Why Make the Move to Cloud Hosting

May 02, 2018

Cloud-based technology is now the standard in a number of industries, including K-12 education. Eighty percent of education technology leaders use the cloud to boost efficiency, and Gartner research indicates that cloud services/solutions and infrastructure/data center are two of the three biggest areas for new K-12 technology investments. (BI/analytics is the other) [1]

But some districts still have reservations about making the move. A recent survey found that 59 percent of school IT leaders expressed concerns with cloud migration and integration. A recent Gartner report noted that many IT professionals have a hard time understanding how cloud computing works. Data security and cost are also common concerns.

The reality, however, is that today’s cloud computing technologies are more secure, cost less to own and maintain in the long run, and are easier to implement and integrate than on-premise solutions. Additional benefits include freeing your administrators to devote more time to helping students and increased flexibility and scalability as technology continues to expand.

Take, for instance, the case of Buford City School District in Georgia. The district’s student information system was self-hosted for nine years before switching to the cloud. They’re so pleased with the move that they “would not consider going back to being self-hosted.”

“The cost of hosting beats the cost of purchasing and maintaining hardware, as well as the time to manage and maintain software updates,” says Flora Contreras, Buford’s Student Information Coordinator. “Downtime has been almost none since hosting, and we are updated promptly when state reports are released. In addition, the peace of mind knowing our data is secured off site and is being backed up by the hosting team is worth the cost in itself.”

Improved Security

K-12 school districts have been hit hard by cyberattacks in recent years. There have been more than 325 cyber incidents since 2016. Data breaches as well as lost, stolen, or compromised records, are also on the rise.

While on-premise hosting may seem like a safer bet, cloud-hosted solutions actually offer much better protection. Cloud-hosting solutions specialize in protecting customer data, and providers have a variety of security measures in place to keep information secure.

Top-tier cloud-hosting vendors have physical and digital safeguards in place to keep data safe, such as professional security staff, video surveillance, antivirus and anti-malware protection on all servers, cloud-based Denial of Service (DoS) protection and mitigation, intrusion detection system (IDS) technology, and much more.

Customers appreciate these multiple levels of security and the peace of mind that comes with them.

“I don’t know why I always felt so insecure toward cloud storage,” says Carolyn Stewart, the Technology Manager at Lake Highland Preparatory School in Florida, whose school switched to cloud hosting of its SIS. “I was always leery of the security of it… but I feel the security (with our cloud-hosting provider) is excellent. I have not had any issues or complaints.”

Note: Make sure your vendor is doing everything it can to keep data safe by checking its compliance with HIPAA, FERPA, SOC 1, SOC 2, SOC 3, SSAE 16, and PCI DSS Level 1, as well as the all-important ISO 27001 Certification, a security management standard that specifies security best practices and controls.

Lower Total Cost of Ownership

The initial cost of switching to cloud hosting may be a big reason why many districts shy away from the move. But continuing to host data on-premise can be more expensive in the long run. Even setting aside the staff time districts devote to manual updates or data backups — and potential costs from data breaches or recovery issues — the actual expenses of running and maintaining on-premise servers add up. They go beyond just server hardware, software, antivirus protection, the SSL fee, and cooling and power.

If your district is using on-premise hosting, how much are you spending on the following?

  • Updating, and maintaining your product on-premise
  • Backing up data
  • Maintaining, patching, and upgrading an outdated system
  • Bolting on other solutions to add functionality
  • Keeping your data secure
  • Paying penalties from submitting late or inaccurate reports to meet state requirements
  • Client Access Licenses (CAL)
  • Firewall/IDS/DDoS security
  • Internet bandwidth/public IP
  • Disaster recovery

This all contributes to the decision that moving to the cloud is the fiscally smart choice for many districts.

“By implementing (cloud) hosting, we’re saving thousands of dollars every year in equipment costs and, more importantly, in staff hours,” says Landon Allen, the Director of Information Technology for Oswego Unified School District No. 504 in Kansas.

Simple Migration and Maintenance

Moving your data from an on-premise server to the cloud may seem like a tall task, but it can actually be done quickly and securely.

Carolyn Stewart from Lake Highland Prep in Florida recalls that a support team began migration at 8 a.m. on a Thursday — and completed the job in under two hours, at 9:41 a.m. that same day.

“It was so smooth and so easy,” Stewart says.

Proven vendors with experienced implementation teams can make migration easy and maintenance a breeze, freeing tech staff to spend more time supporting the rest of a district’s education technology ecosystem.

“Since we’ve moved to cloud hosting, there is no extra burden or workload on IT,” says Leslie Phillips, the Manager of Student Information for KIPP Memphis Collegiate Schools in Tennessee. “They can devote their time to normal day-to-day operation, so they are able to support the rest of the organization instead of spending time on hosting responsibilities.”

Stronger Performance

Moving to the cloud doesn’t mean you’ll lose control over your data.

Top-tier cloud providers offer a choice of automated or on-demand updates, and they’re equipped with large support teams. One call or message connects you with an expert to make the adjustments you want (such as added server resources during a busy time), when you want them.

Additionally, cloud-hosted environments are more scalable and agile than on-premise ones.

Need more storage because your school district is growing? You can add what you need and only what you need rather than spend thousands on an entirely new server.

Data Backup and Disaster Recovery

In much the same way that moving data to the cloud improves your access to it, cloud hosting offers superior disaster recovery and data backup capabilities.

Best-in-class cloud providers have secondary data centers dedicated to recovery. Primary and secondary data centers have fully redundant systems for power protection, HVAC, fire detection and suppression, systems hardware, and internet connectivity. Database backup files are replicated to the secondary data centers for redundancy of recovery options.

Powered by Microsoft Azure, PowerSchool Hosting provides multiple data backup and recovery options with extensive retention policies to meet compliance regulations. If you do need data restored, a dedicated support engineer will work with your staff to get the job done.

Learn More

Visit our cloud hosting resource page to get more information about how your district can improve security and cut costs by moving to PowerSchool Hosting , which is delivered through Microsoft Azure cloud-based technology.

[1] 2017 CIO Agenda: A K-12 Education Perspective. Gartner, 2017.

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