Cloud Wars

Two Titans, Microsoft and Google, are poised for battle…what cloud solution is your school or district going to? Notice I didn’t ask “if”. According to the COSN Horizon Report, Cloud Computing is the main technology to enter schools in the next year. This makes sense due to the win-win nature of the cloud including: lower costs, easier administration, online collaboration, less client-based software, etc. I’ll mention lower costs again because all the other features are great but cost savings is really what is driving this innovation.

Office 365
Microsoft made compelling arguments at the recent COSN 2011 annual conference. In short, their Office 365 solution will offer enterprise level, cloud-based solutions for the education market. Different levels of products are available from email and online storage (free) to the full Office Suite including web apps version. Pricing is per seat and depends upon your contract. At first glance the prices seem quite reasonable and you will definitely save money by not running your own Exchange server.

Many people are confused with the Microsoft solution. Is it Live@Edu or Office 365? It is definitely changing to Office 365 for enterprise level apps for schools and districts. I’m not sure if Live@Edu will stick around for individual students who want to move their college work to the cloud but for your school…it’s Office 365.

Google Docs
Google, by most accounts, is ahead of the game in the educational market. Their wildly popular Google Apps has been on the scene for years. Of course the huge selling point is…it’s free! I’m sure you are familiar with the benefits of Google Apps including super easy online collaboration. However, the biggest complaint I hear is the lack of a client-based app. Of course I think, “This is the whole point of moving to the cloud!” Regardless, teachers like to open a program and type without fear of losing internet connection.

A hybrid solution uses Google Cloud Connect to connect and sync Microsoft Office documents to your Google Apps. It works great. Open a Word document and it is automatically synced to your Google Apps account. The document can be shared by multiple people all within Microsoft Office. Using this scenario in a district you will still keep your Office licenses and install the client software on machines. You also move your district to Google Apps and sync the two. If your teachers would revolt going entirely to the cloud via Google Apps, do some CBA to determine if a hybrid (Microsoft Office Client – Google Cloud Connect – Google Apps) or Office 365 solution would work best for you.