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Business Officer Magazine

Cloud-Worthy Tips

Follow these simple steps to plan your institution’s system and infrastructure.

By Margo Vanover Porter

Still tethered to a local environment?  If so, your institution may be ready to expand to the cloud, suggests Shelton Waggener, senior vice president, Internet2 .  "The cloud is now included in the assessments for any technology solution being considered by a campus," he says. (Read also, "Information Migration" in the May 2016 issue of Business Officer magazine.)

As you work with your CIO to plan your institution's systems and infrastructure, Waggener offers this advice: 

Opt for a federated identity. This allows employees at your institution, no matter how small or how large, to use their campus credentials to access tools that are offered by other cloud providers. For example, if a faculty member on your campus wants to access a service provided by another campus, she or he could use InCommon, which is a federation that allows participating campuses to share credentials.

"If you want the speed and the benefits of a low operating cost and to make cloud services available quickly and easily, there's no better way to do that than to make sure that employees can use the credentials they already have," Waggener says. "If you don't have federated identity in place, you can create Amazon or Microsoft accounts individually, but the investment it takes to do that bilaterally, one at a time, will overwhelm you and ultimately end up being less secure. You want to think early on about a federated identity as part of your base infrastructure."

Schedule training. With the movement to the cloud, your data administrators, network engineers, and system administrators may all need additional training, Waggener emphasizes.  "Their worlds will evolve, but they won't go away. The cloud doesn't replace the need for local technical staff, but it's a mistake to assume that you can add cloud and not change your local technical skills. You need people familiar with the cloud environment to do the integration for hybrid environments."

Develop a data management plan. In the past, data management was tied to the local environment, such as a financial system. "What happens if the data now lives in five different places, all of which are outside your data center?" he asks. "As you move outside of a single environment, you need a data team that understands how you're going to handle data management. When moving enterprise or institutional data from your campus to the cloud, the last thing you want is to have an individual make a decision to spin up an environment in the cloud and then lose track of it," he says.

Don't proceed by yourself. Waggener's basic philosophy is don't go alone. "Higher education is a difficult market for commercial providers to understand," he explains. "We operate with open networks, and our focus is both on the long-term protection of information and knowledge, as well as the discovery and dissemination of all that information. The idea that you can talk to a provider individually and have your needs met is unlikely."

Because so many institutions have already moved to the cloud, he believes you can learn much from the experience of your peers. "We have an incredibly robust network in higher education, including 300 members of Internet2 and an additional 300-plus schools that have participated in cloud or identity services," he says.  "We can do this together. It's not a competition."

MARGO VANOVER PORTER, Locust Grove, Va., covers higher education business issues for Business Officer.

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