Microsoft Azure Is Higher Education’s Best Ally

Sreeraj Vasukuttan

Just as other industries leaders have, educational leaders have certainly recognized the urgency of cloud adoption. Gartner describes this as the “cloud now” awakening happening in response to the disruptions of 2020. However, in the education sector—especially in higher education—the aspiration to adopt the cloud must be carefully aligned to the ongoing challenges. And cloud is exactly the right technology to help you adapt to the ever-changing educational landscape.

The declining demand for four-year degrees is perhaps the most pressing challenge for education leaders to address. High school graduates are questioning the worth of expensive degrees, more so than before the pandemic, and are ready to choose alternate paths.Many students are concerned about whether or not the skills they gain in college will meet the demands of the modern workforce of 2025. The inevitability of hybrid campuses and the need for better virtual learning experiences are the sector’s second biggest challenge. The disconnect that students felt when institutions scrambled to adopt remote learning in 2020 has made them more doubtful about the four-year path. Finally, many students are concerned about the digital security and safety of hybrid campuses.

An increasing number of colleges and universities are adopting more flexible, personalized, and safer learning experiences to address these concerns. Additionally, institutions are adopting pedagogy that accounts for more engaging and collaborative virtual learning. The public cloud can be your ally in these efforts and help you change the story from the inside out.

Build Customized Applications with the Help of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

You could envision technology solutions that will solve for some of the above challenges that higher education is facing. Then use the variety of resources in the public cloud to build solutions that provide a brand new experience for your students. It could be better virtual classrooms using virtual desktops and cloud PCs, or using the advances of data and AI in the cloud to deliver a more intelligent and personal experience for each student. The important thing to understand is that it is not about the resources or apps in the cloud. Instead, it’s about how you build innovative solutions using them. Take the example of Duke University that used Azure Cognitive Services (AI), Azure Machine Learning, and Azure Storage to build a customized solution that securely stores and analyzes large amounts of data from various sources to develop innovative treatment solutions for patients. In another example, DeVry University delivered a unified lab experience for students using Azure Labs. Finally, Sheffield Hallam University uses Azure Virtual Desktop, Azure Labs, and Red Hat technology to transform the virtual campus experience for its students.

Prepare Your Students for a Cloud-driven Future

The digital economy is accelerating, and technical skills will be more in demand everywhere. While we need to upskill students’ technical competencies, the core skills required to support a technology-driven future are also in shortage. Per recent U.S. labor statistics, “By the end of 2020, there were 1.4M unfilled Computer Science jobs. Meanwhile, the number of graduates is only 400K a year.” The world desperately demands more cloud technicians and engineers. With the pace at which our technology cloud is evolving, a traditional four-year degree won’t satisfy the demand. The need for role-based and skill-based training should be supplemented with conventional degrees to ensure that the students are skilled accordingly. The good news is that companies like Microsoft are expanding their upskilling initiatives for students to help them gain the most up-to-date cloud skills. You can utilize the subsidized access to the cloud and training to help students be more prepared to enter the cloud-driven industry.

Improve Campus Security with Security in the Cloud

Many of us won’t soon forget the prevalence of “Zoom bombing” in 2020. Even though Zoom immediately addressed the product’s security and privacy issues, the headache these incidents caused was significant. If you had adopted Azure and deployed Azure Sentinel in your hybrid campus and ingested Zoom logs into it, Azure Sentinel could have spotted potential malicious activities. Unfortunately, confronting Zoom trolls is not the only threat for hybrid campuses. The invaluable student data behind these virtual experiences is targeted by cybercriminals who could deploy sophisticated malware attacks, resulting in massive data breaches.

Cloud technology can help you avoid breaches like these. Storing data in the cloud and running applications in the cloud is inherently more secure than hosting it all on-premises. Microsoft’s Zero Trust model is a methodical approach to security that is hard to replicate in your own local data center. You can further improve your security by utilizing Azure AD to implement multifactor authentication, single sign-on, and password-less sign-on—that help you reduce password related risks. Implementing Azure Sentinel—Microsoft’s SIEM solution in conjunction with Microsoft 365 Defender—Microsoft’s XDR system will improve your security posture in pre- and post-breach scenarios.

Connection Can Help You Migrate, Manage, and Optimize Your Cloud Investments

Building innovative solutions in the cloud will help you change your environment for the better. But many of you may be simply taking your first steps to the cloud to help save on capital expenses or to avoid buying new expensive hardware. Those are great first choices, but also consider strategies that take a long-term approach to cloud adoption and utilization. Connection offers many services that can help you get the most out of cloud, including our complimentary Cloud Advisor Services as well as our affordable Managed Services. Connection also holds an Azure advanced specialization in Windows Server and SQL Server Migration.

Sreeraj Vasukuttan is a Technical Marketing Manager at Connection with a passion for technology and marketing. He enjoys writing about cloud, security, and end-user compute. In his free time, he loves watching films, cooking, and traveling with his family.