17 June 2010

Tech Note: Entering and Exiting Clouds

Cloud computing isn't news anymore. And that's the cue to institutionalize it (meaning, in this case, embed it in the HE institution).

EDUCAUSE suggests that Shaping the Higher Education Cloud means dealing with what can be left to "consumer choice," what can be outsourced, and what can reside on the campus. That leads to a couple of new terms: premises-based and cloud-based, to refer to the services that range from applications (Word, Excel, and more exotic scientific programs) to repositories (libaries, databases, textbooks, research collaboration spaces).

The EDUCAUSE white paper reports on the thinking by 50 IT leaders in early 2010. Standardization, cost, flexibility—all are addressed. A section on Actions (beginning page 17) points out that some schools have already moved student email to commercial clouds. But that maybe some functions (enrollment or registration) deserve more caution.

There's likely something to be learned from the last decade's increasing reliance on LMS services. Although an LMS isn't what most people first think of when dreaming about the potential of clouds, it is actually already a good case for comparison. Institutions made premise versus outsourced decisions about LMSs and then realized how dependent they were on the source, wherever it was. The EDUCAUSE paper doesn't make the comparison to LMSs but does raise the need for exit plans. At least now, clouds offer elasticity (expand and contract as needed). That doesn't mean that in the future a commercial cloud will tolerate the risk of less business. So, reliance on any system becomes the issue.

The IT thinking behind the EDUCAUSE paper concludes with 13 recommendations (beginning page 24) that are not so technical that they exclude the lay reader. In fact, administrators and faculty should want to help with the shaping, starting now.

On the more anecdotal level, here's a brief report on how an iPad acts around Live Office's SkyDrive. Excel and OneNote files created in the Microsoft cloud (from a laptop) were stored in the "SkyDrive," which is the user's personal 25-gigabyte file cabinet. Accessing the office.live.com site from the iPad is easy, using the same username and password as on the computer. The account shows the files. The Excel file opens as a read-only display. About the only functionality is the iPad's copy/paste option. A set of cells in Excel copies nicely to a Notes page. Alas, the OneNote files do not open at all on the iPad. That's going to take some sleuthing.

© 2010 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. Email contact: bold[AT]marybold.com. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (http://www.marybold.com/, http://www.boldproductions.com/, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as legal or professional advice. Bold is the co-author of Reflections: Preparing for your Practicum or Internship, geared to college interns in the child, education, and family fields. She is a consultant and speaker on assessment, distance learning, and technology.

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