Universities are embracing cloud computing services models for research, student engagement, and cross-university collaboration but struggle to determine the best way to use these services given high security concerns. As a result, there has been a strong interest and investment in private cloud solutions and interest in community clouds specific to the higher education sector.

Forrester Consulting, on behalf of Cisco, recently investigated the degree of cloud adoption by 12 universities in the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and India, primarily around learning, collaboration, research and administration.


What cloud technologies are being used — private, public, hybrid, or community — and what drove Universities to cloud? What benefits did Universities receive from the cloud and the challenges they faced. Also, what were the IT leaders’ evaluation of the vendor(s) they used and the kind of services vendors could provide?

Forrester identified five key findings from interviews with 12 university CIOs or IT directors, here are three:

1. Functionality, scalability, and agility are the most valued cloud features. All interviewed universities, CIOs and IT directors believed their IT staff could not build the features of cloud functionality cost-effectively, provision with the same speed as cloud providers, and scale resources up and down to meet institutional needs.

“For any technology we are thinking about getting, we are moving to a policy where we have to ask, ‘Can we do it in the cloud?’” (IT director at a US public university)

“I’m pushing operational people to look seriously at getting rid of data center equipment and replacing it with [cloud services]. This is not driven by cost; there’s probably no cost/benefit analysis. Rather, it is freeing our skilled staff up to focus more on our core business…the ability to focus on university-critical technology makes for a more efficient and effective central IT department.”
(CIO of a UK university)

“My dream is nothing on-site anywhere except network kit or desktops. I would like to see BYOD for students and staff. No on-site services — all services and data would be in the cloud or in a virtual hybrid cloud across
universities.” (IT director at a UK university)

In addition, cloud implementations allow IT employees to refocus their efforts to work more directly with academic departments and devote staff to institutions’ other critical technology needs.

2. Formal IT leaders prefer private clouds. Whether for research or collaboration, the private cloud is the preferred implementation of education IT leaders. All the universities interviewed expressed reluctance to trust any intellectual property (IP) or sensitive data to a third-party service. While security was their overriding concern about cloud computing, some hybrid clouds (combining some in-house resources with public cloud services) exist and they expected to increase their use of this model.

3. However, Universities have a strong interest in community clouds. As collaboration between universities continues to grow in importance, so too does the desire to connect their cloud efforts or jointly participate in a shared cloud service like a community cloud. Most of the interest in this model was to support research and student learning.

These findings and more are summarized in Forrester Consulting’s study, “Cloud Bursts into Higher Education”. Download the study today for best practices for insights to help your university embrace cloud technologies into the classroom. For information on how to deploy a secure, automated infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud at your University with Cisco Cloud Enablement Services.


Robert Nucci

No Longer at Cisco