There are quite of few reasons for moving to a cloud-based “Online Tools Suite” as opposed to using locally installed and maintained applications. Here's three good reasons to move to a cloud-based online tool suite from my perspective since our district moved to Google Apps well-over a year ago.
- Cost savings can be enormous. When a school district moves to the cloud for email alone, there's savings in maintenance and hardware costs for such things as email servers and network infrastructure. Such a move also eliminates the need for maintaining and troubleshooting these services too. With a service like Google Apps, backup of email is also less problematic, and as applications like Google Docs continue to improve, there may be even less need to pay for software licenses for office suites as well, not to mention no need to worry about updates and troubleshooting for these applications.
- Using cloud-based online tool suites allows for more streamlined collaboration and sharing. Online tool suites offer a variety of collaboration tools within their applications and the ability to easily share projects. Our district's use of Google Docs has meant using the online tools to share things like meeting agendas, schedules, and address lists. Also, it has meant being able to collaborate online in the creation of other documents like school improvement plans and handbooks. Sharing documents without attachments has also been greatly simplified. Online tool suites like Google Apps adds an entirely new dimension to collaborating as professionals.
- Online tool suites like Google Apps offer users an increasingly wide variety of tools highly suited for education organizations. Email, Google Talk, Google Sites, among many others that make up the Google Apps suite make communication within and without the organization more seamless. Google calendar with its sharing feature makes scheduling school and district events much easier. Google Docs is perfectly suited for the education organization where collaboration and team work have become even more important. More importantly, as Google refines and introduces more and more apps, our district is in a perfect position to take advantage of them.
I am not necessarily promoting Google Apps over other online tool suites. There are others available such as Zoho and Microsoft Office 365. Since I am most familiar with Google Apps I refer most often to its features, and offer the list of resources about Google Apps below.
Google Apps for Education Web Site
Google Apps for Education Community
Google Apps for Education Training Center
Perhaps others can suggest or express their experiences with other cloud-based online tool suites. How have these solutions worked in your district or organization?
In the 21st century moving to cloud-based online tool suites just makes sense. In the age of declining budgets and limited resources, it is the very thing a 21st century leader will do.