Upgraded IT servers

There are significant benefits of moving from physical servers to cloud computing services

30 points for this action

Overview

Benefits of moving from physical servers to cloud computing services

The cloud describes systems or services that are hosted and managed online, rather than locally in the school building. 

Benefits for schools

Economy - saving money

Moving to cloud-based services can reduce costs by:

  • saving money on the energy required to run and cool on-site servers. A server which uses 500W of energy per hour consumes about £600 of electricity each year. 
  • reducing licence costs – leading technology providers offer free-to-use cloud services, including communication tools and core office applications
  • using cloud only user devices – cost effective and reliable devices, designed to link directly to cloud applications, are widely available and usually cheaper than the systems they replace
  • using pay as you go services – some cloud-based services are charged on a pay as you go basis

Efficiency – saving teachers’ time

Moving to cloud-based services can:

  • give staff the flexibility to access services from wherever they are, using the devices that are most convenient for them
  • support collaboration by helping staff to easily share and co-author documents, files, lesson content and plans – reducing duplication of effort
  • make it easier for teachers and pupils to research, analyse and use new curriculum resources
  • reduce the time it takes to access data and applications anywhere, due to faster log in times

Effectiveness – what you can do

Moving to cloud-based services can make it easier to access applications and content, wherever there is an internet connection:

  • reducing the workload of local technical support teams, as applications can be automatically updated and managed
  • mitigating the risk of files and data being lost

It could also support flexible working as you can access data remotely at any time.

Recommendations for reducing energy use by physical servers if these are still in use at your school

  1. Replacing the servers with more modern and efficient versions: a server which uses 500W per hour consumes about £600 of electricity per year.  Replacing it with a new more modern energy efficient server consuming 250W per hour would save £300 per year, and considering a new server is likely to cost £500 to £700 per year, then it is possible to get a return on your investment within two or three years.
  2. Server consolidation: some schools have multiple servers which independently service authentication, file systems, printers and remote hosting. It is possible with the power of today’s computers that all these functions could be consolidated onto one server.
  3. Putting servers into standby out of school hours: it is possible, in most circumstances, to configure servers to go into standby mode when not in use, particularly out of school hours e.g. between 22:00 to 06:00 on school days. The server could then be configured to automatically wake up at set times or to wake up when clients log in (WOL - Wakeup on LAN.) To accommodate this change, backup schedules could be switched to faster incremental backups and organised to run round outside periods.
  4. Admin servers: some primary schools have an admin server which supports admin staff and can provide Local Authority and regulatory services. If such a server is still used in your school, you could approach your Local Authority about making use of cloud technology.
  5. Network consolidation: many schools are in the process of switching from desktops that have direct Ethernet connections to the school’s network to laptops and wireless connections, reducing the need for network switches.

Reducing energy use associated with cooling server rooms

  1. Make sure the server room is not too cool: to save energy, you want to minimise the cooling in the server room. Unfortunately, if the servers get too hot, their reliability reduces but you can over-cool servers. Hard disk drives, for example, become less reliable the cooler they are. The optimum inlet temperature for servers is 24C to 27C so you could run the server room as high as 27C without significantly impacting the servers’ reliability. 
  2. Optimising cooling airflow: ideally, you want the cold air from the air conditioner dropping down into the intake of the server and the warm air from the outtake rising back to the extract of the air conditioner to avoid mixing with the cold air. This may require the server cabinet to be turned through 180 degrees. If it is oriented the wrong way, then you are mixing warm air with cool air before feeding it into the servers which is not very efficient.