Every day’s a school day: the SAM challenges and opportunities of cloud computing in education

24 March 2021

Sean Robinson


One year and three lockdowns later, schools, colleges and universities have had to embrace online learning. With 1.5 billion students around the world forced out of classrooms, adopting cloud technology has enabled educational institutions to continue to deliver lessons, set and mark assignments, as well as share educational resources.

Now that in the UK, schools have largely reopened again for the majority of pupils, what role will cloud technology play in the future of education? The pandemic certainly brought to everyone’s attention the digital options available to support learning, and one of the strongest themes emerging is that cloud technology is making quality education available to more people.

At License Dashboard we work with a number of educational institutions, many of whom have been moving to the cloud in recent months and years. We see the value that the shift to cloud computing has, but with these benefits come challenges from a software asset management, and therefore a security perspective, and it’s imperative that those adopting, and moving towards this technology, understand how to use it safely and securely.

What’s the relationship between software asset management and cybersecurity?

Software asset management tools provide you with a complete view of your IT estate, including all software licences and deployments, meaning IT teams can make sure all products are up to date and patches have been installed, as well as ensuring that any vulnerabilities which could affect their business have been removed.

It’s also about being aware of how this software is being used. User activity is key when mitigating risk. When you have hundreds, if not thousands of student and faculty, accessing software on different devices, in different locations, this kind of insight is invaluable.

The benefits of cloud for educational institutions

The move to cloud computing for educational institutions may have been born out of necessity, but it’s the operational, collaborative and cost-saving benefits that will be behind the long-term shift to this new way of working.

To ease the transition, vendors have adapted their software to ensure institutions can continue to work during this pandemic. Most suppliers have changed their policies, temporarily, to permit home use and this has enabled students and staff to continue with business as usual.

As well as the operational advantages, there may be financial gains too. Due to the majority of budgets being frozen and with reduced data storage costs and less budget being allocated to replacing physical hardware, schools and universities could be financially rewarded for embracing cloud computing. It may also relieve pressure on students (and their parents), as cloud-based applications run on browsers mean there is little need to pay out for specific devices that are compatible.

This in itself will be key to removing barriers to education. Institutions are under constant pressure to become more inclusive, and a cloud-based system not only eases financial strain, it’s a more accessible form of education for those individuals not always physically able to get to class, whether that be through disability, mental health issues, or problems at home.

Being aware of security challenges the sector could face

However, while the cloud is proving to be an effective way for students, teachers, and parents to access critical information, regardless of their location, this very factor is what poses complex security challenges. With thousands of pupils and teachers accessing files and software from multiple locations, networks and devices, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for IT teams to maintain visibility.

This is where the IT department needs to collaborate with software asset management specialists. Software asset management (SAM) is the practice of overseeing every aspect of software management, from usage to deployment, to documentation. SAM tools exist to provide a full view of your entire IT estate, showing you where, when, and how, students and staff members are using popular cloud tools, so you can identify risks and protect against them accordingly.

When lockdown first forced schools to close, the priority was very much on ensuring a pupil’s ability to work effectively from home, but as cloud-computing becomes more prevalent, the emphasis needs to be on security and privacy.

We believe this shift will continue to transform both remote learning, and education as a whole, long after the pandemic has finished, but to do so, cloud management must be handled correctly.

For more information on managing your cloud computing, speak to us.

Sean is a pioneer of SAM with over 20 years’ experience in software licensing compliance. He developed our industry leading, software asset and license management tool, License Manager, delivering SAM services to some of the largest companies in the world.

Sean Robinson

Further reading