As a private liberal arts college with close to 3,000 students, our mission at the College of the Holy Cross is to pursue excellence in teaching, learning, and research. As the CIO, I constantly evaluate innovative and emerging technology solutions that support students and faculty, including educational software, data analytics, security solutions to protect against threats to our information, and new advances in Internet of Things. To streamline campus operations, lower overhead costs, and deliver a seamless user experience for students and faculty, we have embraced cloud-based applications and services for all of our campus operations.
Why do we opt for the cloud?
There are many advantages to software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions versus on-premise alternatives, including cost efficiency, faster deployments, and greater scalability. A good cloud solution also requires minimal administration, freeing up IT’s time to focus on higher value projects.
Holy Cross has experienced three key benefits from deploying cloud services:
High speed deployments – by eliminating hardware and server installations as a prerequisite for rolling out new services, we have dramatically improved implementation times for new software deployments.
Simplified maintenance – we no longer have to deal with cumbersome software maintenance, server upgrades, or applying security patches and bug fixes. The SaaS vendor takes care of all of these issues.
On demand scalability – scaling services across the organization to meet changing levels of demand is much easier. Adding new users or expanding capabilities through integrations is simplified, no longer requiring additional servers or time-consuming installations.
Our biggest priority for our campus is streamlining student-facing programs and applications to give our students better workflows and systems for managing their educational experience. To deliver on that mission, one of the primary goals in our cloud migration initiative was adopting a cloud-based IT service management (ITSM) solution that could help resolve students’ issues with their technology faster and more conveniently.
Traditionally, our ITSM system primarily handled student or staff requests to fix something that was broken – say a laptop that wouldn’t reboot, or a mobile device that wouldn’t connect to the campus Wi-Fi. Now, we’re able to implement service catalog workflows that automate a wide range of services, and facilitate faster execution.
Automating student services
Before moving to a cloud-based service desk, we were bound by limited service management functionality that proved to be rigid and complicated to update, requiring regular investments in hardware to allow multiple users to simultaneously access the system. The time was right to migrate to a cloud approach to service management.
After a rigorous evaluation, we selected the Samanage Service Desk for three primary reasons: 1) It integrates with Google Apps, our standard cloud-based productivity applications, 2) It virtually eliminated maintenance time and costs associated with managing on-premise software, and 3) It’s readily accessible from mobile and other Internet-enabled devices for our students.
Our IT team handles close to 10,000 service requests (or tickets) every year. With a sophisticated, cloud-based IT service desk solution, we’ve created a workflow that reduces the time it takes to resolve specific issues, but also empowers students, faculty, and staff to solve more of their own technology issues with an easy-to-use service portal.
The Samanage service portal makes it possible for users to find an answer to their issue through an intuitive interface 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is the future of IT service excellence – giving users instant answers to their questions on the device that they prefer, whenever they need it.
Managing software, but also hardware
As part of our four-year hardware replacement cycle, Holy Cross upgrades approximately 450 computers for faculty, staff members, and labs each year. Using Samanage, we’ve been able to create a workflow process that allows us to manage the rollout with greater accuracy – something we did not have in the past. Now, software updates are continuously and automatically deployed, freeing up our technicians from manually driving the process. Since migrating to cloud, we’ve reduced the demand on our IT professionals who install, configure, and upgrade software and applications for our campus operations.
Using a cloud-based inventory tracking agent, we can automatically track software inventory to see exactly what is installed on old computers, creating an effortless process for technicians to accurately set up the new ones. Any hardware incidents are now monitored carefully, ensuring devices remain usable and well-functioning. For example, the Holy Cross IT team can now immediately replace printers that require excessive repairs or extend the life of printers that are still performing well past their warranty. The tracking agent also allows us to automatically communicate with Apple, HP, and Dell for warranty information on each device, simplifying how we identify all machines that are up for renewal. These annual reports are critical to us and automating them as part of our renewal/rollout project is immensely helpful.
Given the strategic directives that we’ve set out for Holy Cross, our focus on cloud migration was a natural next step for us and remains a high-priority as we continue to improve campus operations using innovative, and what some would call modern technologies. Our experiences with a cloud-based IT service desk has only reinforced that commitment, and I look forward to continuing our journey.
Education has everything to win by migrating operations to the cloud, but it requires schools to make the move one cloud application at a time. Have you started yet?
Ellen Keohane is the CIO at the College of the Holy Cross.