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EDUCAUSE Conference 2010, Anaheim

November 11, 2011

Of all the presentations and seminars I attended during the conference, the most thought provoking ones were on cloud computing. The first was Identity and the Cloud: Preparing Your Campus. The second was Cloud Computing Contract Issues.

In Identity and the Cloud we considered the merits of InCommon , an initiative for federated online access to protected resources. InCommon institutions follow a common framework and use shared core attributes whilst retaining their own, unique infrastructures.

One of the benefits of this method is that institutions retain and control all data; another is that suppliers and other external parties do not require access to personal details and passwords because students’ details are provided as attributes.

With five million end users and an impressive number of commercial suppliers acting as sponsored partners, this is a success story we could learn from in the UK.  

 The second session I attended was on contract issues. It was facilitated by Thomas Trappler, the author of the excellent resource, If It’s in the Cloud, Get It on Paper: Cloud Computing Contract Issues (Educause Quarterly magazine, Volume 33, No.2, freely available online).

An international audience discussed a variety of topics including institutional commitments to vendors, non– performance clauses and setting parameters for planned downtime.

 For me, the three main take home messages were: get input from as many people as you can (such as your legal team, registry, procurement, other business functions); assume that the contract will end in a few of years (and therefore ensure that you can bring services back in house or migrate easily to another provider); and lastly, protect your institution against unauthorised further subcontracting by vendors of cloud services.

Cloud computing is certainly a hot topic at the moment with many institutions moving their email provision to Microsoft or Google and with talk of a higher education cloud. The CISG Committee are planning a workshop to discuss issues around cloud provision with the aim of producing a briefing paper for the community. Also the Infrastructure and Networking Groups are running a seminar on Cloud Computing in Loughborough on 16 February 2011.

 – This article first appeared in the UCISA Update newsletter (November 2010).

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