VALA 2014 – Concurrent Session 3 – Cloud Gazing

Zan Li – First experience of implementing a cloud computing SaaS application – Melbourne Library Service

Challenges – more systems and equipment to support and more help needed by the public. Aim to resolve these enquiries in a timely manner, utilise resources better. Looking to manage this process with software. Collected requirements researched solutions and customised and configured the resulting solution.

Two user types set up – reporters and support staff. Those who record the problem and those who resolve and record the solution for discovery in the database by both support staff and end users.

New ticket requires requester, subject, status, type and priority, assignee, branch and category. These can be updated as the request is worked through. Trialled Zendesk for one month and received positive feedback from staff, so they took a subscription and support contract.

Launched in 2012 after staff training, but still took some time for staff to realise the benefits. Benefits are it is accessible from any device, it’s cost effective – if and when they exit, they just stop paying the subscription and there are no capital costs required up front. It can be scaled up or down depending on demand – Melbourne has added more users so has had to upscale. The system has a high up-time 99.871%. It has also been value-adding for IT staff, in that it works as a database for all staff on policy, solutions and more.

Pitfalls – heavy reliance on the internet, browser dependency – some new features of Zendesk don’t work on older versions, you can’t control the updates which seem to happen often, introduced features aren’t always best for them, and the every-present concern for security of data which resides outside the organisation – although the data is hosted locally and they have a good service level agreement and good security.

When using the cloud, you need to know why you are using it, what you consider a successful outcome, the service level agreement must be solid, the support must meet your needs and you must know what you get on exit. Make sure your data and security concerns are addressed and you know all of the costs.

I was the next speaker – Residing in the cloud: what is the forecast now and into the future.  I will post the slides to my presentation page soon and the paper will be available on the VALA 2014 website.

Derek Whitehead – Swinburne – Cloudy future for libraries

Cloud is a metaphor, fluffy, far away and nothing to be afraid of. Can be threatening to some people, but interestingly no storm clouds are used to illustrate. Cloud computing is basically outsourcing. It is a technological tool, it contains content, it is personal and it has legal implications.

Swinburne is already in the cloud in a big way with Blackboard, Ex Libris, email, Kaltura, OJS (publishing) Primo and HR systems in the cloud.  They have taken up opportunities to move or upgrade their software to the cloud. Moving towards a more systematic approach of moving to the cloud and fully expect to have majority of all IT services operating in this manner.

Hosted software is purely recurrent as opposed to capital expenditure. Combine services to ensure they work together, but must be efficient, reliable, high quality, fast access and cost-effective. Why do it? Cost minimisation, economies of scale and efficiencies, flexibility, scalability, security, business continuity and stability.

Collaboration is also important. Referred us to read Matt Goldners paper for OCLC –

Most clouds are proprietary, but libraries can be different because of the sharing. Cloud can give greater opportunities, There are security concerns, not just for data but for job security. Need to make sure you get your contracts correct, if no expertise in-house to do this, get it in.

Libraries don’t need to be afraid, we have been at the forefront of change for decades. Swinburne was 95% print in 1990s, but now 90% is digital. It’s been a dramatic change overall, but has happened gradually, so has been generally widely accepted. As a result we have been able to provide significant advantages to our users. Libraries work better, have seen clear savings which have been rolled into better service, more space has been freed for users and we have greater collaboration opportunities. It’s not scary at all.