Monte LaOrange / email@example.com - Eastern Idaho Technical College IT Division Manager Shane Paynter, left, and President Steve Albiston believe expanding the school's cloud capabilities will help with education options for students
If you own an Apple product such as an iPad, iPhone or iPod, you've likely used or heard of "iCloud," Apple's remote servers for file storage and backup.
Users store digital data -- apps, photos, videos, documents, etc. -- remotely on iCloud so they can be accessed at any time from multiple devices through the Internet.
Apple's iCloud is an example of how "cloud computing" is changing the way in which people interact with technology. Cloud computing or "accessing the cloud" are colloquial phrases referring to remotely accessing computer servers or networks.
File storage is a major component of cloud technology, but it has many other uses.
Eastern Idaho Technical College is pioneering many of those other uses with EDUcloud, a remote network that hosts hundreds of virtual desktops for use by EITC staff and students. So far, EITC is the only postsecondary institution in Idaho to successfully integrate the technology.
Users log onto EDUcloud and have remote access to a simulated computer desktop filled with a variety of expensive professional software such as the Adobe Creative Suit, the Microsoft Office Suit and Microsoft Visual Studio.
"It is really a game-changer," IT Division Manager Shane Paynter said. "Students can access files, applications and network resources from any Internet connected computer -- at any time, from any place in the entire world."
For students, EDUcloud offers the convenience of working at home and financial savings.
"This gives us access to industry programs, without having to go buy them on our own," Web development student Terry Hawes said. "It can save you a lot of money."
Installing professional software, such as the Adobe Creative Suit, on several computers can cost thousands of dollars and typically requires high-end computer hardware to successfully use the programs.
EDUcloud allows students to access professional programs without buying them. Plus, the software will run on low-end computers or even mobile devices such as iPads or smartphones, because all the processing power and memory needed remains on the cloud server.
"A kid in Arco logs on and uses the same memory and programs as a kid in Salmon instead of spending money for a computer to sit in one location doing nothing most of the time," Paynter said. "This is better use of the technology ... and it is used a lot more."
EDUcloud saves EITC money on computer hardware. The college also needs fewer costly software licenses because the programs don't have to be installed on every computer. It also offers more computer resources for professional-technical classes taught in surrounding communities.
Additionally, EDUcloud is benefiting local high schools.
Last year, EITC partnered with the Idaho Digital Learning Academy to offer online courses and computer resources to Leadore School in South Lemhi School District 292. The academy provided online coursework, and EDUcloud provided the software students needed for classes.
"It was a great program, because we didn't have to buy software for our kids and it brought costs down ... and it made saving and file transfer easier," District 292 technology coordinator Kevin Ramsey said. "Plus, it was better educationally because (EITC's) versions of the software were newer than what we could have gotten."
The college is working with other regional school districts to develop similar programs.
Eventually, EITC President Steve Albiston said, the college may help expand similar cloud services throughout Idaho's community college system to better serve Idaho students.
"We've thought about having three data centers in the state -- in Idaho Falls, Boise and one in northern Idaho," Albiston said. "This would provide redundancies so a center could be shut down for maintenance and not interrupt service ... it would also speed up the service and help delivery across the state."