Cloud-based software as a service solutions (SaaS) have seen widespread adoption across a number of different industries. While Higher Education has been slower to move away from on-premise platforms, the recent transition to virtual learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has led institutions to reevaluate the longevity of their technology stack.
Cloud computing enables institutions to move their data and programs from a physical server, likely on their campus, to the internet. This allows various institutional stakeholders, including administrators and students, to access this data across locations and devices. While this was critical to institutional and student success during the pandemic, there are a number of reasons why cloud-based solutions are a strategic business investment for higher education in 2021 and beyond. The below benefits of the cloud demonstrate how SaaS solutions help colleges and universities scale in an increasingly digitized world, and support distance learning environments and distributed workforce needs.
Fewer IT Demands and Constraints on Capacity
On-premise infrastructure and data centers require regular maintenance and upgrades in order to keep university functions running smoothly. These updates drain IT resources, inhibiting their reallocation to high-impact initiatives benefiting students. Cloud-based platforms also enable institutions to respond to change more quickly by reducing barriers to scale. Historically, institutions would need to invest in additional processors to service a growing student body or changing institutional needs, necessitating high-demand IT talent. Cloud-hosted platforms can easily support increased traffic or data storage capacity without requiring additional human capital provided by the university or college.
Greater Flexibility to Meet Needs
SaaS providers are able to quickly and efficiently respond to customer needs by deploying updates automatically. Regular release cycles allow cloud-based applications to address bugs or customer feature requests without necessitating institutions purchase and install software upgrades, which can be both time and resource consuming. This flexibility allows providers and end users to collaborate closely on platform enhancements, without delaying on-the-ground operations.
Cloud-based solutions foster greater collaboration between teams as they can support heavy network traffic and simultaneous workflows. They additionally enhance communication between stakeholders as they often reduce the need to leverage disparate communication chains, including in-person and email. Due to their robust data storage capabilities, SaaS solutions can also act as an audit log for changes, which can be helpful for cross-functional processes that involve a number of different stakeholders.
Less Down Time
Institutions can have greater peace of mind that their processes will not be hindered during peak administrative cycles. In the past, increased network traffic, largely correlated with important institutional workflows such as scheduling or registration, would tax on-prem software platforms, impacting their ability to run efficiently. SaaS solutions are inherently flexible and are able to support ebbs and flows in usage demands.
On-premise solutions are subject to the whims of natural disasters, increasing the likelihood that variables outside of an institution’s control can negatively impact their operations. Cloud-based solutions often rely on providers that support robust and secure data centers, achieving security at scale. Automatic backups additionally protect data integrity should they be needed.
Colleges and universities have been the victims of an increasing number of ransomware attacks in recent months. Cloud-based platforms are often more secure than on-premise data centers as many cloud vendors make a significant investment in data protection. In a paper published by Gartner it was reported that ‘virtually all public cloud use is within services that are highly resistant to attack and, in the majority of circumstances, represent a more secure starting point than traditional in-house implementations.’ Additionally, many platforms require secure sign on or various types of authentication steps to ensure security.
Predictable Monthly Expenses
Physical software can demand capital expenses that often are difficult to predict, while cloud-based software allows institutions to move towards a model of regular operating expenses. This grants higher education greater control over their cash flow, allowing them to reallocate investments.
Overall, cloud-based solutions help institutions eliminate long-term maintenance costs to upkeep on-premise platforms, protect their data, streamline administrative processes, and respond to changing needs quickly and efficiently. If your institution is facing pain points with your on-premise software, or is looking to become more agile in response to evolving demands on higher education, cloud-based solutions may be an investment worth pursuing.