Higher Education’s Next Secret Weapon

Husein Sharaf directs Cloud strengthan award-winning consulting firm in the DC region focused on deploying, managing and securing cloud infrastructure.

Over the past 12 months, our consulting firm has had the privilege of engaging with several technology leaders in the field of higher education. Their passion for creating an environment that uses technology to create better student outcomes has been incredibly encouraging and has only driven our staff to work even harder to help them achieve this goal.

Beyond the satisfaction our cloud ninjas derive from each successful technology implementation project, our work in the higher education space has proven to be uniquely rewarding in many ways. Hearing that access to better and more reliable technology has had a direct impact on students’ ability to get the most out of their education investments has made us all believe that we can continue to give partners the higher education the means to do more with less.

In relation to this objective, we have witnessed some of the unfortunate realities that most higher education technology teams have in common, mainly:

• Limited budgets.

• Aging infrastructure.

• High employee turnover.

• Incredibly difficult 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 a way never before possible. While cutting-edge technology has served many other industries well in gaining a competitive edge over the past two decades, the cost of implementing the latest and greatest has often left the most behind.

Below, we’ll explore how education leaders can leverage the same technology deployed in the most competitive business environments to solve the toughest problems facing higher education institutions today.

1. Limited budgets

The pandemic has had a profound impact on the revenue streams of most educational institutions, primarily due to declining admissions. 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 stretched.

Fortunately, the cloud has an answer. By shifting the large capital expenditure associated with operating the physical infrastructure in their data centers to an operating expenditure of simply paying as they go for cloud resources on an ongoing basis, institutions education are better able to budget for infrastructure spending. With the cost of compute and storage resources spread evenly over multiple years, organizations can avoid the dramatic cost spike associated with hardware refresh cycles. Combine this change in dynamics with the ability to reduce resources when they are not needed (eg between semesters), and the cost-benefit of the cloud is simply undeniable (when properly implemented).

2. Aging infrastructure

The risks associated with operating end-of-life and out-of-support hardware and software are significant. When system failures prevent faculty from delivering the educational experience students expect, the effect is felt by everyone involved and ultimately impacts the bottom line.

By moving away from managing physical infrastructure and offloading the responsibility of updating hardware and software to large public cloud providers, institutions can focus on their core mission: delivering a exceptional education to each student.

3. High employee turnover

While this is a common scenario in many tech organizations these days, higher education seems to suffer disproportionately from high employee turnover in IT departments. This could be attributed to a combination of staff coming from the student body (therefore naturally exiting at the end of their courses) and the higher salaries available to tech workers in the private sector.

Fortunately, the technological talent required to operate systems in the cloud is less technology-specific and more business-focused. When IT’s primary role is no longer to “keep the light on” for complex systems and applications, the focus shifts to creating greater value for staff, faculty, and students. . The result is that IT staff are generally less stressed, more visible to key stakeholders, and as a result, more fulfilled. In turn, retention rates are higher and the risk of losing a single staff member is reduced by avoiding a situation where unique institutional acquaintances come out with the proverbial “keys to the kingdom” locked in their heads.

4. Attack surface

The nature of the user base in higher education makes it an incredibly attractive target for attackers and malicious actors. The fact that thousands of new accounts are created and deleted every year naturally leads to situations where users lack proper cyber training, have remote access to a large number of disparate and sensitive systems, and are therefore 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 had greater interest in higher education targets in recent years. years. For institutions lucky enough to avoid exploitation, the inevitable reality of an attack can be significantly mitigated by leveraging tightly integrated security solutions available through leading cloud platforms. Without the need to source complex, expensive, siled security solutions from a number of separate vendors, educational institutions find cost-effective solutions that address attacks at every layer of the stack, included in the licenses that ‘they often already own, from a single cloud platform. .

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


Although the economic outlook seems to paint an even more difficult picture for higher education – and the entire business community – as we look to 2023, advances in the cloud space are providing critical answers to the biggest technological challenges. of tomorrow at a cost that measurably decreases over time. Economies of scale favor organizations that are forward-thinking enough to use these services to their advantage, and that’s exactly what winners in higher education do. As a result, the next generation of graduates have better prospects, thanks in part to the democratization of cloud technology.

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