McDonald et al (2010)

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McDonald, D; MacDonald, A. & Breslin, C. (2010) Final report from the JISC Review of the Environmental and Organisational Implications of Cloud Computing in Higher and Further Education. Strathclyde: University of Strathclyde. (accessed 26-Jul-2012)

Cloud computing – where elastic computing resources are delivered over the Internet by external service providers – is generating significant interest within HE and FE. In the cloud computing business model, organisations or individuals contract with a cloud computing service provider on a pay-per-use basis to access data centres, application software or web services from any location. This provides an elasticity of provision which the customer can scale up or down to meet demand.

Uptake of cloud computing at an institutional level is not progressing as quickly as the vendor hype might suggest. However, interest in its potential to enable cost-effective improvements in institutional IT services is significant. The most common adoption is cloud-based email for students. In general, institutions are awaiting the results of early adopters foray into cloud computing before committing to moving its more core business processes into the cloud.

Drivers and barriers

The main drivers for adoption of cloud computing within institutions are economic, relating to the reduction in funding and the need to increase competitiveness through better student and staff experiences. The need to replace aging institutional infrastructures is also a timely influence as is increasing emphasis on greening ICT.

Significant barriers are socio-cultural issues relating to perceived risks associated with cloud computing. In particular, an assumption that the security of data and applications in the cloud is more likely to be compromised than with in-house storage, concern over jurisdiction and privacy of data.

Environmental costs and benefits

Cloud computing may reduce the environmental impact of ICT through bringing computing resources together in state of the art, energy-efficient data centres. Institutions need to take care that the cost-effectiveness of cloud computing does not mean that wasteful and energy inefficient processes are simply being moved to the cloud rather than being reviewed and redesigned.

Institutional changes

As cloud computing offers a new way of sourcing an institution’s IT infrastructure, institutions will need to carefully reflect on the management and governance of their information systems.

Change will be required if cloud computing is being introduced as part of an overall initiative to reduce inefficiencies. In this case, institutions will need to ensure policies are aligned with this object and prevent individuals or groups circumventing the initiative by procuring duplicate or competing solutions.

New skills will be required. In particular, contract negotiation and servicing will replace more technical systems support for those involved in managing and supporting the IT infrastructure.