20 May

Benefits Museums Are Taking Advantage of With the Cloud

In the last several years, museums have begun to offer online access to their collections to reach the widest audience possible. While this is a big win for reaching tech-savvy patrons, it presents challenges to museum owners and IT consultants who are looking to provide a cost-efficient and scalable solution.

Physical servers are expensive to purchase, set up and maintain. While large museums benefit from receiving more funding and employing a larger staff, smaller ones are typically stretched to the limit when it comes to resources. This is why museums are turning to the cloud. In addition to lower costs, the cloud is more flexible and scalable than in-house servers.


Cloud Computing Saves Money 

Museums that want to host a public exhibition on their website and plan to use traditional, on-premises servers have to hire staff or a team of consultants to run it and invest in a large amount of equipment. In addition, they need to make significant changes to their hosting plan to handle the additional bandwidth the equipment requires. They have to pay someone to fix it every time it breaks and to upgrade obsolete components. They also are responsible for the utility costs to run the equipment.

Alternatively, in 2010, the famed Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) in London began transitioning to cloud-based servers after struggling to deal with a potpourri of aging equipment and reduced budget. The museum’s IT director at the time, Sarah Winmill, tells ComputerWeekly: “We had a terrifying mix of PCs between four and eight years old and no change control. Server infrastructure was at best diverse — you name it, we had it — so it was a bit like the Wild West.” By migrating the museum’s servers to the cloud, the V&A saw a 20 percent reduction in IT spend over a period of four years.

Cloud-based software like PastPerfect and MuseumPlus are perfect for online collections. PastPerfect Online, for instance, is able to search and display over a million catalog records as well as multimedia files, including audio, video, PDFs and Microsoft Word documents for just under $700, which is a fraction of the cost of on-site servers.


Cloud Computing Is Scalable

In the past, whenever a museum wanted to add more to their online collections, the logistics were a nightmare. Every time they needed to make a change, they had to buy more servers, upgrade their existing equipment and potentially wait for months for changes to be made. Then, they would have to do the same thing again when more collections needed to be added.

When a museum moves their operations to the cloud, changes take place in minutes or days instead of months. They can purchase the amount of space they plan to use, so they can scale up or down as needed and don’t have to worry about wasting their limited budgets. Steven Peltzman, CIO of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, explains this benefit in an interview with Reuters. He states, “Flip the switch and there’s the extra capacity. Pay for what you use and shut it off again.”

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