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When Universities Depend on the Cloud

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Imagine following situation: A big cloud service vendor is offering a platform for educational videos where you can watch and learn things. Many software companies and universities are producing high quality content. The reviews are really good.

So an Austrian university gets a good deal together with other educational institutes to use this service. They embrace the service, encourage teachers to include the videos into their courses, even extend their course scope with the help of the video library. Students are using those videos to learn skills they need to get a good grade, curricula start depending on those videos.

Nice win-win-situation for the cloud vendor, the university, and the students. Isn't it?

Now this cloud service vendor gets bought by a bigger fish.

Getting a new Owner: the Good Parts

This doesn't have to be bad at all. A bigger fish means that there's a higher chance that the video service doesn't get discontinued because of lack of money. The small fish is able to learn from the bigger fish. The video service gets pushed even further, more customers, better content, bright future.

Getting a new Owner: the Bad Parts

On the other side, the change of ownership can also mean bad things for the customers as well: the big fish needs the know-how of the developers and has no interest in the product or the customers. Or the big fish just wants to add the small-fish-customers to his own set of customers. Or the big fish wants to sell the data of the small fish to make short-term profits for its stakeholders. Or the big fish just wants to get rid of a competitor, discontinuing the service at once. You can find many of examples for all those decisions and many more.

In our case, the big fish is not that "evil". He just re-thinks contract decisions of the past. Our Austrian university gets a new offer with a slightly raise of 640 percent of the costs. Way too much to digest for our small university.

Losing a Cloud Service

As a result, all teachers and students get an email with an explanation of the whole situation. The service will not be available any more in the very near future. No time to change all the curricula for the ready-to-start term. What a pity. We're sorry for all active users of this service, about a quarter to a third of the students of our university.

What do we learn from this story?

Depending on cloud services is a bad thing when it comes to important aspects of your own business model. Situations change all the time.

You can't control the cloud. Therefore, have a backup plan or just don't depend too much on external sources you can't control.


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