The coronavirus pandemic has been a catalyst for many things, including remote learning. And for us that means moving house fully into the cloud to scale up quickly and eliminate potential performance issues.
The Operations Team at itslearning, which I’m a part of, kicked off the new year planning to move the final pieces of our itslearning infrastructure into the cloud. Most of our users are already on the cloud, but we still have a few early customers being hosted on an on-premise datacenter. Migrating everyone to the cloud is being done after much deliberation, and we are doing this primarily because of ONE key lesson that we learnt during the pandemic in 2020 – we need to be faster at scaling up to give our users a better experience learning and teaching online.
What’s happening in January
We have now started moving our remaining infrastructure from a local datacenter in Oslo, Norway to the cloud (Amazon Web Services) hosted in the European Union. (There is a reason for this emphasis as explained below in the FAQs section.) We expect this process to be completed before the start of the summer holidays.
Why are we doing this
For very simple reasons. Moving to the cloud means we will be more agile and everyone gets enterprise-class technology without breaking the bank.
We began our cloud migration in 2017, but it was then also decided that we should maintain part of our infrastructure at a datacenter in Oslo. But the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has prompted us to reevaluate this strategy. Over the last year, we needed to scale up very quickly several times when we saw usage skyrocket. Just to give you a sense of how high the demand was, in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic in Europe and the US, traffic on our LMS increased by more than 3x compared to pre-Covid 19. Our login numbers increased by 75% compared to the same period in 2019.
While it’s great news for us that so many people were logging on, it also meant that we had to make some changes to ensure that schools could continue to use the itslearning platform for remote and blended learning without disruption.
We needed a way to respond quickly and adeptly to changing user needs. We added more servers to boost capacity at the datacenter. But, this was not a sustainable solution because we still saw bottlenecks building up during peak hours. We had to make sure we had the right resources to scale up services quickly when needed and therefore decided to move all users and services to the cloud. In the AWS Cloud we could instantly scale up our server capacity. This allowed us to remove bottlenecks for customers who suddenly had hundreds of thousands of users logging on simultaneously, and make everyone’s remote learning experience so much better. With virtual servers in AWS we could quickly move to resolve problems for our users everywhere at any time.
In a nutshell, this is why itslearning is moving fully to the cloud:
- Covid-19 forcing schools to switch to remote learning reinforced the need for us to rapidly scale up our server capacity. By moving to the cloud, we can be sure to have optimal server infrastructure that is reliable, secure, and updated on a regular basis. If we see a surge, we just have to deploy new servers.
- Switching to the cloud lets us scale up or down with very little platform performance disruption for our users.
- The AWS system works on a shared responsibility model with two layers of protection. And, itslearning can customize the security architecture. Your data will be stored even more securely in this state-of-the-art system.
- The IT infrastructure in the cloud does not require any physical upgrades. This means we can get unlimited access to computing power when we need it.
- Speed and agility to upgrade, develop and launch new features on the fly. This will allow us to increase product and service offerings to you.
- The new cloud datacenter offers higher redundancy, which means improved stability on our LMS.
- We always have access to more resources, and only pay for the resources we are currently using on the cloud.
- What we save on removing on-premise servers and operational costs can now be channeled into development and other core business areas, such as supporting you.
Faster upgrades, better stability
Cut down on infrastructure and cost
Why AWS Cloud
For us it is vital to have a partner that we can rely on, and one that is able to provide quality service to us and our users.
There are a lot of cloud service providers. We have chosen AWS as our preferred partner, since they are the largest service provider, and have the most advanced service and security portfolio. Additionally, they have dozens of centers around the world, including three in Europe (Frankfurt, Germany).
I have it in my contract that data should reside in Norway. Will this affect me?
No, a select few customers who have this special agreement will not be migrated to AWS. This will be coordinated closely by your Key Account Managers.
AWS? I’m in Europe and don’t want my data stored in the US!
Not to worry! Data for our European customers are only stored within the EU, in full compliance with GDPR. Your data will actually be more secure, due to the shared responsibility model (see above). Also, both AWS and itslearning comply with ISO27001 (the international standard for managing information securely).
You can read more about our GDPR commitment and our sub-processor agreements on our website: We are GDPR compliant.
What about US customer data?
All our US customers have their data stored in the US at AWS Virginia.
Is data secure in the cloud?
A cloud service like AWS cloud gives you more security options than an on-premise system could for the same cost. AWS also offers 2 layers of security to better protect your data.
Do I as a customer need to do anything?
If you are a customer who needs to change your configuration, you will receive an email from itslearning with further instructions. Let us know if the system administrator at your school/institution has changed, as all communication from itslearning will be done via email.
How long will this process last?
We are beginning with users in Finland in January 2021 and will then progress westward across the rest of Europe through 2021. To minimize disruption during the school year, this migration will be done gradually from country to country. Customers will be contacted first with details of the migration prior to any move from itslearning. If you have any questions, you can always reach out to your itslearning account manager.
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