At a time of decreasing resources, Indiana school districts are understandably attracted to anything that allows them to do more with less. Cloud computing offers the opportunity to add computer applications and data storage capacity to their networks without the substantial expense of staffing, developing and supporting the effort locally. The United States Department of Education (USDoE) calls this “next generation computing” and says, “To help build out an infrastructure for learning, districts and schools should begin a transition to the next generation of computing system architectures”. See http://www.ed.gov/technology/netp-2010/next-generation-computing%20.
While data storage is one cloud service, entire applications can be moved to the cloud to take advantage of the economies of scale that results from groups of users using super-computing resources that were historically available only to the largest users. Network users see the benefits, but school boards and information technology staff members see the very real risks of moving entire school district data functions off site into the cloud.
From the perspective of the cloud vendor, school districts look like any small to medium size business and this can result in a vendor offering a contract for cloud services that offers improved functions and substantial cost savings but on a take it or leave it basis. From the vendor’s perspective individualized arrangements add programing expense and reduce the economies of scale that allowed them to offer savings. But there are issues that a K-12 cloud services contract must address, i.e. service interruptions, hackers, data loss, evidentiary foundations, FERPA re-disclosure requirements, etc. Still, most boards will conclude that the benefits are too good to pass up. Vendors will reach the same conclusion. Vendors will want public school districts as clients, so their cloud service agreements will need to be tailored to public schools only once in order to do business with a client base of thousands of public school districts across the nation.