The future of campus: Cloud is the limit

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Students and faculty have mastered the art of the pivot, shifting from in-person schooling to hybrid learning environments. At the core of this transition has been the technology leaders who have been driving initiatives to make the transition to this new learning environment more seamless through enhanced security and cloud adoption.

As you stride into the first few months of this new school year wiser with the knowledge hard-gained from all that pivoting and swiveling, your IT team can leverage proven technologies to ensure a high-quality hybrid campus experience for students and faculty. One such proven technology is leading with a cloud-first strategy, one that schools rapidly rolled out last year, which allowed them to quickly support new challenges with safety and security at the forefront. It’s clear that a cloud-first future is imminent and will assist in promoting improved operational efficiency as well as cost and time savings, new insights, and, of course, enhanced learning experiences.

Let’s not overcomplicate things

The world is complex enough, your campus technology shouldn’t be. One way to start simplifying? Shift from hub-and-spoke networks to a standards-based platform with open APIs that empowers a flexible, future-friendly solution that can adapt to meet prevailing needs. A cloud-based platform liberates your campus’ technology team from mundane tasks — patching software or dealing with ongoing network issues — so they can focus on impactful, visible projects such as Wi-Fi 6 deployments or learning management system (LMS) upgrades.

Reducing the time your team spends on housekeeping tasks bolsters the experience for all who interact with your network. Consider that almost 96% of higher education IT leaders experienced at least one network issue on campus over the past 12 months.

One cause? Ever-sprawling, complicated infrastructures. IT departments that use multiple vendors and products spend up to 90% of their time on maintenance, researchers estimate. To improve, community colleges increasingly adopt cloud and use dashboards featuring automated updates and monitoring that eliminate manual processes and deliver added value, like vertical software and services and remote management. This not only improves the day-to-day operations of the campus technology teams, but the experience of the students and faculty, as the fear of downtime or crashing networks is minimized.

The Community College of Denver was one campus dealing with these types of ongoing issues due to their hub-and-spoke networks, with hours of their IT team’s time dedicated to troubleshooting. After deploying a cloud-managed platform, the team can now tweak settings on a macro level instead of having to make changes one by one to every device, and can now schedule automatic firmware upgrades during off-hours, making it seamless for both users and technicians.

Benefits the cloud brings to higher education IT teams include:

  • Scalability and agility that adapts as needs change
  • Pay only for what you need using OpEx, not CapEx, funds
  • Reduced maintenance, as on-site staff are no longer responsible for most server and network upkeep
  • Staffing savings, as the CIO does not have to recruit and retain hard-to-find IT professionals
  • Focused expertise on high-value initiatives across the campus, as internal technology teams address wish-list items for staff, students, and professors

Beyond network connectivity

Traditional challenges will resume as students return to campus; other hurdles will arise, for example, meeting regulatory guidelines in real-time. It’s vital your teams deploy technology that is flexible, addresses new and current challenges, and leans into simplification.

Community colleges can leverage cloud networks for super-charged physical security and cybersecurity, ending siloed systems. Smart cameras allow physical security professionals to rapidly review footage. These cameras feature analytics for insight into campus traffic (foot, car, and bicycle) and help with contact tracing. 

Cyber threats have IT teams — indeed, the entire community college ecosystem — clamoring for robust cybersecurity that integrates with physical safety measures.

Hybrid learning or not, students will always be relying heavily on their own personal devices while learning or conducting school work, and that brings its own set of cybersecurity challenges. For Davidson County Community College, this was an ongoing security risk, with over 90% of students bringing at least one mobile device to and from campus. By expanding their network through a cloud-based platform, Davidson was able to gain viability and better monitor and secure all these devices from one place, while also controlling bandwidth.

Cloud-based solutions simplify and streamline how users safely access a network and other authorized assets, offering protection and ease-of-use without the hassle often associated with security products, avoiding the temptation for users to create shadow IT solutions to work around complicated cybersecurity systems.

Prepare for what’s next

It may be impossible to completely prepare for the unknown, but we can be ready to harness change. Removing complexity, leveraging cloud-first platforms, and using open APIs to streamline and build digitally transformative imperatives like connected campuses with Wi-Fi 6, actionable analytics, and integrated physical and cybersecurity, are the launchpad of this new beginning.

Discover how Meraki can connect your campus with an agile IT platform.