Migrating to the cloud

IT systems have grown and new ways to exploit them (for good and bad) are being discovered all the time, so in this article we set out some of the main areas to consider when reviewing your school’s IT security. Although it might feel like a daunting task moving your school’s IT to the cloud, it can bring a wide range of benefits and rewards; and it definitely doesn’t need to be a headache. Furthermore, what classroom devices are schools using to get the most out of their cloud environment? What considerations are there from a security perspective to make sure your staff and pupils are protected?


There is a lot to consider when moving services to the cloud. Moving what you have in place currently in terms of server infrastructure is likely not to be the best option; this would simply be replacing school server hardware with Microsoft, Amazon (or any equivalent platform) and it can lead to expensive ongoing cloud subscriptions.

Instead, it is best to review each of the services that are used onsite and evaluating what the best option is. Most modern applications have a cloud offering; this will take the headache of managing the server infrastructure away from the school and put the onus on suppliers to ensure services are appropriately backed up, secured and accessible from anywhere.

With the remaining services that still require a server, if you are going to put them into a cloud platform it is worth considering the following:

  • Connection – how are you going to connect to cloud apps? Are you going to use a VPN dedicated connection such as Azure ExpressRoute or implement a remote access/virtual desktop solution?
  • Backups – how are you going to protect the school against data loss or malicious attack?
  • Consolidation – how can you reduce the existing footprint in order to turn it into a more cost-effective cloud deployment?
  • Security – how are you going to secure your new cloud environment that is accessible from anywhere with an internet connection?
  • Management – what tools are you going to use to ensure your new cloud environment is kept up to date and maintained?

Staff and pupil devices

There is a huge variety of classroom devices on offer nowadays, so how do you pick the right one for your school? Unfortunately there is no right answer to this, it’s about what works best for the users themselves and how well it integrates with your existing environment.

For example, some Microsoft schools have had great success with Surface Pros for staff and Surface Gos for pupils, other schools with Google G Suite using Chromebooks as a great inexpensive solution.

Most vendors will offer trial units, so select a few that you like the look of, try them in a classroom environment and get some feedback from the people who will actually be using them on a day-to-day basis.

Some popular options include:

  • Surface Go/Surface Pro
  • Chromebooks
  • iPads
  • Windows laptops or tablets

Most suppliers will offer competitive discounts for schools and flexible payment terms such as monthly payments with low or no interest.

Security considerations

Modern ways of working mean that your school network perimeter is expanding; staff and pupils must be protected when they are at school, but also, when accessing school systems remotely, so making use of technologies such as a cloud-based firewall and web filtering, means staff and pupils remain protected regardless of where they are accessing school systems.

In order to ensure systems are adequately protected in a heavily targeted industry, schools should review:

  • Backup – it is not common knowledge but most cloud platforms such as 365 state that the platform is their responsibility, the data is yours. It is vital to have a reliable comprehensive backup solution in place, to ensure you can get your data back should you need to.
  • Anti-virus – cloud managed anti-virus solutions can protect the staff and pupils regardless of location and will automatically update to protect against the latest threats.
  • User and device management – enforcing school policy on devices and user accounts is a must, to ensure that staff and pupils have a secure platform to work from.
  • Email and web protection – these are the most common attack vectors for malicious content; so having a layer of protection that sits between the world and your IT users is vital.
  • Safeguarding – cloud-based safeguarding solutions mean that pupils can be protected, regardless of location, while they are using school devices. It is essential for these solutions to be easy to manage and to produce meaningful feedback for the safeguarding team.
  • End user training – most phishing/man in the middle attacks could have been avoided with some staff training, there are certain red flags to spot on emails and websites to raise suspicion, are you confident all of your staff could spot these?
  • Security bolt-on – services such as 365 have a huge variety of security bolt-on subscriptions. These keep your data safe on a platform accessible from anywhere in the world. It is worth reviewing these with your IT partner.
  • Vulnerability scanning – real-time vulnerability scanning can search the devices on the network for potential security gaps for the IT team to remediate.
  • Cyber Essentials Certification – application for certification as a great exercise to undertake to ensure you have the processes and procedures in place to secure your school. It also shows key stakeholders that the school takes IT security seriously.


The pandemic forced the education sector to quickly adopt enable remote learning, and so it could be good time now to use the cloud to its full potential, to help create a more efficient organisation and higher quality environment for staff and pupils.

This article originally featured in the Summer 2022 issue of Bursar’s Review which you can view in its original format here: Bursar’s Review – Migrating to the cloud

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