04 Nov 2015
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Cloud provides savings, modern learning environment for Marlborough Boys'

By Heather Wright

A move to the cloud has brought savings of $70,000 to $100,000 in its first year for Marlborough Boys' College, freeing up the cash to purchase new devices for students.

The school moved its IT system into the cloud earlier this year when their in-school server infrastructure needed to be replaced.

Michael Heath, Marlborough Boys’ College deputy principal, says the school was looking for a modern system that would support its students’ learning and also help teachers.

“We also wanted something that could adapt with us over the next couple of years,” Heath says. “You instinctively know that IT is changing, but we weren’t sure what this meant for the school.”

Heath says while he knew about cloud computing, he believed Marlborough Boys’ College, with nearly 1200 students and staff, would be too big and complex for the cloud and had been told the school’s internet connection wouldn’t handle it.

“But we found out this wasn’t the case, because Network 4 Learning provides all schools with uncapped fast data,” Heath says.

Heath says the move to cloud has provided the school with a modern learning environment, enabling students to collaborate on projects and see changes in real time. School work can be accessed via the internet from home, allowing students to pick up where they left off in the classroom and continue learning, Heath says.

The savings from moving to the cloud were pumped into buying 100 new computers for students.

“Our ongoing costs are significantly reduced using cloud computing,” Heath says. “We spend around half of what we used to spend on external support now we’ve got our current IT system.”

Lee Harper of pcMedia, which won the tender, says schools can benefit ‘hugely’ from adopting IT practices that are traditionally thought of as being ‘business IT’, particularly when it comes to the cloud.

While businesses in the area have been quick to move to the cloud, schools are slower and risk missing out, Harper says.

“As with business customers, cloud technology for schools will open the door to greater functionality at a lower cost, plus give both teachers and students access to data in ways not possible before,” he says.

In Marlborough Boys’ College’s case, the school opted for a hybrid solution, with the most of the servers moved into Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and a small number of servers remaining in the school.

This opened the door for the school to use Office 365, which is available free to Kiwi schools, and provides email services and file storage through SharePoint and OneDrive.

The school’s network has also been redesigned to take full advantage of the N4L connection, with additional content filtering and firewalling devices removed and the school relying on those provided by N4L, speeding up the network, making it more reliable and removing cost.

Harper says another benefit of not having onsite servers is that there is now little risk of the school losing documents or other data, which is securely stored in the cloud.

“Also, cloud services provide a staging environment to test new programmes and upgrades of programmes without impacting the existing one,” Harper says. This reduces the chance of downtime on the network.

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