“Closed Cloud” in Independent Schools

In my recent article, I talked about cloud computing in independent schools, the differences between public cloud and private cloud, and some of the concerns independent schools had about data protection in relation to public cloud solutions. 

Interested in finding out about ICT in schools? Take a look at our FREE White Paper to discover more >>

Download The Education White PaperDue to these concerns, I am seeing increasing numbers of schools looking to adopt private cloud or indeed "closed cloud" solutions where all data remains in school. So today I thought it would be useful to elaborate on "closed cloud": how it works, what benefits it offers independent schools and how it compares with other types of cloud technology. 

Closed cloud uses the same technologies that public and private cloud providers use, but the vital difference is that rather than being hosted at a cloud provider's data centre somewhere in the world, the whole system is physically located in school. 

As with private cloud, this necessitates dedicated hardware and thus is more expensive than public cloud. However it has the benefit over both public and private cloud of providing complete assurance around data protection, since all data remains in school at all times. There is also much less reliance on a third party, as although a provider will typically be running and maintaining the system on the school’s behalf, they are not actually hosting the data and therefore should there be a falling out, or indeed a firm ceases trading, there is no vulnerability to the school in terms of their data. 

In terms of functionality, a closed cloud solution offered similar benefits to private cloud, including: 

  • The ability to securely access all the school’s systems from any location, whether that be from different classrooms within the school, from home or elsewhere, with a uniform desktop being presented wherever you sign-on.
  • The ability to use any device, (desktop, laptop or tablet) to access the system. This can facilitate safe and effective use of "bring your own device" (BYOD), since the device is effectively just providing a "window" into the cloud system – there is no data held on it. It also means should a PC fail, it is simply a question of plugging in a replacement, with no software or data to worry about installing.
  • The ability to quickly and easily install security updates and new software releases, since in this scenario they only need to be deployed to the "master" desktop image(s) on the closed cloud server, rather than needing deployment to every computer on the network.
  • The ability to secure the desktop environment and avoid the introduction of unauthorised software, viruses, spyware and other malware.

So how do the economics of closed cloud stack up? 

By the nature of it, closed cloud will necessarily be more expensive than public or private cloud, but interestingly it is still significantly cheaper than a traditional in-house school network. 

Why is that? Well there are significantly reduced PC hardware costs since in this arrangement the specification of the end user device is not important as all processing is happening at the server side. This increases the lifespan of PC devices, or allows for low-cost alternatives such as thin clients or BYOD. Additionally there is a significant and ongoing ICT cost saving in the support, management and maintenance of the network. 

I have put together cost comparisons for several schools on a traditional in-house IT infrastructure versus a closed cloud solution, and it has been really interesting to understand how the existing ICT budget can be redeployed to provide a solution with far more functionality, that also yields a significant and ongoing ICT cost saving. Not normally two things that go hand-in-hand when it comes to ICT! 

I don't want to bore everyone here with lots of facts and figures, but if you are interested in finding out more about ICT in schools, download our FREE White Paper to discover more >>  

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