Risk #3: Insider threat
Most data breaches are the result of an internal user (i.e. student, faculty, etc.) with access to sensitive information who unwittingly acts as an accomplice or an enabler to an external threat.

Benefits and opportunities

Once we clear the hurdle of dispelling myths and addressing the potential risks, we dive into the benefits and return on investment (ROI) of transitioning an on-premise solution to the cloud. These will vary by university because it depends on the current systems and security policies already in place as well as the size of the school. However, the following are areas where a university can expect a high return:

Cost savings
Not only do you eliminate the cost of infrastructure, software, and space, but the cloud also reduces the need to hire additional employees to manage an on-premise solution. Software upgrades and ongoing maintenance, which can feasibly take one full-time staff equivalent, are also outsourced in the cloud.

Increased focus
Improve service levels across the campus community by focusing IT resources on student- and staff-facing applications such as Campus Portal and web-access programs, and improving operations.

Improved visibility
Transitioning to the cloud often results in improved reporting and visibility into how the solution is being used. This can help IT departments stay current on identity practices, such as who uses identity services, which departments are most frequently changing passwords, and other access patterns.

Service providers are contractually bound to deliver specific results at a specified cost each month or face financial penalties, whereas internal IT departments can be distracted by competing internal projects and unforeseen issues.

Increased visibility and intelligence

Service providers can generally extract greater value from a solution due to their familiarity with the technology and motivation to increase client satisfaction levels. For example, offering detailed and targeted reports uncovers potential bottlenecks in a particular process that can be resolved with an identity management practice.

Gartner predicts a 20 percent CAGR (compound annual growth rate) increase in cloud services through 2014. That represents significant growth but it also indicates that many are still avoiding the cloud for one reason or another.  This year, we need to chart a better course so the path to the cloud is well understood and easy to manage. The potential benefits to every university are simply too abundant to ignore.

Andrew Sroka is president and CEO of Fischer International, which helps organizations of all sizes choose identity management solutions.

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