We’re often asked why we recommend Google (Google Suite for Education) to schools, so let’s tease this interesting question out a bit.
Firstly, our clients are almost all primary or intermediate/middle schools, so we cater to the needs of teachers and students in these school years. Secondary schools have a quite different set of requirements.
Google Suite for Education
We first looked at what was then called Google Apps for Education five or six years ago, when it was the new kid on the block and Microsoft Office literally ruled the world. We were immediately impressed that we no longer had to save documents as files, nor did we have to find files (it must be in a folder here somewhere!!!!) No more emailing file attachments to colleagues; no more super-tedious reconciling different versions of the same document – ugh!
The other big thing was collaboration. Google Docs enabled two or more of us to literally edit the same document at the same time.
Scouring through network drives to find “lost” files also became a thing of the past.
At KiwiSchools, our information and communication needs are analogous to those of a small school, so we were curious to find out well Google met our needs. We assumed that if it did, then many NZ schools could enjoy similar benefits.
Initially, we thought Google Docs needed to mature as a product. But for, say, the last four years, Google Docs has met all our document and spreadsheet needs — I would say 99% perfectly. We have never regretted saying goodbye to MS Word and Excel.
In fact, we abandoned Microsoft completely probably five years ago. We moved from PCs to Apple Macs (OSX) and have never looked back from a hardware/local network perspective. We flagged Microsoft Office for Google Docs. And our company tech’s workload was immediately cut by 80%!
Once we were confident of Google Suite as a platform for ourselves, we encouraged schools to move to the cloud using mostly Gmail, Google Docs and Google Drive. it was almost a no brainer — several schools simply went cold turkey on this – Word and Outlook on Friday, Google Docs and Gmail on Monday! Of course, even now, there are still a few staff members using MS Office, but you “can’t win ’em all!”
Where have all the files gone?
We still hear of primary and intermediate/middle schools being sold new servers. These days, the server is likely to be “in the cloud” via services such as Azure (Microsoft) or a private cloud server from school tech support companies.
We would ask just one question: What files do you need to store on a server (regardless of its location)?
Our business has been “serverless” for several years now. We’ve saved a heap of money, and I would say our ICT infrastructure has been faultless since we moved to Google (Clue: we don’t have an infrastructure – everything is in the cloud!)
Your tech support company is, unsurprisingly, likely to have a different take on this. After all, the money you pay them is for a server (at school or in the cloud). You also pay an annual contract fee to keep the server and your network up and running.
Microsoft’s Azure platform seems to be flavour of the month, even receiving MoE endorsement.
Here’s the thing.
MoE needs to cover ALL schools in its recommendations, including, obviously, secondary schools. Secondary schools tend to use resource-hungry software such as Adobe Creative Suite with which students generate enormous files (e.g. video) which have to be stored and accessed locally (The cloud is nowhere near fast enough to handle the volume of data involved – students would be waiting forever to save or download a single file.)
Consequence: secondary schools need servers with massive hard drives.
But in our extensive work at primary/intermediate level, teachers and students mostly work with documents and photographs, occasionally video. Google Drive is perfectly suited for storing photos and some video. Remember, it’s already handling all your word processing and spreadsheet requirements in Google Docs— and it’s totally free!
And your SMS is already in the cloud, requiring no local file storage.
So, when your tech support company tries to sell you a server (cloud or otherwise), ask them “What files do we need to store on this server?”