By SunGard K-12 Staff
A panel of technology experts from Port Arthur ISD (Port Arthur, Texas) advised a balanced approach to cloud storage on the closing day of the Texas Computer Education Association annual conference. The panel was led by Dr. Ramiro Zuniga, chief of technology at the school district and author of a technology integration and leadership blog sponsored by SunGard K-12 Education. The other panelists were Anthony Jackson, instructional technology supervisor, and Canji Rhodes, business education teacher and campus technologist.
Increasingly strapped for financial and human resources, many school districts are supplementing their own cloud storage with public cloud storage. Port Arthur ISD, for example, offers educators and staff private cloud storage for sensitive district files and encourages staff and students to make use of the many free or low-cost public cloud storage options for classroom and personal files.
Dr. Zuniga, however advises school districts to be cautious when taking this approach. “Cloud storage is not necessarily a simple solution,” he says. “You have to know vulnerabilities exist. The most important best practice is to become as knowledgeable as possible about what solution you’re taking on. And, understand that these solutions are always changing and evolving.”
For Dr. Zuniga, the most significant drawback of relying on public cloud storage is the prospect of not being in the driver’s seat during times of crisis. “This is the IT director’s ultimate nightmare: We don’t have ultimate control,” he says. Additional vulnerabilities include the possibility of security breaches that could compromise school data, lengthy response times for restoration of data, missing files, and the potential changes in a provider’s terms of usage.
On the flip side, public cloud storage offers the following benefits:
- Can be inexpensive.
- Doesn’t require physical equipment to purchase/maintain.
- Can be used for back-up and recovery
- Requires no manpower to maintain
- Offers worldwide access
The panel advised school districts that choose to implement public cloud storage to consider the following:
- Read and understand the user agreement
- Understand the provider’s limitations for file uploads and downloads
- Proceed with the understanding that public clouds are susceptible to Internet access disruptions
- Ensure the cloud provider supports your file types
- Understand that public cloud storage is “save at your own risk.”
- Make sure the option you are considering provide the space you need.
They also provided highlights some common public cloud storage options (shown above).
Dr. Zuniga concluded the discussion by affirming that cloud storage is a “very viable solution for school districts.”