As with any cloud initiatives, it is very helpful to look at how other educational institutions in a variety of organizations approached getting on the cloud. Learn from what they did right and avoid what they did wrong. However, keep in mind that you do have unique cost and compliance needs. Merely following the best practices that are intended for corporations and the enterprise is not enough when it comes to universities getting on the cloud. It can sometimes be detrimental as well, as educational institutions usually have unique challenges that are related to the cloud, security, privacy, legal and regulatory compliance.
Cloud computing brings the same benefits of cost savings, agility and higher degrees of efficiency to all organizations. However, universities tend to face more challenges. For one, educational institutions need to make sure that their data is adequately protected even as they move all of that sensitive information onto a third party’s hardware. When this happens, the university is no longer in control of its data and might have problems securing the same.
Because the cloud is set up in such a way that different customers use the servers and storage, and also because of the redundancy employed by cloud service providers and the reuse of these hardware, it is not entirely impossible that some of these sensitive data are not completely deleted when you need them to be wiped out. Or it could be unsecurely stored in a backup server where a copy exists of your supposedly “deleted” data. In short, you run the risk of having these data living in some storage device or server somewhere, long after it was required to be deleted or destroyed.
Also, because shared resources and multi-tenancy are two of the benchmarks of cloud services, it would be difficult to demand segregation and isolation. That means that if something goes wrong with other customers sharing the resources you are using, such as guest hopping attacks, or SQL injections meant to target the data of multiple customers, then it would be quite easy that you would be affected as well.
Laws, compliance and cross border issues
Security is not the only nightmare that educational institutions have to face when it comes to going onto the cloud. For one, there are legal and regulatory restrictions. Moving all that data onto a cloud provider, the university would need to know regulatory laws and ensure compliance with these regulations. Furthermore, universities are basically at the mercy of the service provider. Should the service provider fail for some reason, then their operations are affected as well. This is true whether it is a temporary outage or a permanent closure of business.
Educational institutions that are planning to move onto the cloud would do well to do their homework. The first thing they should do is to know just exactly where their data would be and lay out what you need and what you expect from the cloud.
One of the first documents that you should be looking at is the Cloud Security Alliance’s Security Guidance for Critical Areas of Focus in Cloud Computing.
You can read it here.
This would ensure that you know all the regulations that you might have to comply with, especially if you are going to be utilizing data centers in different countries. Some universities are also prohibited from contracting cross-border providers, for instance those who have contracts with the government or those that have special set ups as far as research and intellectual property is concerned.
Some countries also have very specific and stringent laws regarding the transfer of personal information across borders.
Protecting user privacy and intellectual property
There are apps that are used that collect student data on the sly. According to the New York Times, the market for educational software that is targeted towards pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 students is pegged at around $8.4 billion. And some players are not playing fair by circumventing federal privacy laws, skipping school districts and going straight to teachers. The problem is that teachers may not know it but they are opening their students and IT systems to possible data breaches, illegal student profiling, and identity theft.
So how do you protect student information and ensure compliance with such laws as Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which regulates how private information is revealed? It helps to ensure that everybody uses a good password and uses the system with security in mind, but even then, there might be human errors or insiders sending out information to the wrong people. So it really helps to use data encryption to secure everything that is related to staff, faculty and students, as well as the intellectual property of the institutions.
Educational institutions also have a high turnover every year. Hundreds of students graduate, and similarly hundreds of freshmen come in every year, which is on top of the personnel turnover and professors going in and leaving. IT personnel at universities would need to be able to quickly provide access to all the Web applications to these new students, staff and faculty, while also deactivating the accounts of those who have graduated or have left the school. Even authentication is a problem as most students would not be able to remember long and complex passwords. Requiring them to use complex and strong passwords would mean more password reset requests from the students. Yet, IT would need to ensure that access management is done right.
Oracle Cloud To The Rescue
This is where Oracle Cloud can help educational institutions. It can help deliver growth while at the same time offer topnotch security features. Oracle Cloud is the preferred solution of many global organizations because it empowers customers to easily develop and deploy new applications and migrate existing applications from the on-premises environment to the cloud. Oracle Cloud allows developers to quickly build and deploy apps. It enables architects to rapidly integrate programs between on-premises and cloud environment. Universities and colleges can use several software as a service (SaaS) tools, wherein all features are integrated into the system – whether it’s on the web, mobile or social media.
Oracle Cloud for Higher Education
Oracle Cloud was specifically designed with higher education in mind. The demand of today’s sophisticated teachers and students are no match with Oracle Cloud. It can deliver superior collaborative experiences, recognize top talents and grow school productivity – with a very robust security measure in place without invading a student or teacher’s privacy. It is also engaging, intuitive and highly flexible; able to adapt to every educational needs.
Oracle Cloud can help schools with their enterprise resource planning (management of different portfolios such as project, financials and procurement), human capital management and student experience.
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As more and more educational institutions are getting on the cloud, it would certainly be a good idea to first map out the challenges that you can expect to encounter on the way. There might be a lot of challenges to consider and plan for, but that does not mean that you should just forget about getting on the cloud. These days, it is no longer optional to be able to provide services on the cloud. Universities and colleges would, at one point or another, migrate their services and start providing education on the cloud in order to stay competitive and top notch, making it not a question of if, but of when. The good news is that there are best practices and tools in place, such as the ones offered by Oracle Cloud. Oracle Cloud can make sure that challenges and risks are minimized.
Photo courtesy of CSA.