The Importance of Robust Cloud Hosting for Australian Universities

With the shift to digital service delivery over the last year, there has been a large increase in online traffic to all university services, such as online learning, staff working from home, and remote academic and support services. A number of Australian universities, who have on-premise hosting arrangements, have been overwhelmed by this increase in online demand. This has meant that in the last year, many on-premise services have failed during peak utilisation periods, meaning large workloads were placed on university IT departments resulting in data loss, system outages, and a lack of back-ups.

This has resulted in Australian and New Zealand institutions facing increased pressure on their internal infrastructure, with the shift to digital and virtual services. This has become increasingly paramount as Australia faces more lockdowns and higher education remains uncertain with borders still closed to international students. On-premise hosting has many challenges and universities should be actively planning for cloud migration due to the high frequency of system failure being experienced with high peak loads.

While not always the first topic discussed in strategic institutional goals, cloud hosting is incredibly important, but often difficult to convey its significance. That is, until things go wrong as institutions saw earlier this summer.

Below are some consequences of not having a robust cloud hosting component to your institutions IT infrastructure:

New Students with No Access – If the on-premise server doesn’t have adequate capacity to manage the integration of student data the student data sync can take as long as 2 months to clear the backlog. This was the case in Australia, where Symplicity saw large enrollment numbers processed and the Provisioning Server took over 2 months to process all data changes meaning that during this time, new students could not access the solution or the services promoted and managed.

Students Complaints – In early 2020, some universities experienced an issue from an on-premise solution where over 10,000 student complaints were raised because the system was completely inaccessible. The university was aware of the gradual increased traffic on the platform, but failed to adequately plan a server migration before the start of semester. In these situations, the on-premise server is simply under such high load that it appears ‘off-line’ to the majority of users. The symptom in this case is equivalent to a Denial of Service Cyber Attack.

Students Can’t Upload Files – Students are not able to upload a single CV or Resume within an outside system due to limited file space on the on-premise server. This type of limitation is greatly frustrating to students and makes the system almost unusable.

Data Security – Most on-premise solutions are not encrypted at the database layer, meaning that anyone with access to the physical server may have access to data stored in the system irrespective of the Security Work Groups which may be configured within third-party softwares. If you are storing any data of a sensitive nature within a third-party system, it is strongly recommended that the sever is migrated to a secure cloud service such as Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Delayed Response and Support from Additional Softwares – When a university integrates with other software, those software managers don’t have direct access to the server and often have to wait for a university’s IT team to make updates or changes that will allow them to respond to a request. Third party systems have no ability to maintain or make changes on the server if it is an on-premise server often resulting in delays of up to 2-3 weeks before a systems manager can respond to an institution's requests. This has been the case in many support issues for universities with on-premise hosting.

To address these concerns, university partners such as Symplicity have responded to these impacts by re-prioritizing the product roadmap to deliver new features and capabilities managed on Amazon Cloud. Cloud hosting services help remove the operational overhead and ongoing management responsibility from the university’s internal IT department. To learn more about Symplicity CareerHub, click here.

Data Entry, Australia, Data Security, ANZ, ANZSSA, CareerHub, Data Sharing, cloud hosting

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