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Why the Reluctance About Cloud?

Administrators say security and cost remain concerns. Why they're wrong.

In 2009, Illinois's Bloomington Public Schools District 87 was looking to upgrade its server access, storage, and data recovery-without dropping a lot of cash. Administrators in the district had heard a lot about cloud computing, and, after some preliminary research, they began to develop IlliniCloud, a community cloud that allows schools to pool their resources and share hardware, applications, and IT support. Today, more than 150 districts in Illinois are using IlliniCloud, at cost savings between 30 and 60 percent.

With stats like those, you'd think administrators would be eager to climb aboard the cloud. But, according to the CDW 2011 Cloud Computing Tracking Poll, only 27 percent of K-12 schools are implementing or maintaining cloud computing. The biggest roadblocks? Perceived security threats and cost, with 40 percent and 41 percent of IT professionals naming those concerns respectively. Despite 84 percent of cloud users saying they've reduced costs by moving applications to the cloud, only 36 percent of respondents say they think cloud applications cost less. And 53 percent said that management "didn't trust" cloud data security.

As more stories like those coming from Bloomington roll out, perhaps the perception of cloud computing will change. In the meantime, the answer may be to start small. Nearly three-quarters of cloud users report beginning with a single cloud application, such as Gmail or Google Docs. Seeing the benefits of these first steps then inspired bigger changes-and greater savings-down the road. "With the cloud computing model, we don't charge you for resources you are not going to use," says IlliniCloud's chief technology officer Jim Peterson. "Members are free to refocus technology resources on the classroom, for the direct benefit of students and teachers."

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