Higher education’s next secret weapon

Husein Sharaf leads Cloudforcean award-winning DC-area consulting firm focused on cloud infrastructure development, management and security.

Over the past 12 months, our consulting firm has had the privilege of working with several technology leaders at the highest level. Their passion for creating an environment that uses technology to create better outcomes for students has been incredibly inspiring to witness and has only driven our staff to work even harder to help them achieve this goal.

Beyond the satisfaction our cloud ninjas get from every successful technology implementation project, our work at the top has proven to be particularly rewarding in many ways. Hearing that access to better and more reliable technology has directly impacted students’ ability to get the most out of their investment in education got us all thinking that we can continue to empower our higher education partners to do more with less .

In relation to this goal, we have witnessed some of the unfortunate realities that most technology groups in the upper echelon have in common, most notably:

• Limited budgets.

• Aging infrastructures.

• High employee turnover.

• An incredibly challenging attack surface to protect.

Fortunately, the democratization of the best technologies made accessible through the power of the cloud offers educational institutions a potential secret weapon to address each of the above challenges in ways they never have before. While cutting-edge technology has served many other industries in gaining a competitive advantage over the past two decades, the cost of implementing the latest and greatest is often left out of the game.

Below we’ll explore how education leaders can leverage the same technology being developed in the most competitive commercial environments to solve the toughest issues facing seniors today.

1. Limited Budgets

The pandemic has had a profound impact on revenue streams for most educational institutions, primarily as a result of lower enrollment numbers. Combine this reality with the higher costs associated with operating in a hybrid learning dynamic, and the result is that already stretched budgets become even more strained.

Fortunately, the cloud has an answer. By shifting the large capital costs associated with running physical infrastructure in their data centers into operating costs to simply pay revenue for cloud resources on an ongoing basis, educational institutions are better able to budget for infrastructure costs. By spreading the cost of compute and storage resources evenly over several years, organizations can avoid the dramatic cost increases associated with hardware refresh cycles. Combine this dynamic change with the ability to reduce resources when they are not needed (such as between semesters) and the cost-benefit of the cloud is simply undeniable (when implemented correctly).

2. Aging Infrastructure

The risks associated with end-of-life and out-of-support hardware and software operation are dramatic. When system outages halt faculty’s ability to deliver the educational experience students expect, the effect is felt by all involved and ultimately affects the bottom line.

By moving away from managing the physical infrastructure and offloading the responsibility of keeping up-to-date hardware and software to large public cloud providers, institutions can focus on their core mission—providing a unique educational experience to every student.

3. High turnover

While this is a common scenario in many tech organizations these days, the higher-ups seem to suffer disproportionately from high employee turnover in IT departments. This could be attributed to the combination of staff members coming from the student body (so they naturally leave when their courses are completed) and higher salaries available to tech workers in the private sector.

Fortunately, the technology talent required to run systems in the cloud is less tech-savvy and more business-focused. When IT’s primary role is no longer “keeping the lights on” for complex systems and applications, the focus shifts to providing greater value to staff, faculty, and students. The result is IT staff that are typically less stressed, more visible to key stakeholders, and therefore more satisfied. In turn, retention rates are higher and the risk of losing a single staff member is reduced, avoiding a situation where unique institutional knowledge walks out the door with the proverbial ‘keys to the kingdom’ locked inside their heads.

4. Attack surface

The nature of the higher version user base makes it an incredibly attractive target for attackers and malicious actors. The creation and removal of thousands of new accounts each year naturally leads to situations where users are not properly cyber-educated, have access to a large number of disparate and sensitive systems remotely, and as a result are ripe for social engineering.

Given the highly sensitive data contained in many education-related applications, such as personally identifiable information used for identity theft, attackers have become more interested in higher-tech targets in recent years. For institutions fortunate enough to avoid exploitation, the inevitable reality of an attack can be greatly mitigated by leveraging tightly integrated security solutions available through leading cloud platforms. Without the need to procure complex, expensive and siled security solutions from several different providers, educational institutions find budget-friendly solutions that address attacks at every level of the stack, including the licensing they often already own, from a single cloud platform.

From identity to single sign-on authentication to multi-factor authentication to zero trust, cloud platforms have the ability to bring together the best security solutions on a single platform, delivered in a way that no longer overwhelms internal technology teams .


Although the economic outlook appears to paint an even more challenging picture for senior professionals—and the entire business community—in 2023, developments in the cloud space are providing critical answers to tomorrow’s biggest technology challenges at costs that measurably decrease over time. next year. Economies of scale favor organizations that are forward-thinking enough to use these services to their advantage, and the winners in the higher editions are doing just that. As a result, the next generation of graduates has a brighter outlook, thanks in part to the democratization of cloud technology.

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