Yale is going to be looking at more cloud-computing options in the future for things such as human resources and ERP, Peters says. But not all cloud-based services are the same, either in how flexible they are in terms of contractual demands or security. For instance, Peters remains skeptical about cloud-based e-mail services, concerned about security and availability risks. But he notes that throughout higher education, the interest in cloud services runs high and everyone wants cloud providers to more quickly tackle risk-management issues.
Of course, not everyone agrees on where the cloud security issues lie. Some organizations, for example, are more than happy to leave e-mail management to the cloud.
Bernie McCormick, director of technology at the Mary McDowell Friends School in Brooklyn, says the school migrated to Google Apps for Education in part so it would no longer have to maintain an e-mail server (which turned out to be an advantage when the superstorm Sandy hit the New York area). The cloud-based Backupify service also played a critical role in that decision.
The Backupify client software, which is used on the faculty's Apple iOS and Google Android personal mobile devices in a "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) arrangement, gives the school's IT department the ability to wipe Google Apps folders if a smartphone or tablet is lost or stolen. McCormick, who says the school also uses the Barracuda Networks cloud-replication service for storage backup, foresees use of other cloud-based services in the future.
With security concerns abating, many others have turned that corner as well.
"We have strategically made a shift toward the cloud," says Osh O'Crowley, the CIO at AAA Northern California, Nevada and Utah (AAA NCNU), the regional part of the AAA that offers roadside assistance, insurance and travel amenities to its members. The enthusiasm for the cloud is not so much because of cost savings as it is the speed of obtaining applications and the benefit of not needing an army of IT staff to support it all, he says.