How to use the cloud to improve your technology training

Anyone who has tried to hire an IT expert knows that the shortage of qualified people is real. We’re not just talking about IT security jobs, either. Almost every area of tech faces a skills shortage that threatens to sap productivity and presents challenges to IT departments of all sizes. Informal on-the-job training has been the norm for most IT teams. However, the rise of cyberthreats and the pace at which they arise leaves companies looking for more structured and timely security education.

One of the tactics organizations use to address the shortage is enhancing their in-house training and education teams with cloud-based systems that replicate their IT environments, so IT and security teams can learn and practice real-life scenarios in a safe and closed IT lab. This strategy is a win-win, as companies get the most out of the people they already have on staff, and employees get to learn new security skills, making them more marketable. But even this is daunting as companies must find ways to replicate their existing on-premise IT environments, stay attuned to the latest and greated product updates from their vendors and stay ahead of bad actors and threats.

The key to making this strategy successful is the ability to provide students with hands-on simulations, where they can safely practice in real-life environments to gain skills and tactics that closely match the required defensive actions they will have to perform if and when their systems come under attack. Unfortunately, this is often where strategies fall apart. Until recently, it’s been difficult to deliver effective, cost-effective training at scale. There are several reasons why traditional training methods fail, but the cloud can help.

Training needs to match the pace of the potential threats to your company

When you think of traditional technology training, it likely happened somewhere off-site, and took employees away from their work for a week or more while they learned new skills. It was not experiential. As IT budgets have tightened and staffs have become more lean, this model simply isn’t an option for many organizations.

Then there’s the issue of the actual material being taught. Trainings can become out of date quickly with new versions and features added to the organization’s IT environment and the security product they use on an almost daily basis. So, training on an outdated IT environment means your security training is starting out a step behind.

Finally, there’s the conundrum of the training itself. Organizations that specialize in IT education have the means to construct labs that replicate the look and feel of an enterprise setting. IT labs provide the most effective way for employees to learn new skills as they enable hands-on training tasks that actually mimic the tasks staff will do on the job. This is great for the training itself, but once the class is over, it’s almost impossible for students to get any continuing education or skills practice in that setting.

Use the cloud for training security teams

The cloud has upended everything from how businesses store data to how we collaborate and work with each other. Now it is training’s turn to reap the benefits of the elasticity and on-demand availability the cloud affords. Additionally, using the cloud gives companies completely separate, self-contained copies of their specific systems on which employees can learn.

Leveraging specialized clouds allow you to replicate actual on-premise environments, down to details like complex networking, letting trainers develop an almost unlimited array of scenarios, from complex ransomware attacks to outages affecting certain servers. Since the environment and threats are all contained in an exact replica on the cloud, the training can be easily restarted, modified and improved upon as team members learn and their skills and knowledge become more sophisticated.

Dedicated training lab solutions often automate many processes to simplify setup and administration, saving trainers and administrators time and providing exceptional student experiences.

Keep these key considerations in mind when choosing a learning platform

From management’s perspective, it’s important to consider your entire organization when you look at IT skills training – whether you have an IT department of five people or 500. Figure out where your biggest, most pressing skills gaps are, and address those first. The learning management system (LMS) you choose should let your instructors and administrators easily manage the courses and scenarios offered, the training resources, your students and your costs.

From the employee’s perspective, make sure the LMS you choose was developed with them in mind. Your team should be able to collaborate on content, discover new problem-solving methods, and consume courses without worrying about the processes behind it. Put another way: employees in training should be able to focus on their education, without worrying about anything else.

To enable maximum efficiency and a seamless learner experiences for all your constituents, be sure it can be easily integrated with your other training content creation and delivery systems.

What’s coming for eLearning’s future?

The future features two letters prominently: AI. As education becomes less, “I’m headed to a training; see you next week,” and more of a consistent part of an employee’s job, on-demand delivery of different formats and styles of training will become the norm. Hands-on, cloud-based labs will become an integral part of the overall education process, seamlessly fitting in with live classes led by experts and recorded ones that can be consumed whenever students have time. AI will enable trainees and organizations to discover the skills each employee needs and determine what they should focus their training on – and how.

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