What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing refers to expandable, on-demand services and tools that are served to the user via the Internet from a specialized data center and do not live on a user’s device. Cloud computing resources support collaboration, file storage, virtualization, and access to computing cycles, and the number of available applications that rely on cloud technologies have grown to the point that few institutions do not make some use of the cloud, whether as a matter of policy or not. Cloud computing is often used as a synonym for grid computing, in which unused processing cycles of all computers in a single network are leveraged to troubleshoot issues that cannot be resolved by a single machine. The primary distinction is how the host computers are accessed. Clouds, especially those supported by dedicated data centers, can be public, private, secure, or a hybrid of any or all of these. Many businesses, organizations, and institutions use storage, software (SAAS), and API services to reduce IT overhead costs. Google Apps, a SAAS provider, for example, has become a popular choice for education institutions and many have moved their email infrastructure to Gmail and adopted Google Docs for document sharing and collaboration, but such services do not meet the high security needs of many corporations or government agencies. Private cloud computing solves these issues by providing common cloud solutions in secure environments. Hybrid clouds provide the benefits of both types. Whether connecting at home, work, school, on the road, or in social spaces, nearly everyone who uses the network relies on cloud computing to access or share their information and applications.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • I am currently writing recommendations "to the Board of Directors" of my University, recommending a full scale shift to cloud computing for all applications - from SIS to LMS to administrative systems. The reason being is my university has moved to the tipping point of not being able to fund a digital environment and innovation unless we get out of the server management business. "Cloud" in this context means both a move to shared services through BCNET a provincial collaboration for all higher ed institutions; and SaaS for applications not managed through BCNET.- vforssman vforssman Oct 18, 2015
  • The simplest use of cloud computing in education is to move the students' email accounts to Gmail. Furthermore, LMS and MOOC platforms are offering their services to students, schools, organizations and businesses via clouds. - Anastasios.A.ECONOMIDES Anastasios.A.ECONOMIDES Oct 19, 2015
  • Most university IT organizations are stuck in 1990's thinking and organized to support on premises technology. The maturity of Cloud Computing dispenses with the need for 90% of on-premises technology. Why maintain a data center when Amazon Web Services can do it much better, cheaper, with higher security, and better disaster recovery and business continuity resources. The implication here is that higher-education IT shops need to adjust to this new reality, but few are. The existing legacy mindset of IT leaders is the strongest impediment to embracing cloud computing. The practical benefits are evident not the least of which is the freeing up of monetary resources that could be put to better use in supporting teaching and learning. Second, since most IT shops have large staffs focused on maintaining on-premises technology, embracing cloud technology will all organizations to adjust IT support staffs to support the use of technology for teaching, learning, and research rather than the support of the technologies themselves.- cevetell cevetell Oct 22, 2015
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(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • The issues of privacy and consent continue to be primary challenges for getting into the cloud, at least in public sector higher ed, which would be most of us. This is especially challenging outside the US - for example in the province of British Columbia we have strict protection of privacy laws which inhibit access to SaaS when servers are based in US - vforssman vforssman Oct 18, 2015
  • Indeed, security and privacy are important issues (for example, in assessment) but not trivial to be guaranteed. Europe finances several projects to tackle cloud computing problems http://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/cloud The advantage to use cloud services from almost anywhere or on the move should be emphasized. - Anastasios.A.ECONOMIDES Anastasios.A.ECONOMIDES Oct 19, 2015
  • Mention of the cloud for high-performance computing (HPC) may be missing from the description. According to a research report by Intersect360 (
    http://www.intersect360.com/industry/reports.php?id=126), the cloud is likely to be the growth leader in the HPC vertical. - gordon gordon Oct 19, 2015
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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on higher education?

  • Huge! Higher ed must look for information technology and educational technology efficiencies through shared services and SaaS.- vforssman vforssman Oct 18, 2015
  • Significant! Not only teaching students, training employees, doing academic research, but also collaboration among, students, teachers, researchers, administration and other education entities will depend on cloud computing. - Anastasios.A.ECONOMIDES Anastasios.A.ECONOMIDES Oct 19, 2015 - lkoster lkoster Oct 22, 2015~
  • A tsunami that will radically alter IT support on campus. Universities looking for cost savings could do no better than to look at how to downsize their existing IT staffs as they move more resources to the cloud.- cevetell cevetell Oct 22, 2015
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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • The initiation of this approach underway at Royal Roads University- vforssman vforssman Oct 18, 2015
  • The National Science Foundation (NSF) finances two $10 million projects to create cloud computing testbeds that will enable the academic research community to develop and experiment with novel cloud architectures and pursue new, architecturally-enabled applications of cloud computing. https://www.cloudlab.us/ https://www.chameleoncloud.org/ - Anastasios.A.ECONOMIDES Anastasios.A.ECONOMIDES Oct 19, 2015

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