Like many other industries, education institutions have significantly ramped up cloud adoption in recent years. For example, Google Classroom gained 40 million users worldwide from 2020 to 2021, bringing its total user base to 150 million. Though cloud-based tools are helping institutions facilitate digital remote learning, institutions may not be getting the full value from their investments by operating with multi-tenant environments.
Multi-tenant scenarios create barriers that prevent seamless connection and collaboration between users, lead to data silos, and can drive up IT spending for institutions. Tech tools are certainly helping the education sector meet demand for modern learning approaches, but multi-tenant approaches might be the barrier hindering institutions from delivering an enhanced experience and inadvertently draining limited technology budgets.
The problem with multi-tenant scenarios
Multi-tenant environments weren’t always considered an issue. In fact, using multiple tenants likely wasn’t a significant problem when systems were first implemented in the education sector. It wasn’t abnormal for individual units within a school network to have their own tenant. Schools would establish one system for students, another for faculty, one for departments, and perhaps a fourth for staff and administrative groups. But separating these groups through a multi-tenant approach introduces more confusion on the front end and behind the scenes.
Today, multi-tenant environments can get in the way of the institution’s collaboration and productivity goals. Institutions that run on multi-tenant environments may also end up with more cloud resources than they need which can impede operations and lead to inefficient spending. Although security concerns remain a top priority for universities, most modern systems give MSPs and IT teams the ability to set and manage permissions with a high degree of customization and control within a single-tenant environment.
Not only do multi-tenant environments impact the user experience, but they also contribute to reduced capacity for IT teams and MSPs. Multi-tenant environments usually create more endpoints and variables for IT staff to handle. Too many variables at play mean that staff must spend more time and effort tracking down users and data or solving issues, which reduces efficiency and drives up cost. In today’s modern learning landscape, schools simply can’t afford not to migrate to a single-tenant scenario.
Driving productivity and value for schools
Considering the challenges that fractured environments pose for schools and universities, migrating to a single tenant approach is a strong antidote. Consolidating tenants is a significant driver of better collaboration and productivity among different schools, departments, faculty, and students. In a single-tenant environment, users can collaborate seamlessly and access the people and information they need to be productive and enables them to leverage their resources more effectively.
- Enhanced communication and collaboration. Operating within a single tenant improves collaboration and communication by allowing professors to set up shared environments for projects, class discussions and data sharing. Communication between students and instructors on a single tenant is often easier, too. Office hours, tutorials, seminars, and labs are quick to set up and manage when each user has the right level of access.
- Improved data management. For users, multi-tenant scenarios can make it challenging to pin down a central login which leads to confusion. On top of that, multiple logins make data storage and organization messy. Users might not be able to locate data or manage how it is stored and shared. With a singular place from which to share and manage files, users will know exactly where to go to find their data.
- Cost savings for institutions. Consolidation also leads to better cost management and seamless engagement between tenants. By migrating to a single-tenant environment, schools and universities can eliminate duplicative or underutilized systems and cut down on legwork that their IT staff needs to do to keep things running smoothly–bringing down their overall IT spend.
Best practices for migrating to single tenant
Migrations are a high-stakes endeavor and proper planning, knowledge, and teamwork are required. IT teams and MSPs supporting schools with migrations to single-tenant operations will want to be mindful of several best practices when it comes to migrating to a single-tenant environment. A good place to start is to develop a checklist of tasks to execute when merging or consolidating clients to ensure the project goes off without a hitch.
As part of the planning phase, tech support staff should take stock of how many users they need to migrate, if the school needs to accommodate remote students or instructors, whether the school’s the domain name will change, which data needs to migrate and if any should be archived. Each of these factors will play into the overall timeline and schedule for the migration.
Another important task is to confirm if licenses are correctly accounted for and if applications are deployed to end users the right way. This can prevent schools from paying for applications and software that they don’t use often or at all.
People and culture are just as important as the actual migration, so aim to create a foundation for success with people in mind. I recommend getting superintendent, school board or board-level buy-in for how you will go about the migration. Since the overall success of the migration hinges on building skills and capabilities, consider implementing a training plan to help users get familiar with any new processes and capabilities you’ll be rolling out.
Consider the right timing for a migration
With a lot riding on the success of a migration, determining the best time to execute IT housekeeping and tenant consolidation is essential. Organizations need to evaluate their schedules and identify when a technology overhaul is appropriate for their faculty and students.
Migrations are easiest to facilitate when there is ample down time, so the process won’t be rushed. In addition, the reduced user demand will prevent a major disruption during the migration process. Long breaks such as end-of-year holidays or the summer months are probably the best choice. Either way, making the transition sooner rather than later will ensure universities can reap the benefits of a consolidated tech environment as quickly as possible.
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