Loryan Strant, who's a Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) for Office 365, is also CEO of Paradyne, one of our Office 365 for Education partners in Australia. It’s tricky, running a business and creating a work-life balance, which Loryan wrote about on his blog in September in ‘Focus on fatherhood’, and followed it up with ‘Working outside of business hours’, I asked him if he’d write a guest blog post about using the same technology in schools, TAFEs and universities. And here it is:
School holidays are a great time to see new sights, spend time with the family, enjoy the summer heat by the pool, and overall not worry about coming into school/the office/the classroom for work.
What if you could have all that, but still be just as productive by working from home?
Often when we work with schools to deploy Office 365 they focus on migrating student mailboxes so as to free up internal resources and reduce costs. And why wouldn’t you – it doesn’t make sense any more to provide Exchange mailboxes on-premises when Office 365 is free.
The holidays present schools with a fantastic opportunity – something very rarely experienced by the commercial world: a large period of time when all of your users are not “working”. In the commercial world this is generally only seen on public holidays or between Christmas and New Year (if that). For schools however they have several breaks of 2-3 weeks per year when IT departments can perform major infrastructure work with affecting the users.
While Office 365 can be implemented and used at any time of the year we find that many schools prefer to do this at the end of the calendar year when the holiday period is longer and there is more time to saturate the Internet connection with mailbox migration traffic.
Just because the students are on holidays and have mentally taken a break, doesn’t mean that the school has stopped working. With many of the schools we’ve worked with at Paradyne various elements of school administration teams continue to work. While the attitude and attire are more casual there is still plenty of work to be done. As well as this, teachers need to start planning for the next year and preparing. But why does all this have to be done at the school?
Sure – taking work home is not a new concept. SharePoint Online and SkyDrive Pro make this even easier in that users can access content on any device be it a Windows 8 PC, Mac, Android tablet, or Windows Phone. With SkyDrive Pro the data can be synchronised so it can be accessed offline making the ability to work remotely more of a reality.
How though, can faculty work together if they are working remotely? Sure they can call each other on their mobiles but how do they actually work together. That’s where Lync Online comes in. Often neglected as part of the offering but one of the most powerful tools in the Office 365 for Education suite – and available completely for free.
While some schools may prefer to not provide an instant messaging solution like Lync to students, the service can still be enabled for faculty – even if their mailbox is still on-premises. Deploying Lync Online is one of the easiest and quickest wins in any Office 365 deployment and allows the users to screen share, whiteboard, instant message, and audio/video conference with up to 250 of their peers in HD.
Do some of your staff use Skype? No problem – Lync can federate with Skype and support audio communications.
If you deploy Lync Online in your school your staff will thank you. Not only will it lower the need for them to walk across campus to see someone for a few minutes to work on something together, it can lower their need to come into the office at all – allowing them to spend more time with their family and enjoy their holidays.
Deploy Lync Online as part of Office 365 for your school these holidays. It’s free and it’s easy (especially when you use a partner).
Loryan’s team at Paradyne have some good case studies of education and non-profit organisations where they implemented Office 365. You can see them all on the case studies page on the Paradyne website.