Part of my excitement about the CloudU program I’m running this year is the expectation that through it we’ll reach true Mom and Pop SMBs and tell them about the benefits of Cloud Computing. The reality is that at the real coalface, Cloud is a new concept and by running a program starting at the very basics, I hope we can upskill a whole host of SMBs about the Cloud. The fact is that, while Cloud has appeal across all sizes of organization, it’s with SMBs that the Cloud benefit of democratization of IT will be most impactful. Case in point: Urban Teacher Residency Unit.

UTRU is a national, non-profit network of urban teacher programs – the kind of operation that is in place across every sector, every vertical, every group across the country. What do these sort of networks have in common? Lack of resource, lack of time and too much to do. Based on the medical residency model, UTRs provide prospective teachers with masters-level education as well as a year-long apprenticeship in a classroom so that they can gain hands-on experience. Originally set up in 2004 as an informal partnership between the nation’s existing UTR programs in Boston, Chicago and Metro Denver, UTRU is now setting the standards for urban teacher preparation nationwide. Expanding at a rate of four or five additional partnerships a year, UTRU was faced with the challenge of effectively communicating and disseminating information with its countrywide network. UTRU have just eight staff and escalating levels of inbound communications.

So why the cloud? According to Diana Hagans, Finance and Operations Manager, UTRU;

As the volume of partners grew, it became increasingly obvious that we needed to store our content in a central online environment and enable people to collaborate effectively. With a limited workforce, we needed a platform that was easy for our partners to navigate and find information for themselves. As our staff prepare to lead training, documents are uploaded into workspaces and meetings are scheduled. Gone are the days of 10 different document versions going back and forth via email. There has certainly been a significant reduction in the amount of time spent on the phone and sifting through inboxes!

The important point here isn’t which Cloud platform UTRU are using (sorry Huddle, you’re great, but there’s more of interest in this story). The real story here is that UTRU are using Cloud to achieve more, for less, with the help of the cloud.

I never tire of telling real-world stories about how the cloud is helping real organizations – if you have any good on-the-ground stories to tell, drop me a line.

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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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