Brockenhurst College – Cloud Student Relationship
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.