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Server or cloud storage or both?

Should schools buy a server or use cloud storage or should they have a combination of the two? This is a very good question with no exact answers as the decision will be dependent on each school’s needs. However, I will attempt to give some ideas as to what might require a server and what might require a cloud storage.

For those who don’t know what either of these terms mean, here is a very short description.

A server is a very powerful computer that can be used to control all the other computers on the school’s network. It usually sits in a server room and generally nobody touches it except for a visiting technician. A server used to be a must for school until the era of cloud computing as it was the only way that schools could share files across a network. It also allowed the administrator to make changes across every machine on the network from this machine and create policies for logging in and installing software, etc. These days there are smaller sized network boxes called Network Attached Storage (NAS) that simply contain disk space that can be used to store files across a network.

Cloud storage is basically using the Internet to store files. Apps such as Google Drive, Dropbox and Flickr allow users to save their work in their accounts and share them with whoever they wish. Schools can get unlimited storage from Google Drive for free and other services charge an annual fee for storage, depending on what it is.

Cloud storage eliminates the need for a server if the server is only needed for storing documents and smaller files. Documents such as policies, student documentation, etc. can be stored safely on the cloud and can be accessed on any machine with Internet access.

For bigger files such as music or movies, it might be best to use a Network Attached Storage drive, which can be accessed by all computers across the school network. NAS drives cost a few hundred euro but can be faster than the cloud with big files.

These days, I don’t really see the need for a full-blown server, especially if your school is using G Suite (Google Apps) or Microsoft Live. Unless your school is using a lot of CD-ROMs (and, let’s face it, I don’t think anyone is anymore) then there’s little point in investing a huge sum of money. Ultimately the only reason to have a server is if you want complete control over every computer in the school and want to perform operations on them all at the same time – e.g. controlling the wallpaper on the screen, allowing what can be installed or not on each machine, etc.

For me, the ideal solution is cloud storage and an NAS for bigger files. However, having said this, I’d quite happily live without the latter if I had a Netflix and Spotify account because everything you need will be there!

Last Update: October 18, 2017  

October 18, 2017   116   simon    Technology  
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