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Brockenhurst college
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Brockenhurst college

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  • 1. Brockenhurst College – Cloud Student Relationship Progress In late September 2013, Brockenhurst College took the decision to delay a full transition to a live cloud-based service due to concerns over bandwidth resilience and reliability on the Colleges primary internet connection. Testing of the new cloud-based system proved very successful throughout the summer period when internet usage was light, however once students and staff were using the Colleges internet resources at full capacity in September, it became clear that bandwidth could not be guaranteed to ensure a consistently good resource. With the increase of BYOD (bring your own device) and internet-savvy students who increasingly connect to the Colleges internet, deciding to transition this key business would be putting the support provided to students at risk. Brockenhurst reported that the cloud-based system works very well and the Azure platform is robust and reliable. Unfortunately any cloud-based strategy can only be as strong as the weakest link – in this case the bandwidth on the connection has proved to be the weak link. Future plans The internet connection at Brockenhurst College is currently queued for bandwidth upgrade with Janet, which is scheduled for December 2013. Until the upgrade is in place the access reliability to all internet-based services (including the Microsoft Azure services) cannot be guaranteed. A further decision will be taken once the upgrade has been completed and further testing can be undertaken. The project confirmed that it’s clear that Cloud technologies will form a key part of their technology strategy going forward, as costs can be saved and platforms such as Microsoft Azure are already sufficiently mature to replace traditional on-campus server-based database and application systems. Savings Brockenhurst College estimate that around £10k per annum will be saved from IT expenditure through the deployment of this system in the cloud, money that would otherwise been spent on traditional campus-based IT server infrastructure.
  • 2. In addition, confidence in cloud-based technology has been sufficiently high at the College that a fully cloud-based telephony solution was selected for the WESS head office premises avoiding an estimated £25k of capital expenditure up-front and annual revenue cost avoidance of £5k from reduced call charges and line rentals. While the College-based system at Brockenhurst has historically been reliable, the project found that it struggled under more intense load periods, but not sufficiently to necessitate further additional infrastructure investment. The elastic capacity of the Azure-based system, by which resource capacity can be increased and decreased according to demand at different times of the year, represents a potential useful option for future consideration. Quality improvements Brockenhurst College believe it is clear that the Azure-based service is always available and responds very quickly, so in time will meet the varying demands of the College. One of the main quality improvements from the project that was completed as part of the re-development of the system for in-cloud deployment was a re-write of the import and synchronisation routines that enable the interoperation of this system with the core student records system in the college. These routines were traditionally run overnight and could take as long as two or more hours to complete. The re-write has reduced this to a matter of minutes, which enables the system (both cloud-based and the on-campus versions) to be available almost 24/7 – thereby meeting the needs of those staff and students that increasingly are accessing these services during the overnight period. Student experience Although the full impact on students is not yet clear the testing stage proved that the student portal – used very extensively at key points in the year, including at exam results times, and during enrolment – is likely to be more available and will respond faster from the Azure platform in the cloud than it does at time in the College environment. A range of additional benefits for students, including some interface re-design, navigation simplifications, and improved mobile device rendering, have been implemented as a spin-off of this project and although not directly a consequence of the implementation of the cloud instance of the system they nonetheless have improved the student experience.

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