2020 saw unprecedented IT changes across every sector due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Stay at home orders, lockdowns and restricted travel have meant companies have had to fundamentally change the way they work, enable remote working and in most cases upgrade/fundamentally alter their IT Infrastructure to meet the changing IT landscapes. This has never been seen more so than with Universities, not just in the UK but around the world.
For Universities, the challenge was clear, yet daunting, namely how do they enable their IT systems to cope with thousands of students who would now need access to their courses, lessons and more importantly exams, all while working remotely. In addition to this, how would their infrastructure deal with important periods such a clearing, how would their telephony systems work with de-centralised call centres, and how would their current platforms handle the unprecedented increases in traffic from thousands of concurrent users, all while ensuring a great student experience?
Pro-activity was the name of the game here, with Universities around the country seeking to innovate and modernise their platforms to meet these coming changes. Infuse was brought in on multiple modernisation projects to help them achieve their goals and ensure their systems worked better, faster, and smarter by identifying key weaknesses in their infrastructure and seeking to rectify this before the fundamental shift in how they operate came into play. This was achieved in several ways. If done correctly, not only could universities ensure a good user experience for their students and staff, but also seek to reduce costs of their IT estates, mitigate the risk of data loss, and increase delivery of software and updates that would be required for further innovation.
Identify and Upgrade
The first crucial element was identifying platforms, integrations and architecture that was now not fit for purpose. Big monolithic systems such as Tribal SITS, Moodle, Tableau to name a few are used by large portions of universities in the UK, many of whom are on older/outdated possibly even end-of-life versions that would not be able to sustain the new levels of online traffic they were anticipating. The key here to identify these area’s early and with the help of Infuse create an accelerated roadmap to upgrade these systems to the latest version possible, decluttering archaic integrations between them and enabling smoother work processes everyone could follow.
Up in the Clouds
The next step was cloud enablement. As times have changed the historical method of on-premises servers has become outdated and costly. With Ifuses’s help, the universities we worked with were able to move away from the cost of ownership associated with on-prem to the far more sustainable and more importantly scalable cloud instance. The benefits of this change are easy to see, not only in terms of scalability to meet changing demands which would be far more difficult and costly with physical machines, but the ease at which load distribution of traffic can be altered on cloud is something that was essential to universities anticipating massive uptakes in online traffic. The onus of work, maintenance and scalability is removed from the universities and given to the hosted service providers. Server-less ladies and gentlemen is the way to go.
Test, Test and Test again
It sounds simple enough but to this day testing is still underutilised and often shoehorned in at the end of development cycles, an afterthought to many software deployments, with manual testing opening the door for potential errors/mistakes, and possibly slowing down production massively if issues have to then be re-routed back to the start of the development phases to rectify. Non-functional Load, Stress and SOAK testing was introduced by Infuse at many universities, adopting modern ‘shift-left ideologies’ of ‘test early, test often’ incorporating testing earlier into the development lifecycle, while automation helped increase productivity, reduce risk and help the universities Infuse worked with rapidly upscale their systems in time for the start of the 2020 academic term.
These three simple steps meant that come the new academic year, all the universities Infuse worked with were ready, enabled and confident their platforms could meet the changing IT landscape, and as of spring break 2021, no system failures have been reported across any campus, creating confidence in their system and most importantly ensuring a better student experience.