Scholarly article on topic 'Cloud Computing in the Public Sector–Case Study in Educational Institution'

Cloud Computing in the Public Sector–Case Study in Educational Institution Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Petra Maresova, Jaroslav Kacetl

Abstract Cloud computing represents a potentially very effective solution to current problems linked to the need to decrease public budget expenditures. The solution is based on sharing the same solution by multiple users as well as on an opportunity of choosing a custom-made solution that would suit any office's particular needs. The aim of this contribution is to specify when to deploy cloud computing in the public sector and to compare the situation in the Czech Republic and elsewhere. A case study of cloud computing deployment in a chosen public sector institution–high school–will be used to illustrate the situation. The used research methods include document analysis focusing on cloud computing in the public sector. The data for the case study was collected by means of an in-depth interview with an IT expert. The data from countries using cloud computing in the public sector show that its deployment is meaningful. This conclusion is confirmed by the case study, which shows savings and benefits from this technology's deployment.

Academic research paper on topic "Cloud Computing in the Public Sector–Case Study in Educational Institution"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 182 (2015) 341 - 348

4th WORLD CONFERENCE ON EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY RESEARCHES, WCETR-

Cloud Computing in the Public Sector - Case Study in Educational

Institution

Petra Maresova a*, Jaroslav Kacetla

aFaculty of Informatics and Management, University of Hradec Kralove, Rokitanskeho 62, 500 03 Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic

Abstract

Cloud computing represents a potentially very effective solution to current problems linked to the need to decrease public budget expenditures. The solution is based on sharing the same solution by multiple users as well as on an opportunity of choosing a custom-made solution that would suit any office's particular needs. The aim of this contribution is to specify when to deploy cloud computing in the public sector and to compare the situation in the Czech Republic and elsewhere. A case study of cloud computing deployment in a chosen public sector institution - high school - will be used to illustrate the situation. The used research methods include document analysis focusing on cloud computing in the public sector. The data for the case study was collected by means of an in-depth interview with an IT expert. The data from countries using cloud computing in the public sector show that its deployment is meaningful. This conclusion is confirmed by the case study, which shows savings and benefits from this technology's deployment.

© 2015The Authors. Published by ElsevierLtd.This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of Academic World Research and Education Center. Keywords: Cloud comouting, public sector, educational insitution

1. Introduction

The public sector, namely state administration and local governments, in almost all EU countries address similar problems: how to balance what is needed and what is affordable using the public budget. The question is whether to

* PhD.Petra Maresova. Tel.: +420-49-333-2358 E-mail address: petra.maresova@uhk.cz

1877-0428 © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of Academic World Research and Education Center. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.04.781

accelerate or, on the contrary, decelerate investments in modernizing the administration, what areas to concentrate on, whether to use shared services and outsourcing or look for new, more innovative ways. One of the possible ways forward is cloud computing. Public institutions including educational institutions are increasingly turning to rapidly evolving technologies and cloud computing to satisfy their objectives and take advantage of new opportunities for cost savings, flexibility, and always-available service among others (Erben, 2012).

The research company Forrester (2011) widens the above mentioned definition to also include IT tools on the supply side and self-service principles on the demand side. Cloud Computing is in fact a set of standardized IT capacities (services, software solutions or infrastructure) accessible via the Internet through self-service principles. Within the field of cloud computing there can be distinguished two types of service models: public and private. Service model is a way of providing cloud computing services to the end user. Many an author, for instance (Linthicum, 2009; Mell, Grance, 2009; Sarna, 2010) agrees to it. The basic characteristic of public cloud is cloud computing infrastructure accessibility to individual users or companies. The service provider must be an external entity. The same applies to the data center from which the service is accessible (Mell, Grance, 2009). In relation to this model the so-called Virtual Private Cloud is sometimes mentioned. It is a solution that enables any organization to create a group of separate ICT tools in public space. Private Cloud is every model which makes services accessible to the only entity. The whole infrastructure can be administered by a third party or the given organization. On the other hand, Armbrust (2009) can see the essence of the private solution in internal data centers, which make their services accessible exclusively to their own organization, not to the public or to other entities. Cloud platforms have been categorized into three main groups according to the type of provided services: infrastructure, platform, and service. IaaS uses virtualization technology to allow several virtual systems (referred to as virtual machines) to operate on top of a single physical hardware infrastructure in an isolated manner. The key software module in virtualization is the hypervisor that manages and organizes the virtual resources on the physical hardware (memory, processors, storage). In this category, cloud providers can deliver on-demand virtual machines with configurable resources (Kagadis et al., 2012). PaaS includes all the features provided by IaaS, but in this case the user is able to use the provider's system platform. PaaS allows clients to develop their own system using the platform tools, without having to install and maintain these tools themselves. In this category, users obtain access to a specific OS (e.g.,a version of Windows or Linux) and associated tools (e.g.,SQL Server, MySQL, Apache web server, etc.) (Monaco, 2012; Vaquero et al., 2009).Software as a Service (SaaS) - this type of computer cloud eliminates the need to install and run software applications on the client's local computers. With SaaS, cloud providers install, manage, and operate the software application, and the user has neither knowledge nor control of the underlying infrastructure. With this type of cloud service, the end-user has the least flexibility but the cost is dramatically lower (Monaco, 2012; Vaquero et al., 2009; Wang et al., 2010; Unesco Institution, 2010). Examples of this category of cloud computing include GMail, Google Docs or Dropbox.

In September 2012, the European Commission adopted a strategy for Unleashing the Potential of Cloud Computing in Europe, which lists measures aimed at accelerating and strengthening the use of cloud computing in all sectors of the national economy. Among the key measures belong the following (EC, 2012):

• radical cutting through the jungle of technical norms and standards;

• support to systems of certification of trustworthy cloud computing providers applicable to the whole of the EU;

• preparing samples of safe and just contract conditions for customers in the field of cloud computing, including

service provision contracts;

• the European Cloud Partnership (ECP) with the member states and the sector, whose aim is to use the public

sector's purchasing power.

The adoption rate of server virtualization and cloud services has reached a significant level across Europe (around 30 per cent). Nevertheless, almost 40 per cent of respondents have no clear plan for virtualization deployment in the field of servers and data storage sites or cloud services.

The aim of this contribution is to specify the situation concerning cloud computing deployment in the EU countries' public sectors and public institutions. Significant part of the contribution is made up of a case study describing cloud computing deployment in a chosen public sector institution, namely a secondary school.

2. Methodology

The used research methods include document analysis focusing on cloud computing in the public sector. Furthermore, data from the Eurostat database will be used for comparing the eGovernment situation in the EU countries. Last but not least, a case study of cloud computing deployment in a chosen public sector institution, a high school, will be described. The data for the case study was collected during an in-depth interview with a representative of the school.

3. Cloud computing in the EU Countries' Public Administration and educational institutions

The use of cloud computing in the sectors is not analyzed by statistical office as Eurostat. Overview is provided for example by study from Gartner. This study describes use in the public sector and in education. The results of a survey that have been completed in 2009 by Gartner analysts (Figure 1) about the IT trends (especially cloud computing) show that it is being used more in the areas of finance and business when compared to other sectors.

Figure 1. Cloud usage (source: Gartner, 2009)

The use of cloud computing in public sector on the European level is one of the objectives of the strategic document Digital Agenda for Europe (A Europe 2020 Initiative), specifically the 7th pillar - ICT-enabled benefits for EU society (EC, 2012). Graph 2 depicts the level of utilizing eGovernment in individual European countries. These services are used most in Denmark, Great Britain and Sweden, where electronic public services are used by about 60% of citizens. The Czech Republic is with 43% slightly below the EU average. According to the eGovernment Benchmark 2012 survey almost half of the EU citizens (46%) use the Internet to approach public services (EC, 2012). Despite that, the satisfaction with electronic public services is perceptibly lower than that with online banking or online shopping.

Cyprus Germany Hungary Croatia Slovakia Latvia Belgium Switzerland Italy Lithuania Slovenia France Turkey Portugal Norway Sweden Denmark

— 34°% " 35% 36% 37% ^^ 38% 40%

^^^ 41%

42% 42% 43% 45% 45% 45% 46% 47% 48%

^^^^^^ 49% ^^^^^^ 49%

49% 50% 50% 50% 52% 54% 54% 54% 56% 59% 60% 60% 64%

Figure 2. Use of eGovernment - average percentage of users, (source: European Commision)

Educational intuitions throughout the World have become highly dependent on information technology to service their business requirements. Procuring and maintaining a wide range of hardware and software require substantial, ongoing investment and the skills to support them. The economies of scale and other features of cloud computing are likely to mean an increasing shift away from institutionally-hosted services. These services are increasingly provided using Internet technologies to staff and students and accessed from web browsers. The services are offered cheaply or freely to education with much higher availability than can be provided by the educational institution. The study below describes benefits and barriers of cloud computing adoption in secondary school.

4. Case Study - Cloud Computing in a Chosen Public Sector Subject

In order to illustrate the utilisation of cloud computing in the public sector, an in-depth interview was conducted with a secondary school's IT administrator.

4.1. Profile of the School

The chosen subject is a secondary school. Its official name is Stredni skola a materska skola, o.p.s. Litomerice. It consists of a kindergarten for 40 pre-school children and a secondary school, where students can study at a grammar school (an academically oriented secondary school) or several vocational education courses including those for beauticians, hairdressers, cabinetmakers, shopfitters, graphical designers. There is also an academy of the third age and a university of the third age. The school uses three buildings and employs more than 30 people. The information for the case study was provided by the school's (organization's) IT administrator of the school, Ing. Karel Klatovsky.

4.2. Reasons for Implementing Cloud Technology

The main motivations were cost and human resources savings in relation to streamlined administration. As the organization uses three separate buildings several kilometres from one another, it is necessary to connect them in a simple way. Previous IT solution did not solve difficult data synchronization among the three buildings. The organization considered whether to implement a stand-alone cloud solution to be able to implement such a solution only for data storage and data backup. Nevertheless, it was also necessary to address e-mail accounts, document sharing and register system. The organization used all these services before but they did not want to administer them on their own any more.

4.3. Technical parameters

It was not necessary to implement any new hardware. The original IT situation in the organization is described in Table 1.

Table 1 - Present IT situation in the organization; source: the authors

Hardware

Physically

Physical servers

backup

UPS, cooling

structured cabling

networking components

Software:

Database Office packages

4GB each

4 cores, 2GHz 2x500GB each 2TB

400W 100Mbit

Switches, routers, WIFI AP

Windows SQL

Microsoft Office

The organization uses the Microsoft Office 365 service, particularly for electronic mail and data storage purposes (teachers share files with students and vice versa). This service is for educational institutions free of charge. It is used by about 300 people in this organization. Furthermore, the register system is used as a cloud service. It is the system called iSkola, provided by the company Computer Mania. There is an annual fee for this service, which is counted based on the number of students. The organization's employees use this system to record attendance, marks and apologies from classes, as well as to print report cards and so on.

In 2010, the organization considered the transition to cloud services and the following year it implemented them. "After three years of using Microsoft Office 365 we witness an improvement of these services thanks to Microsoft's effort to keep the competition (e.g. Google Apps) at bay. Presently, the service offers more opportunities than ever before", says the organization's IT administrator.

The costs of change management were zero, there was no need to invest in it save human resources as two employees had to put the transition into practice and train the other employees.

4.4. Implementation

It was the organization's IT administrator who implemented the new system. The licence for the iSkoda register system was bought, the online environment was put into operation and data from the Bakalari system was transferred here. For six months both the systems were in operation in order to make the transition process smooth and to ensure the data backup for the organization. The transition to Microsoft Office 365 was faster. The preparation for the transition, training of the employees, data migration, all these things took only about two months. The data migration itself took only two days and went smoothly.

4.5. Impacts on Employees

Cloud service implementation had impact on all employees as all of them use e-mail addresses and record information in the register system (attendance, etc.). Students have e-mail accounts, too. The IT administrator provided five afternoon training courses. Further training was planned for any occasion when Microsoft would update any service or issue a new one within Microsoft Office 365. The employees welcomed cloud services as they had had problems with data synchronization among the three buildings. Currently, they can record anything and have access to their e-mails from anywhere (including their homes), which saves time. So far, nobody has had any problems with the new services.

4.6. Benefits

The employees singled out as the main benefit the fact that cloud services are time-saving. The teachers spare much time as they can work from anywhere and IT administrators can do other things as the system administration is easier and it is not necessary to take care of backups and configurations. A lot of routine activities are no longer needed. The number of IT employees was reduced from four to only two.

The lower number of employees brought about financial savings. The organization saved money on the register system, too. The iSkola cloud service is cheaper than the previous system Bakalari. As the organization uses the Microsoft Office 365 service free of charge and the e-mail communication was done from the employees' private accounts, users benefit from document sharing and the possibility to backup school materials. Therefore, it was not necessary to acquire a backup server and pay various licences related to the infrastructure.

Cloud services brought a lot of new opportunities for users and solved the problem with data synchronization among the three buildings.

4.7. Barriers and Drawbacks

The school's principal did not trust cloud services as the data should be stored in somebody else's servers. Having taken into account all pros and cons, the organization came to a conclusion that by transition to the cloud the safety would rather improve as the employees used to send even some register data via their private e-mails and used e-mail account belonging to various providers. Data therefore went through a lot of servers.

The IT administrator stated that "the Czech legislation used to forbid storing data outside the Czech Republic. This legal provision has been changed. Currently, the data cannot be stored outside the EU. As Microsoft has its data centres in Amsterdam and Dublin, this condition is met."

The only drawback is the fact Internet connection is necessary. If it fails, it is impossible to record attendance and marks, to access e-mail, or anything else. This problem happens about three times a year and lasts up to several dozen minutes, which is tolerable.

4.8. Final Evaluation

The organization started to use the cloud service Microsoft Office 365 for educational organizations as it had cooperated with Microsoft for a long time. This service has been provided free of charge. The school management was informed about this opportunity by the school's IT administrator. The main motivation for its implementation

were cost and human resource savings in relation to streamlining e-mail account administration, document sharing and register systems. The cloud service has brought about the overall improvement of IT, in particular it streamlined the interconnection of the organization's buildings and simplified data synchronization among them.

The main benefit is saving the employees' time thanks to the fact that it is possible to work from anywhere and IT administrators' time due to the simplified system administration. Other benefits are new possibilities and savings of financial resources caused by lowering the number of employees and by the change of both the register system (the current one is cheaper than the previous one) and the e-mail communication, whose operation is free of charge. Moreover, it was not necessary to invest into new hardware. The most significant concern linked to cloud computing implementation was about storing data in somebody else's servers. It was nonetheless found out that the new solution would be safer than the previous one. The only perceived disadvantage is the dependence on Internet connection.

5. Discussion

From the points of advantages provided by cloud, there is a great advantage for educational a public institutions staff to take them away the responsibility of the maintenance. Cloud provides instant global platforms, elimination of HW/SW capacities and licenses, reduced cost, simplified scalability. Adopting cloud network redundancy eliminates disaster recovery risks and its high costs. There can always be new tools and applications to improve IT features. There are of course some disadvantages too. There are still problems and constraints with application offerings, service-level agreements, more importantly security issues. All of the cloud providers do not have the same capability for their technological levels (Ercan, 2010). The case study about cloud computing utilisation in education shows possibilities of time and financial savings and improvements in employees' as well as students' flexibility. After overcoming the initial barriers and concerns about data safety, Internet connection failures, and data migration, the new technology brings about a lot of benefits.

6. Conclusion

Since 2009, cloud computing technology has been getting to the foreground. A rapid growth in its utilisation is expected from 2014 onwards. The European Union supports this technology by means of a strategy aiming to encourage the use of cloud computing and create unified rules for its utilisation by European companies. Cloud computing utilisation may help create a competitive advantage. Cloud computing adoption by public institutions must be supported by certain measures (Cattaneo, 2012). Among others, it is necessary to:

• define clear rules concerning the service provider's responsibilities,

• ensure data transferability among cloud service providers,

• have reliable and fast Internet connection,

• ensure safety certification on the EU level.

Acknowledgments

This paper is published thanks to the support of the internal projects of University of Hradec Kralove: Economic and Managerial Aspects of Processes in Biomedicine and thanks to the support of the internal projects (MSMT no. 2111/2014) Efficiency in enterprise and consumer business relationship.

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