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Management Briefing - Cloud Computing at UNB

Author: ITS

Posted on Nov 8, 2013

Category: Management Briefings

Background Cloud computing refers to software applications and computing services that are hosted outside of UNB, and accessed via the Internet or the national research and education network. People are very familiar with free cloud services like Gmail; one merely fills out a simple form and presto!, an email account, accessible from just about everywhere, is created. This is really the attraction of cloud services—they are available anywhere, anytime (depending on connectivity of course), are easy to manage, and best of all, frequently free of charge. Cloud computing is changing the way IT professionals like your ITS staff approach provision of services; lower costs, ubiquitous availability, and ease of management (i.e. local staff don’t have to worry about upgrades, patches, new versions, etc.—it’s somebody else’s problem), make a very appealing alternative to applications and services maintained locally. It’s also driving increased usage of small formfactor devices like smartphones and tablets, and has vastly accelerated wireless network deployment and usage on all our campuses. Current services and applications UNB has embraced cloud computing, in no small part due to our robust connectivity to the world. Not only do we have high‐speed Internet access, but we also have direct access to the national research and education network that allows us to route traffic directly to key cloud services like Google, Microsoft, and Desire2Learn, among others, providing large bandwidth and speed while freeing up Internet connectivity for other uses. For example, student email is provisioned by Microsoft’s Office365 cloud service. Individual users of Office365 have access to significantly more storage space than UNB can hope to offer, and each account comes with tools like Sharepoint and Lync that target collaboration and communication needs. In the near future, Office365 will be enhanced with the Office suite of productivity applications—Work, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.—free of charge to all UNB students. This is a unique offering in the cloud world because students will be able to actually download the applications directly onto their devices (desktop, laptop, tablet, etc.) with licenses, upgrades, and so on managed by Microsoft. Other examples of cloud services used at UNB include D2L Learning Environment; iCompass (used by the Secretariat for Senate and BOG minutes and agendas); Hobsons’ IntelliWorks (a CRM solution used by CEL and the UNBSJ MBA program); Eloqua, used by Advancement Services for tracking and communications; the WebShare library system; and remote AceNet sites, used by some researchers to supplement local computing needs. ITS is your cloud expert While cloud services are appealing and often very cost effective, there are certain issues and risks with them that must be considered before deployment. Some cloud services are hosted outside of Canada, which raises questions around jurisdiction and control over institutional data; privacy concerns are also frequently expressed. While information security and privacy are ultimately the responsibility of all UNB community members, ITS ensures appropriate protection is in place at all times. We expect to be consulted whenever a cloud service or application is being evaluated—we offer a broad perspective on the utility and risks of specific tools and services, and provide practical guidance and even specific contract language around privacy and security of data. Any proposed integrations of cloud services with existing IT software and services must be cleared with ITS before contracts are signed; failure to do so may result in frustrated users and wasted money. Finally, ITS is in the best position to assist faculties and departments in making informed decisions around cloud‐vs.‐local hosting of systems and services. Just ask us!

November 8, 2013. Terry Nikkel, AVP, ITS