Colleges Increasingly Seek Notification Systems

It seems as if colleges and universities are better equipped to deal with emergencies these days, according to a survey that I read. And while this wasn’t in the survey, I can tell you just from conversations I have daily with schools around the globe that more and more are opting for notification systems to alert them of problems with their computing needs, too.

The Campus Computing Survey, which polled more than 500 U.S. higher educational institutions across the country, reveals that only about 5% do not have an “operational emergency notification system,” down from about one-quarter who didn’t have such a system in 2007.

“These dramatic gains reflect significant institutional concern about notification capacity,” says Kenneth C. Green, founding director of The Campus Computing Project, in a release about the poll. “Given recent campus tragedies and natural disasters, campus officials have come to recognize that technology is an essential component of a comprehensive institutional crisis management strategy.”

While the overall gain in notification tools was significant, the numbers were even more dramatic surrounding which type of notification technology that schools are using. For example, in the survey, the proportion of campuses reporting sirens as part of their plans jumped from 23.4% in 2007 to 34.8% in 2008. Similarly, 86.6% of campuses now have notification capacity utilizing email – up from a bit more than two-thirds in the previous survey. Meanwhile, voice mail to campus phones rose almost by half to 65.5%, from 44.6% in 2007. Text messaging grew, too, from 43.3% in 2007 to 75.6% now.

Another indicator: the percentage of campuses reporting voice mail notification to off-campus phones and cell phones more than doubled from 2007 (from18% to just over 41% for “wired” phones and from 22.5% to 48.5% for mobile phones).

Other survey data revealed that more schools are considering adopting student email services.

Two-fifths (42.4%) of institutions say they’ve switched or are about to switch to an outsourced student email service, while nearly three in 10 (28.3%) are weighing options for outsourcing student email during the current academic year. In contrast, just 14.8% of schools now have outsourced email services for faculty.

No surprise here. The majority of campuses (more than 56%) with outsourced student email are using Google’s Gmail, and two-fifths (38.4%t) are using Microsoft. Another 4.8% are using the open-source tool Zimbra.

Just as schools are using tools to alert students of emergencies, such as shutdowns from snowstorms, cloud-based monitoring systems are using phones, email, texting, instant messaging, Twitter and other alerts to let IT folks at educational institutions know about outages, denial of service and other slow app performance. Schools, like businesses, want to know when troubling circumstances are on the horizon – whether it’s with a server, network or cloud provider – and they want to rely on tools to quickly communicate the situation to IT pros so they can head off the problem or fix it fast!

I forecast a continuing trend in the need and desire for alert systems from organizations – both for computing and dealing with emergencies.