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Nikki Potter, Daisy’s Product Manager for Cloud and Hosting, discusses how collaboration and cloud computing can benefit the education sector.

Cloud computing. It is arguably the most over-used term within the IT landscape at the moment, and with good reason. It is literally everywhere in its various forms, from consumers using it to store their latest iTunes purchases to retailers using it to efficiently manage stock.

However, one area which has been relatively slow to embrace its numerous advantages is the education sector. While schools are no strangers to adopting technologies that enhance learning, such as tablets and interactive whiteboards, it is the cloud which actually represents the future of education technology.

At a time when schools have constrained budgets and smaller IT departments, educational institutions are searching for more from their investments. These challenging environments have meant cloud-based computing has become an attractive option for schools, with its ability to deliver services securely, reliably and cost-effectively.

Anywhere learning

By utilising the cloud, teachers no longer have to print off hundreds of pages of important resources to give to students; instead, they can simply upload them to the cloud. These materials are then easily accessible anywhere and at any time by pupils, providing they possess an internet connection. Creating projects and assignments online has encouraged ubiquitous learning and improved interactivity outside the classroom.

Cost savings

Amidst stringent budget cuts, it is often a school’s technology spend that comes under most scrutiny. Compared to traditional on-site infrastructures, the virtual cloud represents a cost-efficient alternative which removes the upfront costs of supporting servers, applications and data locally. Moving to the cloud often means schools can also navigate away from a CAPEX model (purchasing physical assets that will depreciate) to a pay-per-use OPEX model that can be upgraded easily.

Improved collaboration

The cloud improves collaboration by facilitating multiple users (pupils) to work on a document at the same time, something which is particularly useful for group projects. Pupils no longer need to wait for their classmates to send the latest version of a document via email; now they can view revisions in real-time. For teachers, the cloud also allows them to edit, share and collaborate lesson plans with their colleagues instantaneously, as opposed to having to share USBs. Data is easily accessible from almost every mobile or desktop device, enabling teachers to formulate lesson plans from the comfort of their own home.

Storage and back up

The cloud is a highly scalable virtual storage facility which can store as much data as a school requires, from small video files right through to important databases. And because it is virtual, the cloud helps protect schools in the event of natural disasters, such as fire or flood, which would usually damage on-site infrastructure. Cloud computing will also automatically save content, so in the event of a computer crashing, the data will still be available. What is important, however, is that sensitive school data is encrypted by hosting providers and compliant with the Data Protection Act – which all education institutions need to abide by.

And finally?

Nobody really knows where the future of education technology is heading – just like nobody could anticipate the arrival of interactive whiteboards 20 years ago. However, two features that will almost certainly remain central to adopting new technologies will be the cloud and a fast internet connection. If schools invest in the cloud now, they are effectively preparing their digital infrastructure for the future.

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