As adoption of cloud computing gains momentum within the education sector, there’s a corresponding growth in infrastructure-related services, including Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) – a way to provide access to compute resources in a cloud-based environment. What sets IaaS apart is that the resources consist of virtualized hardware — infrastructure that is virtual as well as physical. IaaS offerings range from virtual servers to network connections to load balancers.
The major appeal of cloud server hosting is that the software (and with IaaS, the hardware), is virtualized. The hardware resources that support IaaS are pulled from multiple servers and networks, located across multiple off-site data center and maintained independently of the school or college using the service. The company pays a monthly fee to access these resources as needed. It’s the responsibility of the cloud service provider (CSP) to ensure ongoing maintenance of the hardware and virtualized services.
The CSP assumes responsibility for managing the complexities associated with an IT infrastructure. With that important intermediary, educational institutions can tap into cloud resources as their needs grow rather than purchase, install and integrate new hardware internally. This on-demand scalability enables schools to focus on business objectives, without worrying about keeping up with hardware costs to support expansion.
For schools enjoying a growth spurt, IaaS can be especially appealing because they can benefit from enterprise-level infrastructure through a pay-as-you-go model, without the initial cash outlay. IaaS establishes an internal business network in the form of a private cloud and virtual local networks, using a pooled server to store company data and run applications. This basic structure supports easy expansion and provides essential data protection within a cloud setting.
The growing maturity of IaaS solutions extends to increasingly sophisticated security strategies. Schools and colleges concerned with any security vulnerabilities associated with a virtual infrastructure can add their own layer of protection by using encryption or “depersonalizing” data, over and above the CSP’s sophisticated security measures. That said, “over and above” is probably unnecessary; quality CSPs typically provide a level of security that mitigates security risks and protects the outsourced architecture. Educational institutions that take advantage of IaaS solutions also benefit from end-to-end service. That is, they gain storage and network resources that enable them to build custom virtual data centers to meet their specific business requirements.
Additionally, IaaS provides academic organizations with flexibility via à la carte features. Schools can maximize productivity by using only the resources they need. With IaaS, a single campus could monitor its usage and modify services to meet ever-changing technology requirements.
IaaS also gives school districts location independence. Broad network access is one of the key characteristics of cloud server hosting because users can access the infrastructure from any location.
An IaaS solution that uses standard hardware across the infrastructure simplifies a company’s processes. There’s also no single point of failure in an IaaS solution, so if one server or network switch were to fail, the school’s infrastructure would continue to operate without missing a beat.
As educational institutions look to secure a competitive advantage in their specific regions, implementing a virtual infrastructure is often a step in the right direction.Adam Stern is founder and CEO of Infinitely Virtual in Los Angeles. Twitter @iv_cloudhosting.