Using the cloud to deliver reliable IT services

How have you financed your technology initiatives?

We take advantage of several tools. For large and recurring purchases such as network and computer refreshes, we use leasing, which distributes our costs—allowing for a consistent cost from year to year, which also alleviates the hard capital impact that such purchases typically represent.

For one-off purchases, we use capital funds provided via the IT operating budget and occasionally the college capital funding reserve. This is typically for large, one-time purchases that have a broad community impact. The college also four years ago implemented a technology fee that all students are required to pay.

In addition, the college limits the number of vendors we procure products and services through in order to have broader impact with those vendors. We have found a much better economy of scale and applicability with this model over the Band-Aid approach of fixing a localized problem with a narrowly focused solution.

What ed-tech projects are you most proud of, and why?

We are most proud of the various cloud initiatives, because of the tremendous positive impact they have had on the college. In a little more than two years, we have deployed 13 cloud-based projects that have improved service, lowered costs, and allowed the existing IT staff to work on new innovative projects that hold real potential.

Our first project resulting from our cloud initiatives is a new alumni networking service that will help our alums for professional and personal reasons. In the next few months, we will be deploying a native iPhone, iPad, Android, and web portal for our alums that will enable interaction between LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and our own alumni directory and ERP information. The design was completely in-house.

The interface is incredibly intuitive, and the system takes your input and matches you to other alums by location, interests, major, year, and career, among other factors. For instance, you could ask the system to match you with alums who graduated in 2005, were on the soccer team, live in Portland, love hiking and watching Pixar films, who are looking for work as bookkeepers—and it would be able to do that.

Best of all, it allows the alums to reconnect with each other directly. We believe the application will generate or rekindle numerous relationships, which in turn will flow into renewed and stronger affinity for their alma mater.

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