The era of remote learning: Adopting a multi cloud strategy for the education industry in 2022 and beyond

November 2, 2021
The era of remote learning: Adopting a multi cloud strategy for the education industry in 2022 and beyond


The global pandemic accelerated the usage of tools and techniques that made education and schooling accessible to all. From kindergarten to higher education, remote learning was introduced, with a solid foundation that has led to universities still unsure of the students who prefer offline to online. Regardless of the mode preferred, the IT infrastructure of a university or college must be equipped to handle these needs and the students enrolled.

The introduction of technology had its aims and challenges. The challenge of bridging the gap in situations such as lab sessions, seminars, classes that require it was present. But the aim of technology was to mimic the experience of an in-person lab session to a student, software that enables one on one learning with the teacher, and so on. Hence, if there were a situation of shifting remote entirely or partially, it is necessary for a university to be prepared.

So, what can schools and universities utilize to encourage efficient teaching, remote learning, and progression of courses at the students’ pace? Given a large amount of data that is to be shared and stored among servers to enable smooth access to the students, a multi-cloud strategy forms the most flexible and cost-effective solution.

What is a multi cloud strategy?

As the word multi-cloud or multiple public clouds suggests, organizations leverage public clouds from more than one cloud provider. This generally means that instead of using one cloud provider, based on their needs, multiple vendors are used for cloud hosting, storage, and maintenance of applications.

A Multi-cloud architecture has several advantages and allow for a cost-effective solution compared to other technologies. Due to the amount of data and the number of students involved, security is to not be compromised. The organization must choose cloud vendors whose policies align with the goals of the institution as each cloud vendor has a different approach.

How can multi-cloud benefit the education industry?

There are a number of branches within an educational institution, given the courses offered and the number of students accessing different features at varied timings. Hence, having a multi-cloud strategy is beneficial. This ensures that even in cases where the functionality of one cloud has issues, the other deployed cloud systems can come into play.

There are a variety of reasons multi-cloud can be beneficial for your organization, but determining the right cloud provider is key. Understanding how the system can go cloud-native, uploading software to the cloud, leveraging the right toolsets can be achieved by conversing and sketching out plans with different cloud providers.

Multi-cloud vs hybrid cloud: what’s the difference?

In terms of cloud deployment, multi-cloud and hybrid cloud work as architectures but have their own set of functions and definitions. In the case of a multi-cloud architecture, organizations use multiple private clouds or a combination of different private vendors. This ensures stable delivery of services. In the case of a hybrid cloud, it involves organizations using a combination of public and private clouds.

Regardless of the infrastructure used, the establishment of a virtual desktop infrastructure is needed. This is used to create a virtual desktop environment on a remote server, that is, from the students’ end, such that there is accessibility and usage. This way, students can learn at their own pace and there is no discrepancy faced.

What is a multi-cloud strategy?

In simple terms, multi-cloud strategy is to obtain and implement multi-cloud. This may be a shift from a single cloud provider to multiple or newly entering the cloud computing industry after reflecting on how your needs align with the cloud provider’s features.

To implement a multi-cloud strategy, there are three categories that need to be emphasized. Security, network, and management. The first step would be to set up a multi-cloud architecture where,

  1. Security effectiveness must be checked. Intercloud data transfers should be encrypted to maximize security, and a security model must be applied to multi-cloud traffic along with real-time security analytics.

  2. Data transfer between two clouds in a multi-cloud example can be expensive. Hence, Co-locating data that is usually interchanged between two clouds can help minimise the number of transfers. When co-located, secure access can be provided to the data from multiple cloud servers.

  3. Implementing a unified multi-cloud management

  4. Scaling geographical multi-cloud demand

  5. Simplify connectivity and operations

  6. Customize based on requirements and multi cloud providers

Towards a multi-cloud environment: why should the education sector make the shift?

A steady increase is seen among organizations as they continue to integrate a multi-cloud environment. This is reflected in the statistics as a multi-cloud management survey indicates that 81% of enterprise organizations were using multiple public clouds to meet their computing needs.

When educational institutions implement a multi-cloud architecture, it is possible to bring the teachers and students seamlessly on a unified platform, have secure databases, storage, and resources on the cloud. The benefits of multi cloud in the field of education can also extend to,

1. Ease of accessibility

Compared to other database management systems, the ease of accessibility offered by the multi-cloud is unparalleled. Students can easily access course materials, assignments, virtual libraries, and so on, anytime, from any geographical location. Effective communication among students or teachers, ease of access from smartphones, or a wide range of devices are pros that could truly benefit remote learning. There are no delays due to the distance between the app storage and access points due to the low latency offered by a multi-cloud strategy.

2. Secure data storage

The number of courses offered by the institution, the profiles of the teachers and students, and resources are elements that need utmost security. To further ensure data security, VPN can be used by providers and students to automatically encrypt outgoing data and traffic. This ensures a smoother transfer of learning content while not compromising on security.

3. Creation of a better learning experience

It is true that the pandemic accelerated the need for remote learning and accessible education for students all over the world. However, there is a steady deployment of all resources and classes onto the remote form of learning, with some hindrances such as practical workshops, laboratory classes, and classes that require in-person attendance. With multi cloud, one can experiment and innovate different ways of providing a learning experience via tools and technologies. This helps institutions go beyond the zoom call and homework assignment and offer better, interactive sessions.

4. Cost-saving and minimal hardware requirements

There are cost savings on both ends, with a multi-cloud strategy. The students do not have to buy specialized devices to access learning material, their smartphones or other electronic devices suffice for accessing material. They are provided access to cloud-based storage as well. There are cost-effective benefits for the educational institution and students. The pay-as-you-go model that is implemented in most cloud-based systems can help simplify processes such as enrollment, submissions, attendance and help lower costs for the institution.

Challenges of multi-cloud approach

Compared to a single cloud approach, multi-cloud can be challenging to implement and execute. The present IT departments of educational institutions may not be equipped to handle the features of multiple cloud systems. The gap that exists can be bridged with training, courses, and guides on multi cloud management, but the entire process depends on effective planning by the institution and cloud provider. Here are some challenges that are faced with a multi-cloud strategy,

1. Having the right cloud talent

The existing IT department can be trained regarding the ways of handling multiple cloud environments, but expertise is key. Having the right people who understand the structures in depth and hence having cloud specialists based on the type of cloud system acquired is necessary. A cloud developer, a cloud architect, a cloud network engineer are examples of expert additions required to the existing IT team.

2. Variable security and privacy approaches

Educational institutions should have a thorough discussion with multi cloud providers on their security and privacy approaches as it differs based on region, features offered, and cost. Due to the different data sets and resources from different access points, the entire system becomes vulnerable to hackers from different access points. Hence, It is necessary to scrutinize cloud providers and emphasize reducing intrusions from all ends and a secure approach.

How to get started with a multi-cloud strategy

When deployed effectively, a multi-cloud strategy can benefit students and staff by providing a high-quality remote or hybrid educational experience. However, before getting started, there are several questions that can be posed by an academic institution.

Will the investment be worth the learning experience provided? Will there be security compromises or data accessibility issues? Will the students and staff face issues while engaging with the system?

To effectively handle a multi-cloud strategy, here are four methods educational institutions can follow,

1. Apply cloud services to required resources only

As different multi cloud providers have different approaches to their cloud operations, the more cloud systems adopted by the university spells out an extra hassle for their IT systems. Due to the difference in tools and technologies used, troubleshooting by the IT systems can be a struggle. Simplicity is extremely important, even though educational institutions may have data and resources in different areas. Identification of where multi-cloud is necessary to be implemented can be easier on the IT department and save on costs.

2. Identify your main use case

Instead of embracing an overall multi-cloud strategy , narrow it down to the specific use case that you may require the multi-cloud for. Is the incoming traffic of students accessing the database the issue? Or is the maintenance of security in the database? When focused on implementing a multi-cloud approach based on your business’s needs, the costs can be reduced by a sizable amount. Once the use case is figured out, looking for vendors based on requirements is easier.

3. Choose the right vendor

It is always better to choose a multi-cloud approach and a vendor after research on security, compliance regulations to be followed such as GDPR, PCI, and others, expertise in the sector, and so on. Having vendors that have expertise in providing solutions for higher education systems can be a plus point. Due to the usual use case being enterprises, most vendors may focus on finances, but as education and efficient delivery is the goal, evaluation is necessary.

4. Connectivity and consumption

Based on your geographical location, choosing the right data center to provide low latency to your cloud providers can improve output to storage service. The service would also need to securely connect to the cloud providers your organization uses. It is essential to look for a service that allows all your cloud providers to access your data, hassle-free and simultaneously. This is essential since, if data access is limited, the functionality of the cloud is limited as well.

5. Train your team

Your IT department may have a skilled asset and an expert team, but it is always better to train them on fundamental topics and courses offered by cloud providers. This helps gain better insight on multi cloud management and troubleshooting along with the skills required to manage cloud services at scale. A skilled IT department is a worthy investment in a hybrid or remote-oriented educational sector.

Is using multi-cloud the right approach for the education sector?

Having a multi-cloud strategy solves various challenges of the educational sector but comprises its own set of challenges. Looking beyond that, it provides the education sector with technology adaptation skills, management, value generation, and a competitive advantage in the future of education. Using multi cloud can lead to better accessibility, enabling smoother provision of remote learning to students across the world.