Increased Cloud Adoption Rates in Higher Ed: 4 Key Drivers

COVID-19 has accelerated digital trends and digital transformation across industries and around the globe. Nowhere is that more true than in higher education, which has adopted remote and hybrid (campus plus digital) learning models built atop the cloud.

Even before the pandemic began, the growth of cloud spending in higher ed was expected to be 25% per year, as both student-facing and administrative functions were in the midst of digital transformation. The pandemic has only accelerated cloud adoption in higher ed

As a recent EdScoop article explained, “the current growth rate [of cloud adoption] will continue accelerating, with those figures doubling for large institutions and tripling for small and medium schools by 2024.” That’s a LOT of cloud growth in a very short time. 

4 Key Drivers of the Higher Ed Cloud

What are the main drivers of cloud growth in higher ed? We know the cloud is scalable, flexible, and pay-as-you-go, which are massive advantages over expensive, on-premises IT infrastructures that require large in-house IT teams to manage. Here are four key drivers of higher ed cloud adoption:

1. A transformed learning experience

Remote learning was a growing trend before 2020 began, but has only accelerated since the COVID-19 pandemic. With the cloud as its supportive infrastructure, remote learning has allowed students to access education no matter where they are in the world. For educational institutions, remote learning has not only enabled operational continuity during a pandemic, but has also allowed them to find new students who might not have otherwise been able to access traditional “campus-only” education.

As hybrid education emerges, the cloud will continue to be its supportive infrastructure. As cloud expert and LSU Adjunct Professor David Linthicum writes in InfoWorld: “The assumption is that many students will choose to return to a traditional classroom and dorm room [post-pandemic], but many others will stick with remote learning because it is not only safer, but costs less, provides more choices, and offers a better student experience.” The cloud’s “pay-for-use” approach also enables learning models to be deployed in scalable, cost-efficient ways.

2. The need to turn data into actionable insights 

Higher education, like every other industry, has witnessed an explosion in the amount of data collected as well as increased reliance on data analytics to inform decision-making. For instance, many institutions are using student engagement data to better design and deliver online classes. 

Higher education, almost by definition, is an evidence-based effort, and the cloud enables the collection, storage, and use of aggregated data to fulfill that educational mission. Maryville University in St. Louis (MO), for example, transforms its student data into insights that drive better student outcomes and higher student retention rates, a win-win.

3. The need to power academic research

Research, especially in the sciences and medicine, requires a tremendous amount of data and data analysis. The cloud is revolutionizing research by enabling unprecedented volumes of data to be collected, stored, and analyzed.

Researchers at UC San Diego, for instance, are using the cloud to analyze pneumonia cases, connecting to a clinical imaging system, analyzing the received images in 3-4 minutes, and then returning the analysis to the patients’ files for follow-up care. Because the UC San Diego research team had already created HIPAA-compliant environments on the cloud, it could launch the project in just 10 days. 

4. The need for data and systems security

The cloud supports tools and apps that drive enhanced security for data and systems, something that’s becoming more important over time. No institution wants its data or systems hacked or held for ransom: the cloud provides institutions with the ability to secure and maintain operational continuity despite emergent disruption risks like ransomware. 

Cloud adoption is fast becoming mission-critical and a key brand differentiator in higher ed as learning moves to remote and hybrid models, and away from the traditional on-campus experience. As cloud expert and educator David Linthicum puts it, “in five years many colleges and universities will go under—not from a lack of students but from not leveraging technology effectively soon enough.”

Intricately can see the adoption, usage and spend rates of higher ed institutions that are rapidly growing their cloud infrastructure to keep up with the trends in accessible education.

Queens College

  • Estimated monthly cloud spend: $3M
  • Cloud hosting providers: Digital Ocean, Acquia, and 9 others...
  • Number of CDN providers: 3

View Queens College's complete cloud footprint in Intricately.

University of Toronto

  • Estimated monthly cloud spend: $1M
  • Cloud hosting providers: Pantheon Platform, GCP, and 13 others...
  • Number of CDN providers: 5

View University of Toronto's complete cloud footprint in Intricately.

University of Queensland

Located in: Queensland, Australia

  • Estimated monthly cloud spend: $1M
  • Cloud hosting providers: Amazon EC2, Oracle, and 14 others...
  • Number of CDN providers: 5

View University of Queensland's cloud footprint in Intricately.

Cloud providers have a lot to gain from this growing market. Generate more revenue with a full view of the global cloud spend in higher education with Intricately.

This higher ed deep dive is just one of the many views of cloud product adoption, usage, and spend data that marketing and sales teams can make actionable with Intricately.

Intricately's Global Sensor Network actively monitors the adoption, usage, and spend of 23,000 distinct cloud products and analyzes the digital infrastructure of more than 7 million companies worldwide. We collect specifics on every product, from cloud hosting and data centers, to traffic management and app development – and much more. 

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