Whether you look at IT for education or for any other field, there has been a lot of movement from on-prem IT resources to the cloud. Directory services, however, has become one of the last vestiges of technology that has remained on premise.
IT administrators in education have been bucking this trend. By using the cloud-based directory-as-a-service, admins in schools are helping their students and faculty to learn and teach without having to deal with outdated IT.
In fact, .edu IT organizations are fielding tremendous demands from their faculty and students to leverage innovative solutions. As we know, kids are often more adept at leveraging new technology and with mobile devices and SaaS-based applications for just about everything, the limits are being pushed.
Why are EDU admins innovating while other industries remain stagnant? Let’s take a broader look at today’s IT environment for education and the challenges that admins face across systems, apps, and networks.
The Education Environment
IT in the education world is like a melting pot. There is a lot of cutting edge technology, but it is mixed with a lot of problem-causing legacy infrastructure applications that aren’t ready to move to the cloud.
At the same time, education has some of the strictest budget restrictions we see across all fields. This forces IT admins who work for schools to get creative and seek out innovative solutions.
Perhaps most critical is that the end user population is willing to push the boundaries of technology and use it in new and innovative ways creating opportunities for IT organizations to be creative.
Schools use a mixture of operating systems. Obviously, there is a large presence of Windows PCs, but thanks to the strong move that Apple has made for education we also see a high percentage of Macs.
But Chromebooks have surged ahead of both in schools, with sales surpassing 51 percent of the K-12 market share in 2016. The biggest contributor to Chromebooks success in education is their low price point. This variety of operating systems creates a need for schools to have a solution that can encompass all systems in use within their halls.
There are over 80,000 apps that purport to be education – and many of them are likely in place at your school (The Atlantic, 2015). Google Workspace and Office 365 are two very popular examples. Applications like PowerSchool also have a lot of use, but those have their own challenges. This is primarily because in many cases they are considered to be “legacy” applications.
They’re delivered as an on-prem stack, you have to manage servers for them, and they need to connect with identity management in a traditional manner (meaning OpenLDAP). Note we see Active Directory rarely used in education due to the price point. Some cloud-forward approaches to managing these apps include LDAP-as-a-Service and Single Sign On (SSO) offerings.
Another major objective for many schools is how to make the entire brick-and-mortar institution wireless. This is something that all fields are dealing with, and there are a lot of fairly radical moves to remove ethernet where possible.
This means everything’s being driven from Ruckus, Cisco Meraki endpoints, or Wireless Access Protocols (WAPs) that are distributed all throughout the schools. But here’s the catch: how do you do that in a manner that’s secure and doesn’t necessitate the distribution of a common SSID and password, so everyone is sharing the same credentials? The recent emergence of cloud-based RADIUS has made this much more attainable.
Lastly, what we’re seeing in schools is a wide variance of directories. Typically it’s LDAP, though Active Directory does exist for those school districts that can afford it or have great education pricing from Microsoft. Google has also thrown their hat in the ring, with Google Apps directory, but as you’ll find, OAuth and integrating with legacy applications just doesn’t cut it.
This forces schools to manage the students Google credentials, WiFi credentials, or any other legacy apps like PowerSchool that may still be running on premise or on your colocated server farm separately. This is where cloud-based directory services come in. Directory-as-a-Service can replace existing LDAP and Active Directory instances (see case study for edu).
Modern IT Environment for Education
If you would like to learn more about JumpCloud’s cloud identity management platform for education, check out the video below where our CPO explains and goes into more detail about the topic:
JumpCloud’s Directory-as-a-Service product helps education IT departments manage user access while becoming more efficient and secure. Sign up for a free JumpCloud account and check it out. Ten users are free forever – no credit card required – and we offer special pricing for education.