Friday 6 May 2016

Show me the money - Oh, here it is!

As education starts to make increasing use of Software as a Service (SaaS), how are schools going to meet the cost of subscription services ?

The freeium model gives teachers the power to experiment with software without any upfront fees or additional investment in server hardware and although an astonishing amount of functionality is given away for nothing not every feature is free.

Rather than starting again with SaaS wouldn't it be cheaper just to keep what you have already paid for?

Trying to run a simple budgetary comparison is difficult because so much is hidden in 'overheads'. To get a clear view of the bottom line for locally installed software you'd need to include;

  • Energy costs for running (heating) and then cooling onsite servers.
  • Costs for storing and securing onside servers.
  • Costs for offsite backup services.
  • Money reserved for the hardware and software refresh cycle.
  • Money spent on maintenance contracts and site insurance.
So as schools move towards cloud services you might expect to see savings on a utility bill or the cancelling of a server maintenance contract but let's not pretend this is going to make a big difference.

Lets get straight to the main event.

Exactly how much money does your school spend each year to print paper?

The results of this question can be frightening. It’s not uncommon for a medium sized school in the UK to spend £40 - 50K every year on printers and print consumables. This level of annual revenue could lease a high-bandwidth internet connection, a set of  modern mobile devices and a huge amount of subscription services.

Crikey - never mind the kids, it could give me a down-payment for a Telsa S!

But students have to print so where’s the saving? Actually it might come as a surprise to learn that they don’t.

The reason why the requirement to print is so entrenched in schools is because there has never been a fully functional collaborative tool that could be used to replace it. The promise of the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) came close but it didn’t replace the desktop productivity suite that has proved so efficient at converting electonic data to sheets of paper.

In other situations printing has been used to solve the remote access problem. The annual cost of printed documents taken home and then disposed off (very securely of course) could probably fund a classroom device set on it’s own.

That’s why the educational offerings from the big SaaS players such as Google and Microsoft are so important. For the first time all the bases are covered.

Adopting Google G Suite for Education (GSfE) with it’s built in collaboration and workflow tool Classroom has the capability to replace the requirements for student printing. The mantra should be  -  “Don’t print - share”.

Where schools have tried this approach it does work. Many schools and districts in the US that have adopted GSfE no longer allow students to print or they provide a very restrictive service. The sky has not fallen in and the school still functions.

Think of student printing as a immature habit that needs to be broken.

Even better - show me the money.

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