AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

Gibraltar Area Schools: The Leap to the Cloud Saves 50% in 5 Years

Gibraltar Area Schools, a rural school district serving 600 K-12 children located on the district campus in Fish Creek, Wisconsin turned to cloud computing five years ago rather than buying onsite servers. This early experimentation and innovation has them reaping the benefits of the cloud.

Time, money, and resources drive early innovation

What are the three main drivers for cloud for K-12 schools?

  1. Time- Schools no longer need to wait for shipping, installation, licensing, housing, and maintenance of physical servers. With the cloud, Gibraltar was able to spin up a SharePoint server on AWS in 20 minutes. And this purchase can be terminated at any time if it no longer fits into the IT strategy.
  2. Money- Most school IT directors and/or network administrators begin their leap to the cloud by using a school credit card and new connection to the cloud provider.  “Buying cloud services can be heaven for an IT person.  I have eight servers running for a few pennies per hour,” Steve Minten, District IT Director, Gibraltar Area Schools said. The cost of physical server hardware can get expensive when you have to pay all of that up front, but Gibraltar Area Schools have not spent half of what they would on physical services over the past five years with AWS.
  3. Resources- Gibraltar accesses prepackaged server configurations and software that they didn’t have before.  Some of the newest network devices are available as a virtual network device on AWS.  With cloud computing, it’s more like a school in a software box.  For example, the Gibraltar Schools are geographically remote on a peninsula extending far into Lake Michigan.  This means that service, repair, and technical assistance are more than 80 miles away.  Cloud hosting places their schools inside the “technology box” rather than its historical existence on the far fringe of the region’s technical world. “In a perfect world or in this case a new school, cloud deployment would be ideal.  It would truly be a ‘High School-in-a-Box’ scenario.  Just picture one fiber connection to a building and running through a switch and to wireless access points. That’s it.  No domain servers, databases, communication, backup or web filtering.  Nothing in house – just glass and wifi,” Minten said.

Cloud, now what?

Most schools need a backup and file system, a student management system, databases, and communication systems. Once a school has decided to host enterprise software in the cloud, they should determine the source and purpose of the traffic.  Is it student-based?  Does the traffic require internal or external access or both?  Is there a concern for sensitive information? The cloud allows these services to be used on a school’s network domain through a Virtual Private Connection (VPC) via AWS’s infrastructure. This first step will open the door for the IT team to experiment.

“Have the school’s IT person setup a VPC and start playing around.  The light bulb will turn on right after they realize they can run anything they want – from domain servers to web filters in their cloud for pennies per hour,” Minten said.

With the AWS Cloud, schools, districts, and companies providing educational applications can access industry-shaping technology at an affordable cost, no matter what the scale.

Learn more.