SIB: Delivering Nextcloud to educational institutions


SIB is a major, global public actor of digital services in the healthcare and public sector, supporting the digital transformation of around 500 healthcare structures and public entities. Their headquarters are located in Rennes and they are also active in the city of Lille. SIB has been working on taking the information systems to the next level for the Ille-et-Vilaine department and middle schools.

We wanted to modernize our former file system with new requirements.

SIB provides infrastructures for teachers and pupils: computers, servers, hosted applications, networks support, and their requirements for a new file system included:

  • remote access
  • multi-device compatibility (smartphones, tablets, computers)
  • advanced collaboration features on documents
  • advanced sharing features
  • group shares

Nextcloud

SIB was already using Nextcloud internally while Group Folders and advanced ACLs have been a major benefit, along with several additional strengths. Being a privacy concerned open source solution with a large community, backed by a company equips Nextcloud with a promising roadmap and what makes it a perfect fit for this use-case is:

  • On premise hosting
  • Compatibility with Ceph Object Storage (S3)
  • Advanced group share features (Group foders/ACL)
  • Full online collaborative edition integration with Collabora online
  • GDPR compliance
  • Automation features

After building a test version simulating the use of Nextcloud in middle school environments we received excellent feedback for the validated solution.

Step by step deployment

The initial deployment is serving 5 middle schools with approximately 2500 users. This number will be risen to 33.000 pupils and 2.500 teachers in 57 middle schools step by step.

SIB have decided to start with a scalable and highly available infrastructure right from the beginning:

Data storage: CEPH a distributed solution that was already in use
Loadbalancer: several HAPProxy servers
Frontend: cluster of Apache web servers
Database: Galera cluster with a Maxcale distributor
Cache server: Redis cluster

This infrastructure is hosted in SIB datacenters, in Brittany and can scale according to the middle school’s needs. SIB controls the investment and it grows in parallel to the project as they manage all the components, hardware, OS configuration, middle-ware, supervision, support and maintenance.

A standard folder tree for each middle school has been set up thanks to the Advanced Group Folders and ACLs. This makes it easier to use for teachers by assigning specific features to certain folders:

  • Sharing between two groups with specific rights for each of them
  • Document upload system (homework)

“We created a healthy tree structure by organizing the different folders by level and subject. Users are not lost, they easily understand the use of each folder. We have also integrated the excellent plugin “README.md” from the University of Nantes, to easily describe the use of group records.”

Supporting the journey

SIB first deployed the community version of Nextcloud to give it a quick go and build the infrastructure while gaining expertise on community level (documentation, forum).

We asked Nextcloud GmbH to check and validate the infrastructure. Their very responsive support helped us fix some bugs while taking our notes and needs into account for the product roadmap.

User feedback

Users welcomed Nextcloud and its features with a great enthusiasm: they loved the remote access to documents, online collaborative edition and the user-friendliness of the solution.

Some teachers already used online hosting solutions. For them, having the same experience hosted in Brittany by a security, privacy and protection-oriented public organization was a very positive experience. For users unfamiliar with those services, SIB offered support and personal coaching during migration phases. They gained experience with Nextcloud and used it for innovative uses with their pupils during class time.

Coming next

The team has plans to continue and get more out of Nextcloud!
“We still have an important challenge to address: the use of multi-users in mobile devices (tablets). As of today, teachers and pupils are using Nextcloud web interface, but the native Android application is way more user-friendly.

We also aim at facilitating collaboration. Automation will be necessary on the server and client side to achieve our 40.000 users goal while always keeping in mind: « Keep it as simple as possible »”

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