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March, 2011 - Education - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The Australian Education Blog
Ray Fleming's take on what's interesting in Education IT in Australia

March, 2011

  • Education

    Encryption in education - If one of your staff laptops disappears - do you know the data is secure?


    According to The Guardian, BP have just lost a laptop containing 13,000 personal records related to the Gulf oil spill. And the laptop had no encryption. So where are we with encryption in education?

    Security LogoI've been a BitLocker encryption user since the days of Windows Vista on my laptop, and since that time I have been reassured to know that should something happen to my laptop, all of the data on it is fully encrypted and secure. The whole process was very smooth – I simply enabled it in the Control Panel, and the encryption happened in the background over a morning.

    What astounds me is that more organisations don't deploy BitLocker encryption onto their laptops as standard. After all, it's easy and it's included with Windows Enterprise versions - which schools, TAFEs and universities will be licensed for as part of a Campus, School or EES Agreement. And it's a fire-and-forget protection - once you have enabled it, you can forget it's there. I have been happily using a laptop which is fully encrypted by BitLocker for the last two years, and it's never bothered me or interfered with what I need to do.

    A typical laptop for a teacher or member of school staff is likely to have piles of sensitive data on it - whether that's student lists, reports, or really sensitive information such as special needs or child protection information. So why would they not be automatically encrypted with BitLocker before you hand them to staff? Or retrospectively encrypted now? Encryption in education worldwide seems to be entirely reactively driven - it happens only once a significant data loss.

    If you want to know what's involved in deploying Windows encryption, there's an excellent TechNet article written by the Microsoft IT team – they’re the people that keep all of our in-house IT systems running.

    The article deals with both the technical, and managerial issues, of managing the introduction, and also gives a unique insight into the challenges of change in a very tech-savvy environment. And the article is incredibly honest about the challenges faced, and the lessons learned. Here’s an extract":

    Lessons Learned

    Lessons learned during Microsoft IT's BitLocker deployment include:

    • Microsoft IT tried to retrofit the environment with BitLocker. A better approach would have been to move forward with new computers and then upgrade only existing computers that had the highest security risk.
    • Microsoft IT thought BitLocker would be easier to deploy than it was. Microsoft IT relied on the BitLocker Preparation Tool to handle all aspects but found during testing that it failed in some situations, primarily due to locked files when trying to shrink the partition.
    • Hardware needs rigorous testing at scale. Computers that test well in a lab environment sometimes yield different results in a production environment. In other words, one computer in a lab might look fine but thousands in the production environment have variance, such as differences in the BIOS.
    • Recognizing high-business-impact data is a difficult, industry-wide issue. Few tools are available that enable organizations to find the types of high-business-impact data that users have on their computers.

    Read the whole article here, and if you have time take a look at the whole IT Showcase section – a large section of the website in which the Microsoft IT team share their experiences in running a complex IT infrastructure (The “How Microsoft IT reduces costs” section is especially interesting)h

  • Education

    Managing non-Microsoft devices on your education network


    System Center LogoLast week, at the Microsoft Management Summit 2011, Brad Anderson, Corporate Vice President for the Management & Security Division unveiled some news in his speech that would be of interest to any university, TAFE or school. It was all about the extension of the System Center family to manage more non-Microsoft devices - including Android devices, and  iOS devices like iPads and iPhones. Sadly, because it was part of the announcement for the new System Center 2012 Beta, there's not a huge amount of detail that's been posted up on the various Microsoft websites, so I've put together my bullet-point version of what's been announced, and then given you all of the source material below:

    • You can already provide email support for other devices through Exchange ActiveSync (Windows Phone and phones running Symbian, iOS and Android)
    • With System Center Configuration Manager 2012, in addition to in-depth management of Windows devices - servers, desktops, laptops and phones, we're making changes to enhance the management of other devices.
    • We're adding support for:
    • iOS-based iPhones and iPads
    • Android devices - smartphones and tablets
    • Symbian smartphones
    • Your IT management team get the benefit of a single set of tools, and a single interface, to manage a much wider part of your campus infrastructure.
    • To help you manage your information security and data loss risk, features added include:
    • set password and pin-lock policies on any devices which connect to your corporate data, even if it's just email
    • setting rigid security rules - for example, to wipe a staff member's device if multiple bad-PIN attempts are made
    • the ability to do a full remote data wipe and reset on registered lost devices - whether they are owned by you, or owned by the user. If you've not already got it, you're going to need a policy that your users agree to when they start using their personal device to connect to your corporate systems.
    • Improved reporting means that you will be able to see what devices are connected, by whom, and what for - so that you can keep a track of changes in your user base (eg what proportion of your students are connecting to your corporate systems with which phone type - really useful for building your mobile web services plan)

    So next time your Principal, or a Head of Department or one of the Deans insists that they need to get access to your corporate systems from their personal phone, or they start syncing files with sensitive data to their iPad at home, you will at least know that you can manage the risk of data loss - and do it from the comfort of your existing System Center management console.

    You can view the full text of Brad's presentation, including the demonstrations on the PressPass site, and here's an extract where Jeffrey Sutherland is demonstrating the new Configuration Manager 2012:


    But today, with Configuration Manager 2012, I now have the tools at my fingertips to manage mobile devices just as I managed my traditional Windows desktop.

    As you can see, there are a number of reports that come built in with Configuration Manager 2012, specific to management of mobile devices. I'm going to show you one report that I find particularly useful, which is the count of mobile devices by platform. And this helps me understand what type of devices are connecting in.

    As you can see, we have just under 14,000 mobile devices that have connected. And even though we've standardized on Windows Phone as our preferred device, our users are able to bring in whichever devices they want. And so you can see that we have a fairly broad distribution across IOS, Android and Nokia Symbian.

    However, understanding what devices I have connecting is just the first problem that I have. Now let me show you how easily I can configure the security policies that I want to apply on mobile phones. So, I'm just going to view the properties of my connector. And as you can see, we have several settings groups from which I can build up the correct policies to apply. I've already set a password policy, but I'm going to make one small tweak to it, and that is if the phone is lost or stolen, and somebody is trying to break into the PIN, I want it to actually automatically wipe if the user has failed to enter the correct PIN after a number of attempts. I'm going to set that to ten.

    And now just like that, this policy is now being pushed out to every device that's connected to our environment


    Learn MoreLearn More about System Center 

    Download the System Center 2012 beta

  • Education

    Moving to the Cloud - the Microsoft experience


    I have a huge respect from the Microsoft IT team - the people who have to keep our IT systems up and running, in the face of tens of thousands of highly capable internal users (yes, 'highly capable' also means disruptive!) and millions of users externally (including some with evil intent).

    Podcast imageSo when they make big changes to our IT - as they have been doing recently by moving many of our internal systems to the cloud - they learn lessons I want to hear about, because education customers and partners are doing similar projects - and many of the lessons learnt are as relevant to a school or university as they are to our own business.

    The TechNet team have just collected some of those stories together into TechNet Radio downloads, including interviews with Tony Scott, the Microsoft CIO. You can either listen online via the TechNet Edge website , or download the file for your MP3 player/phone/car etc


    Online version
    TechNet Edge


    What Does the Cloud Mean to the CIO
    Tony Scott, Microsoft CIO is leading the Microsoft IT organization to invest in the cloud. Listen to this interview to find out how it will bring new possibilities and benefits to the business.



    What Customers are telling Microsoft IT about Cloud Computing
    Bob Anderson and Mike Olsson share what the cloud means to senior business leaders from around the globe. Listen in as they discuss how Microsoft IT is gaining valuable insight into future cloud solutions, best practices and how they are implementing these new ideas on the Windows Azure platform.



    Microsoft´s Chief Information Security Officer on Cloud Security
    Hear from Joe Lindstrom and Microsoft’s Chief Information Security Officer, Bret Arsenault as he shares with us his thoughts on Cloud Security. Listen in as they discuss privacy and security implications for the cloud as well as some of the current challenges and solutions for this new computing paradigm.



    Moving Applications to the Cloud
    Bob Anderson and Mike Olsson discuss how Microsoft IT is migrating their applications to the Windows Azure platform. Listen in as they discuss lessons learned and best practices as well as how organisations can better prepare for their own move to Windows Azure



    Using SQL Azure to Enable Self-Service Business Intelligence
    Sanjay Soni and Rajesh Padmanabhan discuss how Microsoft IT is delivering Data as a Service to various Microsoft business and IT User Groups. Listen in as they discuss unified, enterprise level, agile data distribution systems that are possible through SQL Azure and how Microsoft IT has created a world where business users have the power to access all of their data in one central location



    Integrating Day-to-Day Operations with the Cloud
    Celia Morant-Kraus and Gayle Mateer from Microsoft’s HR IT Department discuss the Windows Azure platform and how it helps capacity management and service level agreements, as well as how it provides a flawless computing experience for employees.



    Developing Applications on Windows Azure
    Abe Ray and Bart Robertson discuss how Microsoft IT is developing applications on the Windows Azure platform. Listen in as they go in depth into the three main business benefits for developing applications in the Cloud as well as how Windows Azure is optimising the online social and digital media experience at Microsoft.



    Application Migration Strategies for the Cloud
    Scott Richardson and Tom Woods discuss how Microsoft IT implemented Windows Azure migration strategies for over 1500 internal lines of business applications. Listen in as they discuss the how-to’s and lessons learned for this project.



    In Australian Education, the shift to the cloud has been rapid too - either to shared private data centres here within Australia, or to regional data centres (such as our Cloud services data centre in Singapore). Although many of the initial moves have been about cost-saving, there's now a growing trend of moving to the Cloud to improve service delivery. And that's the trend that will probably accelerate things more - because if the alternative you face is a high capital investment and long project implementation times, or a quick project in the cloud, then you can afford to be much more user-demand led. There are two ways that you're likely to end up using the cloud:

    • The most visible for you is when you move one of your own applications to the cloud - like your student portal or a collaboration service that you run in your own network today
    • The less visible way is when one of your service providers (for example, the people that provide your student management system or your learning management system) moves the application to the cloud. This might be completely invisible to you, or you may simply see it as switching off your own servers (saving money, power etc). A good case study is the Janison system that allowed NSW to avoid putting in 60 servers, and instead delivered an exam system from the cloud, saving tens of thousands of dollars.

    Learn MoreLearn More about Windows Azure

  • Education

    Universities using Lync - Marquette University


    Marquette University LogoLast week I wrote about Marquette University switching from a traditional PBX to using Microsoft's Lync, which had been featured in CIO magazine. Pretty soon after I realised that perhaps that original article had been prompted by an official Microsoft case study of universities using Lync, focusing on the Marquette University implementation.

    The official case study includes a lot of detail about their implementation, and what caught my eye was the quote from Dan Smith, the Senior Director of IT Services at Marquette, talking about the choice they had between Microsoft's Lync and the Cisco solution they also considered:

      At the time, with the Cisco solution, all we got was the phone. What opened our eyes was that with the Microsoft solution on the desktop and the interoperation with Outlook, we got so much more.  

    After creating a one-stop shop for students, using Lync's Instant Messaging and presence to make it more effective, they are now looking at creating a 'Help Desk Bot' that will enable students, faculty, and staff to send an instant message through Outlook Web App or the Lync client to the help desk when they experience technical issues. The instant message is automatically routed to an available help-desk agent.

    Learn MoreRead the full Marquette University case study on

  • Education

    Being a Microsoft partner is good for business. So what?


    The main Microsoft News Centre, where we publish all of our global press releases, is reporting that new IDC research estimates that Microsoft partners worldwide (all 640,000 of them) generated revenues of $580 billion in 2010, up a fifth over the last three years. And the calculation shows that for every $ of revenue generated for Microsoft, you're generating $8.70 for yourselves.

    (Given that Microsoft's education pricing is significantly lower than mainstream pricing, I'm guessing that in education the real number is probably closer to $30 for you, for every $ for us)

    So what?

    There's some future trends identified in the global report that are directly applicable to the Australian Education market too. For example:

      According to the IDC study, implementation of cloud computing is forecast to add more than $800 billion in net new business revenues to worldwide economies over the next three years, helping explain why Microsoft has made cloud computing one of its top business priorities.  

    It forecasts that Cloud services (explicitly Software As A Service - SAAS) will grow at over five times the rate of traditionally delivered software by 2014.


    The image above, taken from the infographic, relates to a finding in 2009 that partners that invested in more Microsoft Competencies got bigger deals and higher revenue per employee - partly because it also brings more attention and support from Microsoft.

    And the report also identified more collaborative working between partners to win business. IDC said that partner-to-partner activity within the Microsoft Partner Network has increased from $6.8 billion in 2007 to $10.1 billion in 2009 - jumping nearly 50% in two years.

    You can find the press release here, or…

    Learn MoreDownload the full 'Partner Opportunity in the Microsoft Ecosystem' report

    If, like me, you're a visual learner, then you might appreciate the snazzy Microsoft Partner Network Infographic, which gives you quick picture of the results - and provides a good incentive to read the full report.

  • Education

    Surgeons use Microsoft Kinect in hospitals to speed up surgery


    OK, after 'record breaking Kinect' and 'augmented reality Kinect', this is the last of the Kinect stories for a while. But this is such a great example, I have to share it.

    TG Daily are reporting that doctors at Sunnybrook Hospital are using the Kinect system to view and control images of MRI and CT sacns during surgery. What that means is that instead of having to leave the sterile area around the patient (and wasting another 20 minutes in the clean-up process involved in that), they can check a patient's scans on a screen, using Kinect to zoom in and out etc. It's reported to be saving doctor's up to an hour on surgery, and reduces the amount of data a surgeon needs to remember during surgery.

    Read the full story on TG Daily.

    With so many unexpected uses for Kinect, it cant be long before we start to see the educational equivalents.

  • Education

    The mindset of a university CIO - Part Two


    Last week I highlighted an interview with an outgoing Australian University CIO - Mick Houlahan of the University of Western Sydney. This week, I've got another one to point to - this time it's the incoming CIO for RMIT, Brian Clark, who's also been sharing his ideas with CIO Australia.

    Having met new university CIO's who have joined from commercial organisations, I know they find there are many stark differences between running an IT infrastructure for a business and for a university - and that there are many, many similarities too. All too often, people who don't understand education assume that somehow education IT infrastructure is a junior version of a corporate IT system - when in fact, the opposite is often true. Often education IT systems have to respond sooner to technology innovations - and the rapidly evolving demands of users.

    You should read the full article - 'Incoming RMIT exec turns IT focus outward' - if you want an insight to the projects and business challenges, and I'd highlight some of the key things that stood out for me in it:

    • As part of a new Cloud strategy, one of the first decisions Brian Clark took was to sponsor the move to cloud-hosted email for students and staff, following a move to the cloud for their learning management system
    • Brian talks about the need to move from focusing on administration-driven projects, and instead focusing on integration with academic needs (ie the end-user groups). One of the ways of doing this was to invite key members of the academic staff to join project steering committees, evaluation panels and the ICT strategy team - which he hopes will help the process of change management in the future.
    • As part of plans to boost technical education, there's a review going on to look at vendor certification for students - so that in future students may be able to leave the university with a recognised industry certification, such as becoming an MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer).

    Learn MoreRead the full interview with Brian Clark, CIO of RMIT on

    Apologies to pedants - the grammatical error in the title is deliberate. I know I should say 'an university', but it just doesn't sound right, so I've opted for the easily read, but grammatically incorrect, version.

  • Education

    Saving money with the Core CAL suite


    Computers or users which access Microsoft servers often need a specific licence called a CAL (stands for Client Access Licence). Most education customers buy these licences in a package called the Microsoft Core CAL suite - basically, a package of licences that they need for their computers to allow them to access their key server systems in the school/TAFE/University. The Core CAL Suite includes licences for Windows Server, Exchange Server and SharePoint Server. Customers who do more advanced things with their networks often choose the Enterprise CAL Suite, which gives them more advanced collaboration etc.

    We've just announced that from August, the Core CAL Suite will have additional licences within it, as we'll be adding the Lync Server Standard CAL and Forefront Endpoint Protection CAL.

    The changes reflect the way that technology use is changing in business and education. For example, by adding Lync (previously known as Office Communications Server), it means that you can be ahead of the curve of the deployment and use of Instant Messaging (IM) and presence across your network. Gartner say:

      By 2013, 95% of workers in Global 100 organisations will use the IM client as their primary interface for computer-based, real-time communications.  

    So these changes make it easier for education customers to adopt these technologies within your existing ICT infrastructure (this is particularly important in schools, where it is unlikely that a public Instant Messaging system would meet all of the e-safety requirements for all users).

    Adding Forefront Endpoint Protection means that you will have a highly-rated malware and virus protection licence included with your CAL Suite. (Forefront provides advanced antivirus, behavioural threat detection and Windows Firewall management).

    Cost Saving with Core CAL in Education

    By buying the Core CAL suite, customers save money on the cost of individual licences. By adding Forefront Endpoint Protection, it is likely to mean that there are additional cost savings possible, for example if you're currently spending money on alternative protection software for your network - in many cases, this could be a significant amount.

    You can see what is in which CAL suite on the Microsoft website, including the August changes (marked with a * in the table below)

    CAL Suite table

    Learn More

    Find out more about Lync on the Microsoft Lync website

    Find out more about Forefront on the Microsoft Forefront website
    (quick links: Overview and FAQ)

  • Education

    The Microsoft Australia DPE team launch Noise To Signal


    DO NOT PRESS buttonOne of our teams in Australia is called Developer and Platform Evangelism (or DPE in Microsoft-Acronym-Speak). They work with developers, technical students and software makers, and spend their time getting geeky. They're also the team that wear the coolest T-shirts (or so they think), and like DPE teams all over the world, like to find different ways to express themselves. In fact, I'm sure they get a kick out of being as un-corporate as possible.

    I tell you this as a warning, so that you're not surprised when you look at their 'Noise to Signal' website, which is about some of their areas of expertise - for example, the work they do with students, or the latest technology like Kinect Hacks, Surface 2 and IE9. The website is a massive, clickable, cartoon.

    My two favourite idiosyncratic bits of it:

    • The 'Do Not Press' button. Of course, I did. You can find out for yourself on their website what happens…
    • The legal stuff at the bottom. Wait for it to load, and see it for yourself…

    Learn MoreVisit NoiseToSignal

  • Education

    Need help using SharePoint in school?


    SharePoint is pretty widely used in education, with schools, TAFEs and Universities all over Australia using it within their learning or administration processes. One of the things I've noticed is that it tends to be the IT team who get the 'Can I do this…' questions about SharePoint. And the answer is normally "Yes", whether the question is a learning one ('Can I setup a website where I can distribute homework assignments instead of printing them') or a administration one ('Can I setup a collaborative wiki for all the school policy papers, and a shared calendar for the update deadlines').

    And often the challenge is how to do it in the fastest and most user friendly way. So I thought these two Microsoft SharePoint Kits from Microsoft Press would be good to know about - whether you are an IT person in education, or even a developer working within one of our Australian Education Partners. You can pre-order them now, for when they're published.

    Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Administrator’s Kit

    Front coverWith this two-in-one kit, you get mission-critical information from SharePoint MVPs, featuring insights from the SharePoint community and members of the SharePoint Team at Microsoft. You'll discover how to plan, design, deploy, and manage strategic solutions using SharePoint 2010, Microsoft SQL Server, Windows PowerShell, and other key technologies.

    Topics include architecture, deployment scenarios, design considerations, security best practices, high availability, performance, centralised administration, disaster recovery, customisation, solution development, and upgrade and migration strategies. Key solutions include building and managing a server farm, automating tasks, FAST search application management, enterprise and web content management, and business intelligence.

    Book front coverMicrosoft SharePoint 2010 Step by Step Kit

    Experience learning made easy, and quickly teach yourself to use SharePoint 2010 with this two-in-one kit. Written by SharePoint experts and MVPs, you'll discover how to plan, create, design, deploy, and manage applications and workflows using SharePoint Designer 2010 and SharePoint Foundation 2010 -- one step at a time!

    Build exactly the skills you need by working at your own pace through easy-to-follow lessons and hands-on practice files.

    You’ll learn to:

    • Design solutions to meet your scenario - without code
    • Customise your pages with Web Parts - display, edit, and modify list item data
    • Access data from a variety of external sources
    • Create workflows to automate business processes
    • Use master pages and CSS to control how sites work
    • Build your own SharePoint site with easy-to-use templates
    • Add discussion boards, wikis, and blogs
    • Customise lists, libraries, and SharePoint site pages to store information
    • Set up Document and Meeting Workspaces for easy collaboration
    • Share calendars, contacts, and data from Microsoft Office programs

    Discounts on Microsoft Press ebooks

    I also discovered that O'Reilly run a weekly and daily promotions of Microsoft Press ebooks. Two weeks ago they took 50% off Inside Microsoft SharePoint 2010, and on 1st March they took half off the Microsoft Silverlight 4 Step by Step ebook. And as they point out prominently, the ebooks are DRM free and delivered to you in 5 different formats where possble. (And ebooks are a lot more convenient for Australia!). The easiest way to follow the offers is to subscribe to their eBooks Offers RSS feed, or look at this week's deal on Microsoft Press books at the top of this page

    Learn MoreLearn More about the full range of Microsoft Press books

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