Cloud Computing 101: How To Utilize “The Cloud” in Higher Ed

Written by Lance Padgett on August 29, 2012

Posted in Education

This post is a part of Formstack’s Back to School Campaign. From August 20-September 21, we’ll be sharing all things relating to higher ed, from how to survive your first semester of college to what cloud computing tools you should use as an educator. When it comes to all things campus, we’ve got you covered. Check out our campaign page for more information and enter to win a free semester of text books!


University offices have a lot of decisions to make on a day to day basis. Many institutions run a tight budget with employees who wear multiple hats. For many, cloud computing services, or SaaS applications, might be a scary concept. However, cloud computing offers many advantages for education institutions and can be a contemporary addition to your arsenal of administrative tools. At the bottom, be sure to take a look at our Cloud Computing infographic, as well as a list of cloud-based services to check out.

Agile/Actionable Data
Cloud computing gives you the ability to access your data from any device with a browser and internet connection. This alone is a great reason to use cloud-based services. Being able to access your data in real-time can give you a great advantage and added flexibility. Many cloud services that deal with data also have built in metrics that give you further insight and capabilities into how your content is viewed and used.

Most cloud-based services offer tiered plans depending on your specific needs. Many let you upgrade and downgrade without extra fees, so you’re not committed to one plan for a set time. You can start gradually and scale up as needed, which is attractive for university offices with fluctuating workflows.

cloud computing savings

Cost Savings
Whether you believe it or not, implementing cloud services will save you money. Like Formstack, most cloud-based services charge monthly to use the software. But if you weigh the yearly price of the software versus hiring a full-time employee or even outsourcing, the savings are obvious. Using Formstack as an example – you could be on our Professional form plan for $290 per year. This gives you 20 different forms you can build for any purpose. Let’s compare that to paying a developer anywhere from $100 to $300 to build you a single form. Multiply that cost by 20 forms and you’re easily over $2,000. Even for a university with a development staff, the hours add up. You might even be paying more when you consider a full-time employee’s hourly pay to build forms for your department.

Mobile Cloud
The way we access data is evolving everyday. Mobile devices and tablet uses are growing at a steady pace. It’s great to be able to access your stored data from anywhere, and most of these services also offer mobile apps for even easier data access. Utilize these mobile apps to eliminate the login step and receive a better mobile experience. If you use the Dropbox app, then you know how easy it is to pull up your documents at a moments notice.

Go Green
There’s no better way to reduce your university’s carbon footprint than to move all those paper documents online. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using Google Docs to share documents or Catch the Best for collecting online resumes. What matters is that you’re using less paper and reducing waste.

The New Norm
If you haven’t noticed, you can pay your bills and order pizza online in today’s world. This is simply the direction our world is moving, especially the tech-savvy college generation. If you are trying to reach students, you better be doing so online if you want their participation.

Here are a few useful cloud computing services for higher education:

Dropbox (free cloud storage service that lets you store files and access them from anywhere)
Mailchimp (email marketing service that lets you design, send and track html email campaigns) (takes your raw online data and “merges” it into documents like PDFs and Word docs)
Shoeboxed (organize receipts, business cards, & bills online)
Basecamp (web-based project management and collaboration tool)
Google Docs (create sharable online documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more)
Catch the Best (collect and track incoming resumes without cluttering your inbox)


Growth of Cloud Computing
Growth of Cloud Computing

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