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Illinois Cloud Consortium Pilots Disaster Recovery

Additional statewide K-12 services to include lecture capture and video sharing, among others

IlliniCloud, a cloud computing consortium serving K-12 schools in Illinois, is nearing the end of a pilot program testing a statewide, cloud-based disaster recovery service.

IlliniCloud is a non-profit cloud computing consortium for Illinois schools operated and led by IT staffers from schools around the state. It focuses on providing computing resources to K-12 districts that they generally might not have access to--resources that would normally involve large-scale capital outlay and high levels of overhead. It comprises three data centers across the state of Illinois, offering enterprise storage and disaster recovery services to member schools, as well as IT support and services and computing hardware and applications. It launched in 2009 and now serves about 150 individual districts.

IlliniCloud is currently piloting a disaster recovery system for schools within the state, which it began trying out back in February. The consortium worked with CDW-G to help develop and implement the system. (CDW-G has been involved with IlliniCloud since its beginnings and helped launch the consortium in partnership with Bloomington Public Schools District 87.)

Participants in the trial are receiving the services at no charge for the time being. In fact, IlliniCloud has been free to members since the beginning.

Following the trial period--which is expected to conclude July 1--IlliniCloud participants will pay a membership fee, which will include base storage, and a per-gigabyte fee for disaster recovery services when storage exceeds the base allocation included with membership.

Specifics of that are still being worked out. Part of the purpose of the trial has been to determine how much space can be provided for members and what kinds of costs will need to be covered through additional fees.

The disaster recovery service is the latest effort from the consortium that's designed to benefit members through cooperation and economies of scale.

"Disaster recovery is a huge focus and concern for us, but like many organizations, implementing a new, cost-effective solution was simply out of our reach," said Roger Grinnip, director of information technology for member organization Champaign Unit #4 School District. "IlliniCloud offered us a comprehensive, off-site disaster recovery solution at a fraction of the cost of an upgrade. We have peace of mind knowing that if our network goes down, our information is saved and available."

"By working together to maintain technology in the cloud, organizations can spend less time in the data center and more time delivering on their core mission," said Thomas E. Richards, president and chief operating officer of CDW, in a prepared statement. "In the case of the IlliniCloud, dollars not spent in the data center can be thoughtfully invested in the classroom. The IlliniCloud can be a model for other organizations in a position to partner with others who share similar needs."

Jim Peterson, CTO of IlliniCloud and director of technology at Bloomington PSD, said IlliniCloud will continue to expand services in the coming years to address additional needs of its member districts.

"We are looking ahead," Peterson said in a statement released this week. "Our members tell us they want enterprise applications such as hosted software, e-mail list servers, online file storage and an open-source video-sharing system for lecture capture--and we plan to deliver."

Peterson added that he's targeting membership of 400 districts by the end of 2014. Illinois currently has about 870 school districts.

"With the cloud computing model, we don't charge you for resources you are not going use. It is very easy to bring in new members once they realize we can deliver better service at a lower total cost. Members are then free to refocus technology resources on the classroom, for the direct benefit of students and teachers."

Beginning in July IlliniCloud base membership fees will range from $500 per year for small school districts and other local agencies to $1,500 per year for large districts with more than 10,000 students. Further information can be found on IlliniCloud's site.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .