The demand for access to data at large universities is increasing at an incredible rate with the advent of online classes, analytics services and expanding levels of research. In an interview with TechTarget, Michigan State University CIO Joanna Young explained that the current influx of data is posing a challenge for universities in regards to how best to store information and retain records in the most secure, efficient way possible.

Young noted that it's important for schools to be able to keep up with the growing demand for the multimedia content teachers share in class to be available to students online at anytime. As professors start to offer more content to students that is based somewhere besides a textbook, schools need to become more effective and efficient in their use of data storage and the cloud is an especially helpful solution. At the same time, cloud storage is almost a necessity for universities looking to offer online education options, according to Young.

"Because the video requirements for these online classes are huge – every week, two to four hours or more worth of video content – that would have quickly overwhelmed the storage we had on campus," Young said.

The cloud as a recruitment tool
In her interview with TechTarget, Young mentioned that data storage options can also be a helpful tool in incentivizing professors to come to the university to perform groundbreaking research or start important programs.

"As a CIO, the trick is to say to people…'You don't have to worry about storage. You don't have to worry about servers. Here's how we can provide that for you in a way that's easy for you to use, is going to give you enough space and access that you need, and the type of speed set is OK for you,'" explained Young. "[You] become a partner and get them to align with you, because I find particularly in higher education, you've got to stick with the carrot approach."

The increased ability to conduct advanced research provided by the cloud has even gotten the attention of the National Science Foundation. The NSF recently announced that it would be launching two $10 million projects to create test beds for cloud computing at universities. The aim is to enable the academic research community to pursue and develop new ways to utilize the cloud for next-generation applications used in medical devices, power grids and transportation systems. The first cloud program will be colocated between the University of Chicago and the University of Texas Austin, while the second will be a joint project with a large-scale, distributed infrastructure shared between the University of Wisconsin, Clemson University and the University of Utah.

With cloud platforms growing larger and more complex, Young noted that it can become impractical to solely purchase cloud storage services at such great volumes. In her previous role as CIO for the University of New Hampshire, she looked into software-as-a-service offerings that included storage as a package deal as a way to reduce costs. She also mentioned the need for schools interested in implementing a cloud infrastructure, especially large universities, to have a strong network and reliable broadband service.