Graduate from Old Storage with These Cloud Migration Pointers for Colleges and Universities

As cloud collaboration platforms become more and more popular and advanced, migrating large amounts of content to these platforms is common among an increasingly diverse slate of industries. One of the most dynamic examples of this is happening among colleges and universities, as the cloud offers these organizations new and different ways to manage student and staff content, and help every individual on campus thrive. However, every industry has different needs when it comes to migration and higher education is no exception. In order to effectively migrate, colleges and universities need a migration tool that can address the specific challenges that define their storage and collaboration situations.

In the past, we’ve spoken about how universities are using cloud collaboration platforms such as Box, Dropbox, Office 365, Google Drive and Egnyte. Now, we want to talk about what makes cloud migration within the higher education sphere unique: what specific conditions need to be weighed when migrating, and what that means for the migration overall. For higher educational organizations looking to migrate to the cloud the benefits are both immense and ever-growing, and no college or university should miss out on the power of the cloud. That’s why we’ve made this handy primer.

User and Data Considerations

Once of the most obvious factors that define college and university cloud migrations is the sheer bulk of what they’ll be migrating. Not only do many universities have thousands–even tens of thousands–of students, they also have a huge number of employees. Even the largest universities with 80 students to a teacher per course will usually have hundreds of academic staff, plus a slew of administrators, IT professionals, and program coordinators. As a result, on a user-level, higher ed migrations are generally much larger than other migrations. Certainly, many universities will choose to migrate staff and students to different platforms, meaning that instead of one large migration, there will be multiple smaller ones, but even these “smaller” migrations are often pretty sizable–enough that free migration clients just aren’t workable.

It also, goes without saying that with that many users comes an avalanche of data. Colleges and universities not only have to migrate huge amounts of administrative data, but files and folders from all their departments. To give you an idea of how much that might be, one university looking to migrate noted that, throughout the entire organization, there were 161 departments that needed to be migrated. This amounts to hundreds of terabytes that must be moved, and that’s not even considering that, if a university is moving from one cloud platform to another, they have to consider all the files their students have uploaded to school Moodles or other storage options provided by professors and departments. On top of all of this, much of the data stored by universities and colleges has been accrued over decades. Much of this data might be completely irrelevant and in need of cleanup. Being able to comb through data and accounts and get rid of those folders which are empty or have simply reached an expiration date with regards to usability is important to ensuring a smooth and efficient migration.

Finally, an often-overlooked consideration with regards to users and data is the massive turnover rate that universities and colleges experience–much more so than most other businesses. Students apply and then graduate. Others transfer in mid-way through a year, or transfer out at the same time. Professors come and go. While this is just a long-winded way of saying that a university’s user base will probably be changing very frequently, it’s important that schools considering cloud migration take this into account. With high turnover, organizations will have to move files between users frequently, and they’ll have to effectively and efficiently migrate new users into their platform. Additionally, accounts for graduated students will either need to be archived (to preserve transcripts or other credentials) or deleted entirely. The same will hold true for staff that moves on as well. To achieve smooth and thorough turnover, Higher Ed organizations will need migration tools that are fast, secure, and help them comprehensively manage changing permissions, consolidate different folders and sites, and get rid of accounts that are either defunct or repetitious.

While daunting on their face, these considerations should not scare universities and colleges away from cloud migration. With the right migration tool, these challenges can be overcome, and quite swiftly at that. It’s just about finding a migration solution that helps the organization account for these circumstances, and builds a migration that accounts for them too.

Sources and Silos

When you think of any large university, one of the things that leaps out immediately is how diffuse they often are. The University of California has ten different campuses. The SUNY system in New York has 64. When it comes to cloud migration, the way in which colleges and universities is spread out can pose a bit of a challenge if a migration isn’t properly planned. For schools that rely on on-premises servers, this means that multiple servers across multiple locations will often be migrated into one single cloud platform, and organizing such a migration requires a migration tool that allows for ample planning and analytics monitoring. For schools that use both on-premises storage and some cloud storage, the coordination of multiple sources during migration to a target platform must be given close consideration to maintain permissions, and ensure that all students and faculty have access to the files they need throughout the migration.

Recently Cloud FastPath worked with a university moving files from both Dropbox and Google Drive to OneDrive. While the data in each source platform was independent from that in the other, it would be essential to work closely with IT professionals and admins at the school to figure out how they would like to structure all of this data once it existed in a single storage solution. Interrogating whether any user in the organization would need to own data from both sources, how permissions should be dictated, and whether folder structures should be integrated or remain separate would be crucial to achieving a successful migration. Whether a school in this position opts to migrate from one source, and then wait to see whether they’d like to also migrate from the second or whether they decide to undertake two back to back migrations is all dependent on how that source data is structured, to whom it belongs, and what the school’s timeline ultimately is. While issues like this might not immediately leap to mind when thinking about migration, it’s important for schools looking to move to the cloud to anticipate them, and how they’ll affect the migration process.

In addition to this, universities and colleges must consider the prospect of siloed data: data for a team or department that’s kept completely separate from the rest of a university’s data. The most obvious example of this is for graduate programs. A university with a medical school or a law school might store the data for those programs in a completely different source, or–if within the same source–completely disconnected from other departments or programs. Often this siloed data will be managed by a separate IT team, or just have separate IT protocols. As such, when coordinating a migration, higher ed enterprises must figure out how, when, and if they would like to include that data in the same migration as the other, more intertwined departments.

Cost Efficiency

One of the major challenges facing universities right now is funding, which often makes it difficult for schools to undertake projects like massive cloud migration. It’s a truly legitimate concern, as most colleges don’t have the budgetary leeway that organizations in other industries do, especially to devote to one major endeavor like migration.

That’s why Cloud FastPath recently introduced our migration package for higher education. This new package is designed specifically to address the budgetary constraints faced by many universities to ensure that they can achieve the best migration available without stressing about cost. The package is promotionally priced to ensure address budgeting concerns and to help schools achieve a faster return on investment. It also includes an extended trial period of the tool, so that IT can become familiar with its features before embarking on migration, saving admins and IT teams a great deal of time when it comes to setting up and executing the migration.

Higher Education Migration Projects Are Unique but the Results Can Be Just as Impactful

With any organization and any industry, cloud migration will pose unique challenges and opportunities for growth. It’s no different for colleges and universities, but these considerations don’t have to be a roadblock. With effective cloud migration, schools of all sizes can navigate their specific circumstances–large amounts of data, high turnover of users, multiple sources–and ultimately thrive in the cloud.