Roderick Brower remembers the day in December all too well when an attack on the Moore County power grid left more than 45,000 North Carolina homes and businesses without power for days. That included the Sandhills Community College campus in Pinehurst, which went dark for almost a week. Fortunately for Sandhills staff, they could still connect to the school’s ERP from remote locations because it was maintained in the cloud. But disruptions to student and business processes made it clear that a more secure and sustainable document management and workflow solution was essential to ensure operational continuity going forward.

“Moving to the cloud meant a more sustainable architecture and business continuity, so we could avoid another situation like that,” said Brower, Chief Information Officer at Sandhills. The power grid attack was in many ways the final straw in a growing list of on-premises IT challenges for Sandhills. Not unlike many small- to mid-sized higher education institutions, Sandhills was already struggling with aging infrastructure, occasional power outages and connectivity issues. There was also the concern about overstretching limited IT team resources. And what would happen when staff members who possessed all the programming and networking knowledge were to leave, taking their expertise with them?

For these reasons, the answer was clear. Sandhills was ready to embrace the cloud even more fully and explore the value of a SaaS solution for their document management and process automation needs.

Overcoming fear of the unknown

In the past, educational institutions and governmental organizations have tended to be cautious about moving to the cloud—unsure about “giving over control” of their student and constituent data and not knowing exactly how this new infrastructure will work. But with the rapid acceleration of cloud technologies, data regulations and security compliance standards placed upon cloud software companies like Softdocs, the level of trust between institutions and providers has solidified.

“More institutions are embracing SaaS to manage business applications in the cloud, and it’s allowing IT leaders and staff to focus more on improving the overall performance of their campus rather than getting bogged down in supporting their existing infrastructure,” said Cam Armistead, Cloud Engineering Manager at Softdocs. “By turning to SaaS solutions, now they can put more energy into improving student, constituent and business processes, shore up disaster recovery and failover plans, and make certain they remain in compliance with data security measures.”

The recent rise in cybersecurity attacks in the public sector has only propelled the migration to a SaaS partnership for many organizations. With much of their mission-critical data still housed on-premises—be it paper or aging servers—education and government leaders understand the risk to data security and business continuity is real.

“We’ve seen a large movement from on-prem clients to the cloud SaaS solution, taking advantage of our high availability, disaster recovery efforts and automatic updates to the product that maintain the best possible experience for Softdocs’ users,” said Armistead.

Sandhills is one such client. “Even though I was slow to embrace SaaS, it has been a good experience for us,” said Brower. “I’m trying my best to decrease our footprint on campus. Just thinking back to last December when our campus was down for almost a week … now, if our people can get an internet connection, they are able to keep working because Colleague is available, eForms are available. We have bettered our stance for disaster planning and recovery. We knew we needed to keep our data center up and running, put the data in a place where it remains accessible and the systems that need the data are also operational. SaaS was a good fit for us.”

How Softdocs raises the bar on SaaS security

With the growing demand for cloud-based software solutions, Softdocs is taking aggressive steps to evolve and strengthen its security operations and compliance efforts. Our in-house security ops team is always working behind the scenes to shore up compliance standards and ensure the highest levels of data security for our clients. This includes frequent SOC audits, and finding new ways to become industry certified, such as applying NIST 800-53 and working on StateRAMP certification. We are adding additional cloud security posture management (CSPM), outlining configurations for Softdocs’ systems and identifying quickly if something is out of scope.

“A lot of this work can be heavily administrative, but we talk about it weekly,” said Armistead. “It’s always at the forefront because data laws and regulations are always changing. We remain in the loop constantly because we have extremely sensitive data, and we’re committed to protecting it for our clients.”

If and when security or compliance issues do change, the continuous deployment of the Softdocs platform allows SaaS clients to automatically receive necessary updates to resolve any potential vulnerabilities. “Everything is updated within a 15-minute span across hundreds of environments,” said Armistead. “It’s an approach that sets us apart and makes sure we are delivering that highly available and accessible data for every client.”
“We have over 100 eForms we’ve implemented at Sandhills, and I’ve never noticed any latency,” said Brower. “It’s super-fast and responsive, and I don’t have a server I’m constantly having to update. I don’t have storage I have to worry about. It’s all on Softdocs. It’s one of the few systems on campus I can truly count on to be there when I need it.”