The first thing to do before choosing a potential cloud computing provider is carry out an audit.
Areas the this audit should cover will include:
- What data is being held and where?
- How much storage capacity are you currently using?
- How much storage capacity do you have overall?
- What is your current setup costing in terms of IT support and staff time?
- Is your broadband sufficiently fast enough?
With the audit carried out, you’ll then have a series of questions to consider. When comparing suppliers, ask about the size of the company’s existing customer base and how long it’s been in the business. Can it provide you with ‘uptime’ 100% of the time? After all, just 10 minutes of a lesson spent being unable to access or save work is potentially a lesson ruined.
In terms of overall costs, it’s possible that your audit may have identified the need to upgrade your broadband before anything else can done. With the cloud service itself, the consideration isn’t so much the total cost of ownership but rather the cost per user, per service or an amalgamation of the two, since cloud platforms are essentially subscription-based services.
Bear in mind, however, that whatever the costs of moving to the cloud might entail, there will be potential cost savings to be had too – in IT maintenance, for instance, staff time and upfront purchases of replacement servers.
Capacity and access
How much storage space will you be provided with, compared to how much your school needs? This is where your audit will again prove useful. Will it be scalable – ie can you decide to pay for and use more space as you need it? One crucial detail is whether you can go over the limit before arranging more space; that is, will there be a sort of overdraft facility?
You’ll also need to know what options there are for granting staff access to your storage facility and setting privileges. Ideally, this will be based around a system of policies or ‘personas’. That will mean, for example, that a member of SLT who’s responsible for pupil data collection will enjoy more privileges than colleagues who aren’t. Depending on your staff structure, it may be that a member of your admin staff is the only individual who needs a high level of access.
Backups should take place automatically and utilise several different remote locations. In effect, you want to be assured that if the cloud company’s main server fails, your data will still exist on another one. Following the introduction of GDPR there will also need to be some robust security arrangements in place.
Perhaps the best reference here is the DfE guidance ‘Cloud software services: how schools should protect data’ which can be found at .
This explains the cloud providers self-certification scheme run by the DfE to ensure that cloud providers operating in the education sector are in compliance with data protection legislation.
Finally, it’s also worth referring to the DfE guidance ‘Cloud computing: how schools can move services to the cloud’ for more details.
Terry Freedman is an independent education technology consultant and writer.