaboration agreement” with ePals, a trusted provider of Web 2.0 platforms (and “safe, secure email”) to K-12 institutions.
  • ZimbraZimbra’s Collaboration Server 6.0 Open Source Edition provides software for email, group calendar, contacts, instant messaging, file storage and web document management. Zimbra is not a cloud computing company, but Zimbra integrates easily with any existing cloud-based systems including those offered by VMware, its new owner. Open Source Initiative does not recognize Zimbra as possessing a true open source license because 1) a small portion of its code is evidently now proprietary and 2) Yahoo! released the last few Zimbra versions under its Yahoo! Public Initiative rather than meet the more rigid requirements of the Open Source Initiative. Zimbra was founded in 2005, primarily as an open source, downloadable email and collaboration suite for small business that was in many ways comparable to, and able to be integrated with, Microsoft Exchange. Zimbra was an early Web 2.0 hit known particularly for the ease of its calendaring mashups. Yahoo! acquired the company for $350 million in 2007. After introducing a paid Network Edition with considerably more features than its open source version, Zimbra trumpeted its rise to “50 million paid mailboxes.” In January 2010, VMware acquired the company at a price reportedly much less than Yahoo! paid three years before. VMware’s vSphere cloud infrastructure will complement Zimbra’s free products and services for educational users at discounted prices. (On the other hand, Zimbra has ramped up its efforts to “upsell” its clients to more feature-laden Premier and Professional offerings; this may mean that they will be slower to add features to their open source offering.

Free or Low-Cost Alternatives to Google, MS or Zimbra[edit]

Other Large Cloud Computing Companies – A comprehensive review of potential next steps regarding cloud computing for your K-12 institution should not be restricted to Microsoft Live@Edu, Google Apps for Education or VMware’s Zimbra. Larger providers of cloud capabilities may also offer favorable contracts to K-12 educational clients. Amazon Web Services (AWS), a major player in the cloud computing industry, has provided several universities with free “grants.” Red Hat, best known as the leading supplier of open source solutions for corporations, has also initiated efforts in the education sector.

Smaller Cloud Computing Companies –There are hundreds, if not thousands, of other cloud computing vendors and that number is growing every day; some of them may be more suitable for your specific needs. While none of over a dozen smaller cloud computing vendors approached for this article offered free resources to our medium-sized high school network prototype, most indicated that discounted services could be negotiated. Negotiated fees for a smaller K-12 institution could run under $1000 per month for a single institution so it’s very likely you would still save a lot versus your existing network with a smaller paid vendor. Importantly, most small CC contractors also offered the ability to highly customize systems and applications for each individual client to a much greater degree than Google and MS would. If you have institution-specific idiosyncratic needs, you may conclude that customization and a greater degree of overall control outweigh the “free” offerings offered by the industry giants. Nothing, of course, is ever truly free. The discussion below offer our analysis of why the biggest vendors are offering “free” suites of applications to education, i.e., “what’s in it for Google and Microsoft?” The trade-off of large vs. small is yet another issue illuminated by the comprehensive cost analysis and detailed comparison of pluses and minuses that we strongly recommend.

True Open Source Software Alternatives – K-12 technology coordinators should also consider true open source solutions, especially for specific educational needs. Open source applications would also be able to more customized to the needs of your school, potentially working together with cloud-based capabilities in an integrated overall package. The fact that Zimbra does meet the Open Source Initiative’s strict requirements should also not deter K-12 technology coordinators from considering the Zimbra alternative to Google and Microsoft. If you use open source applications, you won’t be dependent on the fluctuating whims and fortunes of a private company. Public-sector entities (e.g., local, state and national government users are beginning to look at this dependence more critically, but both private and public K-12 entities should do the same. Numerous open source options can be found online. As noted above, you could start the strategic review and the learning process at sites like schoolforge.net, eduforge.org or osalt.com. You could also join helpful discussion groups, such as the Open Source Initiative Education Project.

DETAILED DISCUSSION OF “WHY DO SOME VENDORS GIVE SCHOOLS FREE CC?”[edit]

Current Policy Towards Schools Consistent with Historic Practice[edit]

Google, MS and Zimbra Have Always Favored Educational Clients – Google, “founded by a research project at Stanford University,” seems sincere in its desire to “give back to the educational community” (LINK to FAQs for Google’s Apps for Education). Microsoft has historically voiced similar sentiments. Zimbra started as an open source email and collaboration package for small businesses, but was also adopted by a number of educational institutions. Google introduced Google Apps for Education in October 2006, but only began distributing the suite widely in 2008. MS had long offered free or heavily discounted software to educators beginning Live@edu as a hotmail service in March 2005. Each (plus Zimbra) has continued to add features to their free educational package as they developed new technology or, in the case of Microsoft and especially Google, acquired companies for their technology. The current offers are thus consistent with past corporate policy towards educational institutions, but long-term business benefits are clearly part of their decision-making.

Building Brands Builds Long-Term Business and Good Will[edit]

Savvy readers may be suspicious about anything that’s “free” so this section discusses the potential business benefits derived by Google, Microsoft (MS) and Zimbra from their free offerings to educational clients.

  • Positive Public Image Possesses Business Value – It’s also undeniable that contributing to education, especially during tough times, helps build a corporation’s short-term and long-term public image – and thus its marketplace “brand.” Good will is an intangible business asset that may positively affect ongoing decisions made by a range of constituents influencing future business success, from many types of prospective paying customers to government regulators (e.g., those currently assessing anti-trust issues for Google in the U.S. and Europe).
  • Early Conversion of Users to Brand Supports Long-Term Business Success – From a marketing and business perspective, corporations highly value the conversion of young users to their “brand” of products and services. Instilling brand loyalty among K-12 students (and their teachers) can produce manifold long-term business benefits. Every marketer knows it’s far more expensive on a per-person basis to convert new users than to retain existing consumers. By graduation, millions of K-12 students will likely have acquired some degree of brand loyalty to the brand of products and services they’ve used so frequently; they may already possess a disinclination to switch to another company’s unfamiliar products and services if they have a choice in the future. MS fully acknowledges this long-term objective for Live@edu: “Our goal is to introduce our services to students who are beginning to form online habits, discover that these services help reduce the time it takes to finish coursework while at the same time helping them stay connected with friends and family, have them fall in love with them, and use them for life.” After high school or college, many in this new generation will have influence over purchase decisions regarding similar capabilities and resources from these same companies.
  • Educators and Educational Institutions Provide Valuable Implicit or Explicit Endorsements - Computing systems endorsed by educators and educational institutions are viewed by many as having received an implicit seal of approval. Some make it explicit; many technology directors for universities and colleges and K-12 institutions have provided Google and MS with actual filmed or written testimonials published online, as well in what might be considered “selling materials”. Though the value of an endorsement, implied or explicit, is arguably higher if given by a technology director or professor from a college or university known for technological or academic prowess, any cloud computing company would benefit if they were simply able to list your K-12 institution as client without a written or filmed testimonial.
  • Relatively Small Incremental Investment Due to Economies of Scale – The incremental investment required of Google to serve the K-12 market is less than one might think. Each is essentially offering the core products and services underlying enhanced premium versions of cloud computing packages sold on a per-user basis. In addition, massive economies of scale in areas like storage sharply reduce the marginal cost of adding another client institution.
  • Long-Term Option for Fee-Based Products and Services for Education - Google and Microsoft (and, to some degree, Zimbra) can afford to take the long-term view. Both may eventually charge a fee for their cloud-based products and services for educational clients, but that isn’t likely to happen for years. In Google’s pending contract with Teachers College, there is no guarantee that all cloud computing capabilities and resources will be free for the full five-year agreement; should Google begin charging any fees, however, TC has the right to break the contract and take back all its data with Google’s assistance – an inconvenience, but also a protection.

If and when any fees are charged for what’s now free, it’s probable that Google and Microsoft’s even more massive future economies of scale will help keep costs much lower than cloud computing competitors. At that point, though, even just one penny for every user will represent over $100 million per year in revenue globally; every added dime in user fees would mean at least $1 billion in incremental revenue annually.

DETAILED DISCUSSION OF “WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL BENEFITS OF CC?”[edit]

Though examined individually, advantages such as scalability and decreased maintenance are also factors contributing to cloud computing’s primary benefit: lowered costs. In addition, please note there are minuses associated with some of the benefits discussed below. These concerns will be discussed in the next section.

Detailed Discussion of Easy Scalability[edit]

The scalability advantages of CC include:

Consuming Only What You Need - The ability to expand or reduce the scale of your usage easily and rapidly is one of the primary benefits of cloud computing.

“Paying As You Go” - As noted above, the metered nature of cloud computing means you only pay for what you actually use.

Making a Minimal Upfront Investment - The scalable nature of cloud computing eliminates the investment formerly required to meet predicted peak load usage.

Changes Made Easier, Faster and Cheaper - By switching to a cloud computing vendor, you are essentially delegating almost all of the following responsibilities and the associated costs of scaling up (or down to some extent) to an outside contractor. This is a big plus with the one obvious minus of loss of control.

  • Less Time – Previously, many hours were required to review and analyze issues including selection of the right new server capabilities or addressing other hardware or software needs
  • Less Trouble – No more hassles merging and ironing out conflicts between old and new systems…those are the vendor’s problem.
  • Less Money – Last but not least, you don’t have to buy any more new hardware and software to accomplish the CC functions you select

Detailed Discussion of More Flexibility[edit]

Upgrades Are Much Cheaper and Can be Reversed Easily - The ability to quickly and easily shift platforms or change applications in a cloud-based system is another flexibility bonus. In a traditional computing network system, it can be both difficult and expensive to reverse a commitment (e.g., one made by a predecessor) to specific type or brand of infrastructure. Upgrades of software applications involve many fewer complications and staff labor costs.

CC Can Typically Accommodate Multiple Formats - Clouds are designed to upload documents created in a range of software formats, solving a common problem for K-12 students; documents created in one computer environment (e.g., home or library) that cannot be opened in another (e.g., school) without a compatibility patch. (As another sign of sophisticated integration through the cloud, Google plans make it possible for any document to be printed by any printer from any device without the need for compatible printer drivers.)

Dramatic Reduction of Documents Stored Locally and Corollary Rise in Document Accessibility - Even more basically, the flexible access of cloud storage addresses another reportedly widespread K-12 student problem, especially among younger students: the storage of documents on local storage devices (e.g., CD, flash drive or school library hard drive) that are subsequently lost or cleared. Students with documents stored on the cloud need no longer transfer documents to local storage devices for transport.

Heightened Ability to Experiment with Various Options - Depending upon the nature of the cloud computing system chosen, experimentation with alternatives may be accomplished more easily and flexibly. Experimentation, of course, is one of the foundations of academic and technological inquiry. With greater opportunities for experimentation, you may be able to evaluate new ways to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of your K-12 computing systems. On the other hand, if you choose free cloud computing from a sole source vendor, your choices are limited to those provided by that vendor.

Detailed Discussion of Increased Mobility[edit]

Vastly Increased Mobile Access - One key benefit of cloud computing is increased mobile access. Apps offered in the cloud are being customized for integration into a range of devices. Since you access cloud computing resources through a web browser, all appropriately integrated apps can be deployed from anywhere on any Internet-enabled device.

Ability to Use Multiple Devices - The use of mobile phone browsers, including higher end “smartphones” or “app phones,” by K-12 students for educational purposes is currently at very low levels versus usage for social or entertainment purposes. Prohibitions on their in-school use are clearly a limiting factor. The use of other mobile devices for education (e.g., iPod-like devices, tablet computers and iPad-like devices or the low-cost netbooks discussed in Chapter 30) is only beginning to expand. Experts believe the use of mobile devices for education and other non-social or entertainment uses will rise rapidly within two-to-three years.

Significance of Apple’s Recent Market Growth in Underscoring Mobility as Priority - When Apple passed Microsoft in market capitalization (now over $227 billion), some saw the event as a symbolic dividing line between past and future uses of computer technology, as well as a salient indicator of future trends. Apple’s rapid business gains are due to devices you can hold in your hand (e.g., iPods, iPhones and iPads), while Microsoft’s core business still lies with devices that sit on your desk. The ratio of a company’s stock price to earnings per share is a measure of how optimistic investors are about the prospects for a company’s products and services; Apple’s current P/E is 21 versus 13 for Microsoft. Comparative growth in stock price is another salient measure; in the past five years, Apple’s stock price has risen over 550%, while Microsoft has been essentially flat at 4%.

Access to the Cloud Will Be More Equitable Due to Cheaper Mobile Devices - The ability to use less expensive devices than desktops for schoolwork will also address one shrinking, but still significant, source of educational inequity. According to a 2010 Pew Survey, more than 90% of all U.S. homes with students now have Internet access via computers. 99% of higher-income White households were wired, but the proportion of lower-income Latino and African American students with Internet access at home has only recently surpassed 80%.

A Good Overview of Future Trends in Technology for Education - For a perspective on future trends in the use of technology for education, see the 2010 Horizon Report by the New Media Coalition. Selective and effective use of mobile devices other than laptops will help K-12 schools attain more educational goals; more broadly, one key to enhanced educational use of technology is more widespread use of the cloud.

Detailed Discussion of Less Maintenance and Support[edit]

Substantial Drop in Staff Time for Maintenance (Now a Majority of Labor Hours for Most K-12 Institutions) - Time spent in ongoing maintenance of infrastructure (e.g., servers) will almost certainly decrease substantially with cloud computing, since most maintenance duties are effectively being outsourced. You know how much of your department’s time is spent on maintenance, but surveys have generally shown a steady increase over the last decade to levels as high as 70% of overall staff time.

No Need to Install Applications Individually - Cloud computing applications don't have to be installed individually on every user's computer. Thus, they are much easier to support and upgrade since any improvements or changes reach all users instantly when they link to the cloud. Since applications are usually delivered to multiple tenants of the cloud, however, you should ask about the any consequent limitations to customization.

Many Report Less Time Needed for Ongoing User Support Post-CC-Transition - Online feedback and case studies of converts to CC – as well as TC’s own surveys of technology directors at other universities that have switched to Google Apps for Education specifically — indicate that time spent on user support for applications has dropped for most. Reasons cited include well-integrated, user-friendly apps backed by brief, clear online tutorials in video and text. In case histories, estimates of the percentage of support saved when moving to the cloud time range from 20% to 80%.

Transition Time Usually Much Less Than Feared - Because of the sophistication of the integration offered by CC vendors, the transition to a new cloud computing system for a K-12 institution may be shorter and less troublesome than you may think. The transition to Google Apps for Education, for instance, follows a standard six-week progression. Several technological directors described the transition and relatively trouble-free, if not seamless. While there clearly is an increase in technology staff responsibilities during the transition, interviews and other feedback indicate that almost all problems arising from merging old systems with the Google Apps cloud were ironed out within that six-week window.

Some Report Surplus Time Spent on Integration of Technology, but Obviously That Choice Would Be Yours - Some of those surveyed or interviewed for case studies stated that the time saved on maintenance and support frees technology staff to contribute more to activities that directly support educational goals, such as better integration of collaborative technology with teaching. Many do, however, create a new position (or part-time position or multiple positions) administering CC operations and ongoing issues.

Detailed Discussion of Lower Costs[edit]

If one chooses to outsource both data storage and software applications from the cloud, two major categories of K-12 technology costs will be immediately reduced: 1) upfront capital expenditures on future hardware and other physical resources associated with your computing network and 2) future software licensing fees.

True cost savings cannot be determined without assessing your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). For tips on where to go to learn how to calculate your TCO, please see below.

Doing More with Much Less “on the Ground” - In general, your institution can do more with less, because almost all needs for processing, storage, networking and applications can be met with access to the cloud. The range of ever more productive mobile devices (detailed in the above discussion of greater user mobility) are all cheaper than current-day desktops and laptops. Netbooks (see Chapter 30 in this wikibook) are salient trend of the future, but some schools now save money by looking to the past. Many schools on a tight budget have also discovered that cloud computing makes it possible to resurrect less powerful computers more than a decade old, as in this case study.

Utility Computing Approach Slashes Need for Investment – The metered nature dramatically reduces the investment, monetary and otherwise, made in hardware or software needed for peak, infrequent or one-time intensive computing activities. From an accounting standpoint, these costs would be transferred off the balance sheet, freeing up working capital for other funding needs.

Cloud Computing Vendors’ Economies of Scale Yield Customer Savings - Because a cloud computing vendor typically serves multiple clients, there are many costs that can be spread over a much larger base than your K-12 institution, such as enhanced infrastructure and software. Other price rates are just lower than a K-12 institution may be able to secure, especially K-12 institutions in high-cost urban areas. Costs for real estate and electric power are often lower than those for educational institutions, for instance, because cloud computing providers can locate server and data center facilities in rural or even remote locations where many costs are comparatively lower. In a very competitive industry, a large part of these savings are passed on to customers.

Separate Analyses Show Approximate Savings of $200 Per Computer or $50 Per User Per Year is a Conservative Estimate - Based on the analysis conducted below, an average K-12 institution should save at least $50 per user per year in direct and indirect costs with cloud computing. The rate of savings per computer depends on the average number of users per client computer, but $200 per computer per year is a reasonable estimate given an average public school number of four. What might be termed “back office” cost savings on support, maintenance and capital investment could potentially be re-invested in a variety of “front-office” strategies to enhance teacher efficacy and student learning through better integration and increased use of technology.

Analysis of Google Apps for Education Costs as Representative Case Study - Many schools, both large and small, have found cost savings by moving to the cloud. While this chapter should not be seen as a recommendation to consider the Google Apps for Education option without reviewing other alternatives, the case studies K-12 and higher education available were a good source of some cost savings data, as well as anecdotal reports of user experiences after adopting Google’s cloud-based suite of applications for educational clients. In general, almost all private educational institutions and most public either failed to aggregate or disclose their cost savings, but hard estimates that were provided were impressive.

To cite two public K-12 examples, Prince Georges County, MD public schools, the fourteenth-largest public school district in America, reported a $1MM first-year savings in direct hardware investment alone attributable to adopting Google Apps for its 28,000 K-12 faculty and staff. The Saline Area, MI, a much smaller suburban/rural school district also adopted Google Apps initially for its 600 faculty and staff, choosing to proceed with a roll-out to 3200 students in grades 5-12 in Year 2; before that roll-out, the district Superintendent stated that $400K was saved in the first year, including savings from non-renewal of the prior system, reduced email maintenance, hardware upgrades and ongoing IT support. Even without any staff time saving (or any Year 2 savings for Saline), both reports support a rough yardstick of $50 per user in total savings. Case studies for individual K-12 institutions (Bronx IS 339 or Columbia Secondary School are two from New York City) focused on a range of perceived educational benefits without discussing specific cost savings, but it was clear that significant savings had realized.

Reported cost savings due to cloud computing for public and private college or universities give additional financial perspective. The size of a university computing network presumably facilitates economies of scale unrealizable by the smaller institution at which you may work or will be working, so your current hardware and software cost, and thus your savings, are higher. Notre Dame University, with 12,000 graduate and undergraduate students and 1200 faculty and staff estimated a total $1.5 million in savings due to the switch to the cloud; Utah State, with 23,000 total students and 800 faculty estimated $800,000 per year. The technology coordination staff in the Teachers College Academic Computing Department estimates $453,000 will be saved in hardware costs and licensing fees alone in a five-year contract with the Google Apps system they are recommending for 6000 faculty and staff starting in 2011. These figures show enough consistency to venture a range of estimated cost savings for an average K-12 institution. TC excluded several areas of potential direct and indirect cost savings (e.g., staff labor hours) that could substantially raise its $15 in direct savings per capita per annum; Utah State, like most, probably omitted some direct staff, as well as indirect costs, from its $34 per head estimate. Notre Dame’s total savings of $113 per capita may be considered to fall across more than one year. These cases also support a conservative ballpark of $50 per user for a smaller, less efficient K-12 institution.

Beyond hardware and licensing, the additional factors that should be part of an estimate of reduced Total Cost Ownership (TCO) should almost double these per capita savings (see below discussion of TCO), as would your institution’s likely lower economies of scale. In addition, studies have shown that further indirect cost savings would add about 80% to your total savings. Google Apps are largely free, of course, so choice of another cloud computing vendor for other reasons might lower these total savings. Even so, a reasonable estimate of the savings you might realize versus current TCO including indirect costs could be significantly more than the abovementioned $200 per computer and $50 per capita for the first two years. These back-office savings could be re-invested in a variety of strategies to enhance teacher and increase student learning.

Check for Any Incremental CC Costs, However! - While costs for hardware and software will almost certainly decrease, there may be new types of operating expenses associated with cloud computing that must be thoroughly understood by technology coordinators before entering into a contract. These will be discussed under potential concerns [LINK to “Concerns” section].

How Do You Calculate Total Cost Savings Generated by Switch to CC?[edit]

Total Cost Ownership (TCO) - In general, an accurate comparison of projected costs for any alternative future computing systems, including cloud computing, cannot be made without assessing the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). As originally defined, the phrase ‘total cost of ownership” refers to all the costs associated with the use of computer hardware and software including administrative costs, licensing costs, deployment and configuration, hardware and software updates, training and development, maintenance, technical support and any other costs associated with acquiring, deploying, operating, maintaining and upgrading computer systems. These are normally “direct” costs that can be found or extracted from the technology budget.

Helpful Background and How-To Perspectives on TCO – Though certainly best practices, the Total Cost of Ownership is more often calculated by private-sector businesses, governmental organizations and public school districts than by individual schools. We do recommend you do at least a rough estimate for your K-12 institution. Excellent comprehensive perspectives on the total cost of ownership for K-12 educational institutions may be found in this presentation of a K-12 Total Cost of Ownership Tool and this review and analysis of TCO and open-source software. You can find more guidance for calculating TCO in many places online, including fill-in-the-blank spreadsheets at TechRepublic, an "online community" of the wider and also useful ZDNet.

Indirect Costs - So-called indirect costs should also be evaluated in any comparison, though they are difficult to estimate. These costs are largely those borne by the end-user community such as end-user 1) peer support, 2) self-support including hours spent in training classes and more casual learning, 3) time spent in file or storage management, 4) applications development by users or 5) the end-user labor and other costs associated with downtime. Indirect costs usually amount to 35%-to-50% of total costs. While they are often considered “soft” or “hidden,” indirect costs are real.

As shown above, we have conducted prototype analyses of the potential cost savings you might realize by switching to cloud computing to give you a preliminary idea of the average cost savings achieved. These analyses recognize TCO and associated indirect costs. Your institutions costs, of course, may vary significantly for a variety of reasons.

Other Potential Benefits Include Security and Reliability[edit]

CC Security and Reliability Have Advantages and Disadvantages - Cost savings, reduced staff time spent in maintenance and support, enhanced flexibility and ease of scalability are all pluses enjoyed, to varying degrees, by almost K-12 institutions that switch to cloud computing. There are other important cloud computing issues, such as security and reliability, which have both pluses and minuses. Both the potential benefits and drawbacks associated with these issues will be discussed together below.

DETAILED DISCUSSION OF “WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL CONCERNS ABOUT CC?”[edit]

Detailed Discussion of Security[edit]

Security and Privacy are Most Common Concerns - Security and privacy is often the top concerns for any educational institution considering a switch to cloud computing. In mid-spring 2010, Yale University, for example, cited concerns with Gmail users’ security and privacy as the reasons for 1) delaying a switch to Google Apps for Education and 2) extending the review by its Information Technology Services. In late spring 2010, UC Davis cancelled a trial of Gmail for faculty and staff, indicating special concerns with Google Buzz, but was comfortable using Gmail for all UC Davis students. One of the reasons these two examples were notable, however, is that the number of educational institutions proceeding with plans to move to cloud computing so far outweighs those who’ve gotten cold feet.

Importance of Assessing Your Security Priorities - Several differing concerns about cloud computing overlap with some aspects of security, including privacy and reliability, but they will be discussed separately below. Additionally, as you know, there are several inter-related, but different, facets of overall security, such as operational and organizational security; general physical security, including ensuring the integrity of the server; security of applications; and protection from threats from hackers or unauthorized users — but there are some general observations that can be made. Your assessment of the security factors associated with moving to the cloud will likely include listing many potential minuses, but you’ll also very likely identify some potential pluses that may lower your current security risks.

Review of Standard Google Contract Regarding Security - TC’s IT department’s analysis of pending contract with Google Apps for Education provided us with some insights on the security and privacy, though mostly for Google Apps for Education. For whatever reason, Microsoft is not as forthcoming in its online materials on security and privacy measures for Live@edu as Google is for Google Apps for Education, though we secured a recent Live@edu contract with Ohio State University. Reviewing this contract, as well as Google’s general approach to security for Google Apps for Education may help you formulate specific security questions for the cloud computing vendors you review. You should ask Google and Microsoft the same hard questions that you would ask any of the other cloud computing vendors you review about specific security measures that are not initially presented to you, even though 1) you may have less leverage because they are giving you their K-12 cloud computing products and services for free and 2) they may offer less latitude because they undoubtedly want to keep the thousands of contracts they have with schools contracts as uniform.

Basic Plus and Minuses of CC Security[edit]

Some Relative Advantages of CC Contractor Regarding Security - On the one hand, no one cares more about the security of your data than you do. When you move your data to the cloud, you are relinquishing much of your control over security features. On the other hand, the cloud computing vendor may be able to employ more sophisticated and up-to-date security measures than you can, especially the larger ones who can spread enhanced security costs and staff over a larger user base. They may also be able to move more quickly to find solutions to the ever-changing array of security risks, devoting greater resources than you can afford with much smaller staffing and budgets. The nature of the cloud also enables security updates to be put in place as soon as they are developed, an especially important factor when dealing with a substantial and newly emerging, threat.

Security Highest Priority Issue for Most Cloud Computing Vendors - Cloud computing vendors are aware of the critical importance of security and privacy in preserving their business reputation and maintaining customer trust. Since any significant breaches will damage future business prospects, security is likely a top priority for vendors’ staff attention and corporate investment. Be aware that some lower-paying or “pro bono” clients may be placed in a “tier” with less security features so you should ensure that you have all the information you need to balance your security objectives against your budget. This is especially important with smaller vendor. At no charge, Google is currently offering educational institutions an enhanced security package (designed by the recently acquired Postini) for which business client pay over $10 per user, but this offer to educational clients may not last through 2010.

Centralization vs. De-Centralization - If your data is currently stored in multiple locations with differing security profiles, the cloud may provide the benefits of greater centralization. For de-centralized data, the risk of a security breach is as high as a virtual network’s weakest de-centralized link. Centralization makes it easier to implement uniformly high security measures, but more of your data is vulnerable to a given security breach if it’s located in one location. Overall, centralization will probably lowers your of a security breach, while increasing the potential damage. Finally, from yet another perspective discussed more fully in “Reliability and Recovery,” there are distinct advantages to some degree of data replication and storage redundancy.

Security of Server/Storage Locations – Yale and UC Davis were both angered when Google would not promise to reveal the precise physical location of all servers on which their data might be stored. Google states that it does not do so for its own security reasons, though, on judgment, Google’s wish to maintain long-term business flexibility probably was a factor as well. In emphasizing Google’s security problems in China, Yale’s spokesperson showed he’d clearly not read the Google commitment that satisfied TC; Google guarantees educational clients would not house data in any of 15 higher-risk countries (e.g., China, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Cuba, etc.). When considering smaller vendors, you should request the physical locations of their servers; you can decide if a guarantee like Google’s is sufficient.

Issues with Multi-Tenancy -The multi-tenant architecture common to almost cloud computing systems provides advantages, including substantial economies of scale, but you should ask how the potential security issues associated with multi-tenancy have been resolved. As cloud computing becomes more and more sophisticated, safeguards against “mixing” data are getting very good. Some cloud computing clients, however, have requested that their data only be housed with clients from the same user category (e.g., education, government, non-profit). Similar co-tenants may well have to meet similar security, privacy and compliance standards.

Highest Vulnerability Typically at the Local Level - Any K-12 technology coordinator knows the primary security weaknesses exist at on the local end-user level, a problem compounded by the increasing mobility of users’ devices. It should be noted that in a cloud computing network, almost all data is stored on the cloud rather than locally, substantially decreasing the amount of stored data at risk in local devices.

Ways to Decrease Local Vulnerability - There are several relatively easy ways to decrease the vulnerability the email system that is such an integral component of your K-12 CC network. Webmail itself can never be described as 100% secure, though comprehensive email encryption (over and above the limited encryption employed by webmail providers) can reduce your webmail risk to minimal levels. Even though encryption software’s quality and ease of use has increased significantly along with availability (including many free and open-source options), far too few beyond business IT departments take advantage of these wise security measures. Technology coordinators that wish to further limit vulnerability in a cloud-based system are encouraged to review open-source options available via the GNU Privacy Guard Project. If you want to further increase security in a cloud-based network accessed by many mobile devices, one particularly interesting strategy involving the creation of one-time passwords on roaming devices is presented in this white paper titled “One-Time Password Access to any Server without Changing the Server”.

Google Security Breakdown - In yet another example of confusion, critics of Google Apps viewed the Google Street View fracas in Europe in spring 2010 as a Google security flaw. As you may recall, Google came under fire in Europe and, subsequently, several U.S. Congressmen for mistakenly recording data from unprotected WiFi networks while recording Google Street View and laying the groundwork for future Google Mobile apps. From a standpoint of security (as opposed to Google’s failure to apply proper oversight in Street View data collection), it was actually just another illustration of many local end-users’ failure to employ appropriate security measures. Data from unprotected networks and devices can be easily captured in a number of ways, of course, including a growing array of free or moderately priced “packet sniffers.” Accessing private data from unprotected networks and devices may be illegal but it’s easy to do if the precautions similar to those suggested above are not taken.

Specific Microsoft and Google Security - While Microsoft and Google institute more sophisticated overall security on an ongoing basis than the huge majority of K-12 institutions, they are also obviously more attractive targets. The sheer market dominance of Microsoft operating systems (roughly 90% of users globally versus 5% for Apple and 3% for Linux, though expert estimates vary), as well as its IE browser (about 50% of users versus 30% for FireFox, 7% for Google Chrome and 5% for Safari) make Microsoft by far the most popular target for the most talented hackers.

Google Questions Microsoft Security and Vice Versa - Google has announced that its own future use of Microsoft systems would be severely curtailed for security reasons. Citing the exploitation of MS zero-day vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer (the outdated IE 6 was easiest to attack, but the flaw existed in later versions) by Chinese hackers to steal data from a Gmail user’s computer once it had been compromised. Google may have implied that Microsoft security was weaker than that for Apple OSX or Linux, but the number of successful attacks on MS vehicles is mostly a result of Microsoft’s tendency to be targeted much more often. The decision was probably also influenced Google’s growing competition with MS on a number of fronts. MS standards for security are almost certainly comparable to Google’s in efficacy, especially if you the most updated versions are used and all security patches are downloaded immediately. MS responded with generalities about their concern over Google Security, but may get more specific later.

More confusion has arisen over data ownership (the client, not Google, owns the data but this will be discussed in the “Privacy” section below).

More Next Steps to Enhance Security[edit]

First, Ask If CC Vendor Has Passed a Standard “SAS 70” Security Audit - One quick means to determine whether a potential vendor has established adequate security standards is to ask whether they have passed an SAS 70 Audit. The AICPA’s (i.e., American Institute of Certified Public Accountants) “Statement on Auditing Standards No. 70, Service Organizations” sets relatively demanding and widely recognized standards for controls over information, including data storage in the cloud.

Full CC Vendor Reporting Essential to Security - As noted, one recommended next step is to designate a staff member at your school to manage and closely monitor your cloud computing system, with ongoing security being a key element of his or her job description. You cannot satisfactorily monitor security and overall performance without being able to audit all relevant activity. Before signing any contract with a cloud computing vendor, it is essential that you are specific about all the metrics you want to see, since the vendor may well have to set up additional systems to meet your objectives.

Hiring Monitoring Services - Some reports, such as logs of every attempt to access your cloud network, may be too detailed or voluminous to audit in an efficient manner. You may want to consider hiring one of the growing number of relatively low-cost cloud monitoring services to keep tabs on potential security breaches, a good "starter list" of which is here.

The Cloud Security Alliance - A great source for general information is the Cloud Security Alliance is a non-profit organization formed to promote the use of best practices for providing security assurance within cloud computing

Detailed Discussion of Privacy[edit]

As noted, security and privacy issues are interwoven.

The Only Acceptable Standard - The contracts for both Google and Microsoft make it clear that clients own all data and you should accept nothing less.

CC Multi-Tenancy Threat to Privacy – In any multi-tenant CC situation, privacy is also an issue. Again, full reporting by the CC vendor should help illuminate any breaches of both security and privacy.

Data Requests from Foreign Governments - The well-publicized security breaches in China have also generated confusion about whether Google and other cloud computing companies may be forced to reveal data if requested by a local countries’ government. The simple fact that the security breaches were hacks by unknown individuals versus anything formally approved and organized by the Chinese government efforts is sometimes forgotten. Moreover, foreign governments are very unlikely to request data housed for another country’s educational institutions by a private multinational CC vendor. Even if they did request it, Google and any other CC vendor would adamantly refuse to surrender it, citing overwhelming legal precedent. In rare situations, an exception might be argued if the data was manifestly demonstrated to be critical to solving a criminal case such as a homicide, but, even then, the CC vendor would proceed with great reluctance.

Data Requests by U.S Government - U.S. K-12 institutions should be more concerned about data requests from U.S. governmental entities. U.S. Federal and state law clearly does provide extensive privacy protections to individual students and schools. Cases like the National Security Agency’s (NSA) successful request for phone data on suspected terrorists or their accomplices, however, illustrate that the prevention of possible, but uncertain, future negative events may be considered the basis for data requests from the U.S. government. This is a slippery slope, but we’ve yet to slide down very far, especially with regard to educational institutions.

Detailed Discussion of Advertising[edit]

The Issue of Unwanted Advertising Concerns Many - The advertising that some fear may accompany free cloud computing services is a much-discussed subset of the overall privacy issue about which there is much confusion (once again). Exposure to advertising is often the price one pays for “free” online services so assumptions are made. No one likes to see ad messages appended to personal communications. Beyond that, some types of online targeting may result in genuine breaches of privacy and, potentially, security issues. One oft-cited example is the scanning of email text in Gmail that enables relevant ads to be served to respective users. This constitutes passive “data mining,” but when personal data is actively saved to build a behavioral profile, that’s an even greater intrusion of privacy. Many, however, respond negatively to the prospect of these intrusions without doing their homework, including some members of the Yale and UC Davis review committee,

Microsoft and Google Set Clear Contractual Limits (with Google Being Most Strict in Banning Advertising to Current Clients and Microsoft Opening Door to Advertising Their Own Products and Services) - Microsoft and Google place clear limits on advertising and use of personal data in their respective cloud computing contracts for schools. In addition to the contract language, Google references its overall Privacy Policy set forth in its Privacy Center. The default setting on Google Apps for Education prevents any advertising at all from being served to students and staff. Microsoft states that it will not serve any “third-party” advertising, but strongly indicates that ads for Microsoft products and services will be delivered to both students and staff. Both companies also state that they reserve the right to serve ads to any alumni or non-staff or non-student users.

Privacy Always An Issue, Even If Breaches Due to “Mistakes” Alone - There’s no question that companies that host cloud-based resources can much more easily monitor users’ communications and stored data. Privacy can be more easily breached in unlawful ways (e.g., an individual working for a cloud computing vendor), but it can also be breached in a manner considered lawful (as with recent monitoring of millions of phone calls by the U.S. National Security Agency). In addition, of course, mistakes made by cloud suppliers can also provide openings for invasions of privacy.

Security and privacy are also linked to compliance issues.

Detailed Discussion of Compliance[edit]

Compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is Assured - The pending TC contract for Google Apps for Education specifies TC’s 1) full ownership of all data with privacy guarantees that are well beyond FERPA specifications, 2) full control of all accounts and feature selection and 3) school-specific email addresses (jdewey@tc.columbia.edu, for example, not jdewey@gmail.com). Microsoft and others have similar policies.

You Should Require All Vendors to Ensure Full Compliance - In general, you should demand that any cloud computing vendor you select abides by all relevant compliance requirements. In many cases, you will want to structure the reporting of data to ensure that full compliance is achieved.

Detailed Discussion of Portability[edit]

Future Data Portability Critical to Ensure, But Often Ignored or Dismissed - Portability of data is a major issue that many technology directors overlook. While some in the industry rightly feel that the long-term success of the cloud computing industry rests partially on uniform standards and have initiated efforts to do so, there is little uniformity now. From a vendor’s selfish perspective, in fact, it may be seen to advantageous if idiosyncratic standards make it very difficult for you to take your business elsewhere.

The Importance of Having An Exit Strategy – Similar to the necessity for a Disaster Recovery Plan for your K-12 school, you should never enter a contract for cloud computing without an exit strategy. You and your K-12 institution may choose to leave a vendor for reasons you cannot anticipate now. An unacceptable increase in future fees is just one example of a possible scenario. Google makes a contractual commitment not to charge anything for four years, but Microsoft dodges the question in both its five-year contract and its FAQs. Second, a smaller cloud computing vendor may choose to suspend service for a range of reasons or the vendor may implement unacceptable changes after a merger or acquisition or, in a hotly competitive sector where margins are continually decreasing, your chosen vendor company may simply go out of business.

Portability Issue Paramount with Smaller CC Vendors - Especially if you choose a smaller vendor, you should determine precisely how the data the will be stored in advance (in terms of format and other aspects). Some industry leaders are pushing for more uniform standards for cloud computing, but, until this objective is met, you need to be careful. Other questions include 1) how much a transition from the system will cost, if anything and 2) how long a typical transition takes. You should obtain as many guarantees as possible regarding any future transition away from the vendor. A worst-case scenario that is happening less frequently as the industry matures is that your data is stored in such a manner that makes it practically impossible to transfer. A more common scenario is that the dollars and time expended greatly exceed expectations, crippling your operations for a period of time while the transition is effected. Future difficulties can be greatly lessened or prevented entirely with a clear exit strategy.

Detailed Discussion of Recovery[edit]

Ability to Recover may be Enhanced by CC, But Concerns Remain - In general, the offsite nature of cloud computing will likely improve your potential data loss risk and, given the right advance planning, positively affect your recovery time as well. As with other concerns above, however, outsourced offsite services and capabilities means “out of your direct control.”

Incorporate CC Functions into Existing Disaster Recovery Plan, Because “It’s When, Not If” - With any school network, it’s not a question of whether your network will go down or crash, but when it will do so. Historic events have shown the same axiom applies to the biggest and most sophisticated networks, such as those maintained by Google. You may well already have a Disaster Recovery Plan, as discussed in Chapter 15 of this Wikibook. If not, however, before you enter a contract with a cloud computing vendor, you should establish 1) your Recovery Time Objective (RTO) based on how long you can go without being able to use or access your network and 2) Recovery Point Objective (RPO) based on how much of your data you want to be able to retrieve and restore rapidly. To a great degree, these are independent considerations so you must establish priorities and weigh them against the costs in time and money.

Recovery Time Objective (RTO) Versus Recovery Point Objective (RPO) - Most businesses emphasize RTO over RPO, though both are obviously important. For your school, RPO may be the most important measure, especially when it comes to data necessary for compliance. You should compare your current recovery system against what you might achieve with a cloud computing system. A tape back-up system in which the tapes are stored in an offsite vault means that the tapes must be found and then transported back to your school: a recovery time that’s measured in days. If you absolutely need a file that you saved yesterday, that taped back-up system might represent a poor RPO as well. An onsite back-up disc system would improve both your RTO and RPO, but it has its costs. Up-to-the-minute online backup could make it much easier and faster to locate that specific file, but slow down recovery time. The replacement of a server’s hard drive might require hundreds of gigabytes of information and streaming 1 TB of data over a T1 line could take weeks.

Google and Microsoft Contractual Parameters for Recovery - Google and Microsoft have both set contractual parameters for their responsibility to clients in the case of “downtime” their free services, with Google's simple policy presented here, though compensation for downtime comes in the form of days added to the already free contract. With Google and Microsoft, the odds that data will be irretrievably lost are low enough they consider these very rare events on a case-by-case basis. With smaller cloud computing vendors you may prefer, replication and recovery-focused via software and redundant hardware across a given number of remote locations are the means to dramatically lower the costs in time, trouble and money of recovery. But beyond a certain level, lowering the recovery time and increasing the percentage of data retrieved can cost huge amounts of money. Since every minute of downtime can cost a large financial services company hundreds of thousands of dollars, for example, it may well be worth investing in systems that lower RTO to what’s known as “five nines” for “mission critical” data and server availability (i.e. accessible 99.999% of the time or, conversely, just 5 minutes of downtime per year); “four nines” for business vital data and hardware, etc. Your school may be conservative so 95% may be too low, but a plan representing a hypothetical 99% should be sufficient for a school for general data. In addition to the cloud, you would be wise to store or replicate locally all special data that must not be lost.

Detailed Discussion of Indirect Costs[edit]

Calculate All Indirect Costs In Addition to Direct Costs - There are much fewer direct monetary costs with Google and Microsoft than with a smaller vendor, but you should carefully assess the number of likely indirect costs for any prospective vendor. Any and all labor hours that might be devoted to launching, maintaining and monitoring a new system should clearly be projected and “costed out.” This should include estimated time for orientation for teachers, students, administrative staff and even parents. Other costs (e.g., new written materials, any new hardware you’d like, new systems for compliance reporting, etc.) will occur to you as you brainstorm. There are sure to be labor costs associated with ensuring the selective transition of historic data and replacement or adaptation of ancillary software or hardware. Just as in a move to a new office or home, the transition is a perfect time to throw stuff out!

Detailed Discussion of Hidden Costs[edit]

Beware of Hidden Costs with Paid Vendors... - K-12 technology coordinators must understand exactly “how they are billed for what” before signing any cloud computing contract. Usage of all cloud computing resources must be measured with accuracy. Billing for this usage, whether for applications, data storage or any other product or service, should be reported on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis. As noted above, assigning a specific cloud administrator (or taking on this function yourself as your duty split changes) is likety to be wise. Some form of independent cloud monitoring service could be invaluable too.

...But Hidden Costs Not Just An issue with Paid Vendors – While calculation of the Total Cost of Ownership (see above) of your current K-12 school network is critical for determining cost savings achievable by switching to the cloud, calculation of the potential costs of a CC system are just as important in determining whether such a move makes senses financially. The lowered costs of upgrades, maintenance and support in dollars and staff time are the obvious estimates to make. The indirect costs are harder to estimate, but they must be identified and approximated if you are to present an accurate picture.

GETTING FEEDBACK ON CLOUD COMPUTING VENDORS BEFORE YOU SWITCH[edit]

Again, Google's Apps for Education is used as a case study since it affords the most information on user responses. For other vendors, you should look for similar sources of information, e.g., online testimonials and critique; feedback from institutions who have made the switch to whatever vendor you are considering; and impressions garnered fro help forums about what can go wrong.

Feedback from K-12 and Higher Education Institutions on Google Apps for Education - A review of just one collection of case studies and filmed testimonials by academic users from institutions similar to your own may inform your general learning about the positive attributes of Google Apps specifically and, to some degree, cloud computing generally. Of the almost 50 highly positive “stories” told or written by the Google Apps for Education users themselves, 75% are higher-education versus 25% K-12. There are a wide variety of types of institutions represented for each category. You are encouraged to search using phrases like “Google Apps for Education” and “school district” if you want more independent feedback. You can also visit Google Apps for Education discussion forums.

Teachers College Feedback - Teachers College sought current user feedback from some of the universities with “posted “stories”, but contacted many other Google Apps cloud computing users as well. These ranged from large and technologically sophisticated universities like Cornell, Brown and UVA to smaller private colleges like Oberlin, Hamilton and Lehigh. All apparently indicated a high degree of user and technology staff satisfaction, as well as substantial cost savings.

One Good Way To Assess “What Might Go Wrong” - Conversely, if you want to know almost everything that can go wrong, as well as experts’ (mostly from Google) responsiveness online, skim the posts that catch your eye in the Google Apps for Education Help Forum, especially those listed as most “popular".

Both testaments to strengths and weaknesses should be taken with a grain of salt. For example, the the link above is by far the highest number of case study .pdfs and videos conveniently located on one Web page for you, but they all have been selected and posted by Google. Conversely, as another example, most of you know the general tenor of “help” seekers with a problem based on experience in your own K-12 institution.

READING QUIZ[edit]

Please answer the following questions (see below for answers)

True-or-False Questions

1. Cloud computing products and service are provided on demand from a completely intangible “virtual cloud” accessed by web browsers.

2. The top reason why cited by K-12 technology staff for switching to cloud computing is enhanced capabilities.

3. Outsourced email is the primary cloud computing capability sought by educational institutions switching to cloud computing.

4. Total revenue from “old,” existing products and services for companies like Microsoft and Apple will still dwarf that from the “new” cloud computing industry for many years to come.

5. Security and privacy are two of the primary concerns about cloud computing.

Multiple-Choice Questions


1. The cloud computing service model is known as:

a. SaaS (Software as a Service)

b. Paas (Platform as a Service)

c. IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)

d. All of the above


2. Cloud computing can offer K-12 technology departments:

a. Reduced departmental costs

b. Reduced departmental staff hours

c. Enhanced staff and client collaboration capabilities

d. All of the above


3. Aggregate revenue from cloud computing in 2013 is projected to:

a. Be flat versus 2010

b. Increase by 50% versus 2010

c. Triple versus 2010

d. Multiply by over 10 times versus 2010


4. Cloud computing services for K-12 educational institutions are:

a. Split among hundreds of smaller vendors

b. Split among a dozen large vendors

c. Dominated by Google and Microsoft

d. Shared about equally between Zimbra. Google and Microsoft


5. Switching to cloud computing can offer your K-12 institution:

a. Greater flexibility and mobility

b. Easier scalability

c. Lower costs and less maintenance and support

d. All of the above

ANSWERS TO READING QUIZ[edit]

True-or-False Questions

1. False. Cloud computing data is located in very tangible computers or servers in physical data centers on the Earth, not in the sky.

2. False. The top reason cited for switching to cloud computing is cost savings.

3. True

4. False. Projected revenue from cloud computing exceeds projected total revenue from both Apple or Microsoft, the second and third largest companies in the U.S., respectively.

5. True

Multiple-Choice Questions

1. d

2. d

3. c

4. c

5. d

REFERENCES[edit]

In addition to the many references indicated in the above text, the following were helpful:

Emerging Internet technologies for education. Emerging Ed Tech. Retrieved September 7, 2009, from http://www.emergingedtech.com

Eschool news, school technology news and resources for today's K-12 and higher-ed educators. eSchool news. Retrieved October 23, 2009, from http://www.eschoolnews.com

Google Apps Education Agreement. Google. Retrieved December 7, 2009, from http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/terms/education_terms.html

Microsoft Live@edu Terms of Use. Microsoft corporation. Retrieved November 23, 2009, from http://www.microsoft.com/liveatedu/terms-of-use

Networking via the cloud. Network World. Retrieved October 23, 2009, from http://www.networkworld.com

Nicholson, J. Cloud computing's top issues for higher education. University Business Magazine. Retrieved November 17, 2009, from http://www.universitybusiness.com

ReadWriteWeb - Web apps, Web technology trends, social networking and social media. ReadWriteWeb. Retrieved January 15, 2010, from http://www.readwriteweb.com

Reviews and news on tech products, software and downloads. PCWorld. Retrieved December 3, 2009, from http://www.pcworld.com

Spafford, G., & Maguire, J. Choosing the right cloud computing provider. Internet.com - the network for technology professionals. Retrieved November 15, 2009, from http://www.internet.com

The Campus Computing Project 2008 and 2009. (n.d.). The Campus Computing Project. Retrieved January 27, 2010, from http://www.campuscomputing.net

Total cost of ownership leadership initiative. Consortium of school networking. Retrieved February 13, 2010, from http://www.cosn.org/tco/

Whitehouse, L. Cloud backup - the pros and cons. Online backup reviews. Retrieved October 17, 2009, from http://www.backupreview.info/2009/03/24/cloud-backup-the-pros-and-cons/

Why cloud-based security and archiving make sense. Osterman Research, Inc.. Retrieved October 23, 2009, from http://ostermanresearch.com