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District Data: The Advantages of Using Private Clouds

For some districts, student data might not hit the top of the priority list, but more schools are turning to using private clouds as a way to save some cash. 

According to a recent eSchool News article, increasingly districts are addressing concerns over student privacy by building their own private clouds in-house. The private clouds give districts the power to share information on their own terms over their own networks; hosting their own severs with their own IT departments. Districts can also avoid third-party costs for work and services that are often cheaper to produce in-house on a long-term basis. 

“We wanted to give students 24-7 access to all of their services, and we wanted these to be secured,” said Frankie Jackson, chief technology officer for the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in Texas.

It sounds good, but it's no easy task. Making the initial development investments, such as building firewalls, as well as long-term ones, like information management costs and IT maintenance, in addition to the added work associated with these types of projects, can sometimes outweigh the benefits of the switch depending on the size of the district and the amount of funding. 

Cypress-Fairbanks is the third largest district in Texas, according to the article. The district is investing $200 million in bond money in a private cloud. Centralizing the private cloud and all associated services will provide an advantage when it comes to the movement and security of district data, Jackson said.

“We are working with Microsoft to design federated Active Directory [service], so that students can log on from home and use their same network credentials they would use to authenticate as if they were at school,” said Jackson.

Cypress-Fairbanks serves roughly 113,000 students. With projects this big, coordinated work is essential.

“You need a strong, committed staff,” said Jackson.

It seems according to our quick research that only a few districts have adopted the cloud creating effort into their budgets, but the trend is growing due to concerns over security, as well as functionality, which can be guaranteed through a good in-house IT department. 

“When it comes to data that needs to be stored—my security video, my file storage—I’m going to host it internally in a private cloud instead of paying someone to host it, because I can buy storage cheaper, I can manage and secure it and know that I have control over what’s happening with it,” said Melissa Tebbenkamp, director of instructional technology for the Raytown Quality Schools District in Missouri.

Raytown Quality Schools has been in their own cloud for over a decade. After making the investment, Tebbenkamp said that their “volume of scale internally” makes it “significantly cheaper.”

For more on building a district-wide private cloud, visit here.  Add your comments and cloud-building insights below.

Article by Jason Papallo, Education World Social Media Editor
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