Cloud technology in Higher Education: is cloud-first finally the default approach?

Posted by Mike Cope

Mike Cope, Chief Technology Officer at Tribal discusses why he believes there has been a shift in mindset over the last three years.  


Despite the well-documented benefits case, first presented over a decade ago, cloud adoption rates in education settings have only really started to accelerate in the last three years - thanks in no small part to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this unprecedented period, it became apparent that increasingly more universities and colleges were finally accepting that the future is cloud; in fact, the 'now' is cloud. Of course, there were early adopters before this, but now the default approach is finally 'cloud-first'. 

Rewind a few years, CIOs like myself, who tried to make a case for cloud option, often received pushback from finance – but thankfully, this is no longer the case. Email is a great example of the rate of change. Five years ago, it was common for universities to exchange servers on premise to support third-party email providers; very few institutions do this now. There is the perception is that it can cost more, however, many universities are reframing this view and thinking about the added value and cost predictability of this approach. 


Business flexibility and agility 

The acceleration in migrating services to the cloud is primarily because the sector’s appetite for risk has changed as institutions seek solutions that provide the most up-to-date capability, for the maximum number of use cases, whilst also providing enough flexibility to adapt to increasingly frequent business changes. 

Four or five years ago, data security and business risk were barriers to moving to the cloud, but today, there are very few education leaders who are solely concerned by that. Now institutions may choose to make the switch as each on premise application comes up for renewal. They will also consider the maturity of the offering, with institutions looking for mature options with frequent updates. 

By becoming cloud-first, institutions gain the flexibility to scale up or down depending on their needs. It has been common knowledge for some time now that institutions are paying for redundant services that are never fully optimised. Moving to the cloud allows systems to be monitored to identify peak usage periods, ultimately providing peace of mind when the extra capacity is required while offering value for money. 


Service reliability and business continuity 

Business continuity, particularly in the current climate, is another significant reason driving universities and colleges to migrate more services, faster. As well as enabling more remote working, meaning continuous operations can be achieved even in the recent ‘lock-down’ situations, cloud providers often offer a better 24/7, 365 service that runs more efficiently for a similar price. 

As the people who have written the software are by far the best to manage it, outsourcing maintenance and support of the solution to the cloud provider usually means CIOs are able to oversee a better, uninterrupted service. For the Registrar, students getting a slicker service with access to the information they need when they demand it, is fundamental. 


Cloud based SIS 

SITS was written as on premise solutions, but we are now running it behalf of over 30 customers in the cloud using AWS. SITS is an incredibly niche application, so many of our customers don’t have the skills and knowledge internally to run the implementations (database and servers) and configuration maintenance or if they do, the resources are expensive, so they prefer to outsource the service. Moving this solution into the cloud means Tribal manages the configuration maintenance and upgrades, can implement new modules with ease, and provide another level of support. 

If it’s the right time for your university to move services to the cloud and you’d like to understand more about building a business case, why not try our Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) calculator to help you understand just how much SITS is costing now and learn more about the cost predictability a move to cloud brings.  


SITS Cloud Link



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