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How Higher Ed CIOs Can Stay Ahead of the Curve

It’s a tale as old as time: a new school year dawns with funding cuts, budgets stretched to the max, and your department being forced to pare down its proposed expenses. If you’re a CIO, you know your team is responsible for the infrastructure that keeps the entire organization humming along, and a reduction in funds can only hamper your ability to make that happen. Especially in 2020, where budgets are tighter than ever and reliance on IT is at an all-time high, how can CIOs in education meet expectations under these less-than-ideal circumstances?

The never-ending battle against shrinking budgets will never be won, but it can be controlled. According to a report by the analyst firm Gartner, the higher education CIO should not be focused on budget cutting, but rather cost optimization. Gartner defines cost optimization as the continuous process of using resources to create and protect the sources of value while reducing costs as much as possible. This is a holistic approach to management that eliminates the “fire drill” style budget cuts in favor of long-term, consistent evolution and improvement. Let’s take a look at some of the steps you can take to make your department more lean, nimble, and efficient.

Take stock of your enterprise

First, Gartner suggests creating teams dedicated to identifying areas that create the least value and consume the most resources. CIOs can reduce the operating budget by identifying the biggest parts of operational spend and retiring or shutting down the highest budget items that provide the least value and are not absolutely necessary for operations. Develop standing cost optimization teams, including IT leaders and business unit leaders, for the purpose of examining IT costs in the context of business processes and services. In terms of storage, NAS can be a drain not only on budgets but performance. It is more expensive than almost any other medium on a per-TB basis, and must receive regular maintenance and capacity upgrades. The total cost of ownership for these devices is high and they add little by the way of value to the enterprise. Identifying components of your IT infrastructure such as this will allow you to trim the fat of your organization. Take a critical eye to every component of your department and see what can stay, what can go, and what should be improved.

Streamline inefficiencies

Despite political pressures, propose standardization and consolidation options that can be cost-effective without significant detrimental impact on quality of service. To again use NAS as an example, a reduction in on-prem storage use can dramatically lower your organization’s overall storage costs while increasing efficiency. Wasabi’s prices are significantly below that of NAS and can help with long-term data retention, data security, and disaster recovery operations. Our compliance with FERPA allows for the secure storage of everything from student data to surveillance footage. Switching your storage to Wasabi’s bottomless cloud can not only save your department up to 80%, but can improve your organization’s overall data health.

Take care to deliberately identify what not to cut as this is as important as identifying the source of savings. Examples in higher education might be services that support the student experience or improve student retention. These resources are increasingly cloud based. With the onset of COVID-19, applications such as Blackboard and Zoom have become indispensable for colleges and universities as they tackle virtual classes. A savvy CIO should prioritize services that enable remote learning and foster the development of infrastructure that supports it. Cloud storage should be thought of as a need, not a want, for higher education. Aging NAS and LTO systems are both slow and costly. Migrating data to a cloud 2.0 service like Wasabi can slingshot your organization into the modern era and enable opportunities for growth. Our S3-compliant storage can integrate with hundreds of applications to meet any data challenge your organization faces.

Never stop improving

So you’ve identified areas of improvement and executed your plan, but the work doesn’t stop there. According to Gartner, creating “a culture of proactive cost optimization” is key to staying ahead of the curve. Keep an eye out for areas of improvement throughout the year. Gartner suggests partnering with finance to agree on how savings will be counted in the current quarter, the current year, and future years. Focus on the largest parts of each budget. Consider incentives for those departments that achieve cost savings. This department-wide plan is how a CIO can reduce costs year after year while delivering the same or better quality of service to their students and faculty.

At Wasabi, we are committed to always providing the lowest cost cloud storage possible. We eliminated egress fees and API request charges to put a lid on the outrageous and unpredictable storage bills our competitors are infamous for. We created a reserved capacity pricing model to give large enterprises such as colleges and universities even greater savings. And we offer bottomless capacity and hands-off maintenance that puts on-premise storage to shame. In the never-ending battle against shrinking budgets, Wasabi will continue to deliver low-cost, high-performance storage solutions education institutions rely on.

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