Cloud, with a chance of savings and 24/7 uptime

In the face of increasing demand for its online services, a Philadelphia college has found improved uptime performance, cost savings—and inexpensive disaster recovery—in the cloud.

A trifecta of needs—cost savings, business continuity, and disaster-recovery—has prompted Peirce College in Philadelphia to migrate much of its infrastructure to the cloud over the past 18 months. The college, which caters primarily to working adult learners, has seen more and more of its students using the school’s online educational services, putting pressure on IT to deliver 24/7 uptime and rapid recovery.

The introduction of Peirce Fit, a flexible study option that allows students to switch between online and on-campus study from week to week, lies behind much of this increase. “If you can take classes at 8 PM on a Wednesday night at home in your sweat pants, you’re going to choose that over being physically in another location at, say, midday during the week,” said Michael Mozeliak, director of IT at Peirce. “Students want to be able to access class whenever and wherever they are. As a result, we’re seeing a little bit more strain on the 24/7 uptime.”

The school also recognized that its infrastructure was dangerously vulnerable in the event of a disaster: The Peirce IT department, which houses the college’s servers, occupies a single building in the center of Philadelphia. “If anything happens to this building, we’re sunk,” said Mozeliak of the situation his team faced prior to the move to the cloud.

A Hurricane Decision

A few years ago, the college did maintain a co-location site in New Jersey to provide redundancy, but it sat only 15 miles from the Philadelphia campus. Hurricane Sandy, which devastated an entire region of New York and New Jersey in 2012, served as a warning that this kind of separation was insufficient. “I think Sandy played a big part in the decision for Peirce to start focusing on disaster recovery more than it had in the past,” said Mozeliak, but he also stressed that co-location sites tend to have their own problems. “A lot of the time, you end up putting yesterday’s technology over there because you don’t have the budget to buy new infrastructure.” This, in turn, can lead to slow performance and other issues.

Now, Peirce has turned to VMware’s vCloud Air Virtual Private Cloud to provide the reliability it needs as well as for disaster recovery. “We’ve been on VMware for nine years, so we’re very familiar with it,” said Mozeliak, noting that he has only a small team to run IT operations on campus. “It’s easy to use. Once the VMware cloud is set up, it requires the same skills we were using in-house to manage the environment on campus.”

(Next page: Uptime part of a much broader cloud plan)

eSchool Media Contributors