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November, 2008 - FE blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The FE Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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November, 2008

  • FE blog

    Excellent BitLocker deployment advice


    As you may know, I enabled Windows Vista’s BitLocker encryption on my laptop a couple of weeks ago, 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. If you’re thinking of doing something similar for your laptops, you would benefit from reading 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)

  • FE blog

    Office for the Web


    I go away on holiday, and suddenly tons of things get announced. Hurrah. I should holiday more!

    Alongside all of the Windows announcements (the first public view of Windows 7 and the new cloud-computing platform, Windows Azure), we also previewed the Office Web Applications which will be included within the release of the next version of Office in early 2010.

    For colleges, this will be an important development, as it will mean that you will be able to have complete transportability of documents and work (with complete fidelity*) between home and college, regardless of whether your students have Office at home or not, or have an older or more recent version than you use in college.

    First Look: Office 14 for Web

    I don’t think that moving to web-based Office applications is the right thing for everybody, in all circumstances, because a lot of what students (and teachers) do today involves a rich mix of media and data, and it would be wrong to assume that everybody is online all of the time. But it provides another element of flexibility. It’s still a year away, but the Beta will be available sooner, and we’ll all get the chance to play with it and see what it can do.

    * With complete fidelity: This is something that I think is quite important to students & teachers. If I create a document where the pictures all line up, and it looks perfect, I don’t want to transfer it to another piece of software which makes it look different. Sometimes (but decreasingly) I get that experience moving between Office 2003 & Office 2007, but I have seen some wild changes moving between different applications which use .odt, simply because there doesn’t appear to be a standard way to implement an open standard! What the team demonstrate on the video above is that one of their clear focus areas it to ensure that when you move from the Office suite to the web suite, and back, it retains all of the information, and all of the formatting is consistent.

  • FE blog

    Taking the search out of ‘Search and Rescue’'


    If you’re a follower of technology, you will have seen all of the news from Microsoft’s PDC Conference in the States last month, where there were the first insights into Windows 7 and the launch of our new Internet strategy with Windows Azure, Live Mesh etc.

    Much of the coverage focused on the technology, but what made me sit up and take notice was that UK customers have been some of the first to start using these new technologies. For example, the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute) were featured for their use of Windows Azure to help them grow their search and rescue systems. I’ve met the RNLI IT team a couple of times, and I know that they run a very sophisticated IT system, but it was a surprise to see that they were so involved in such leading edge technology.

    They have been building a new system for lifesaving on Windows Azure. At PDC delegates saw this short video explains what the MOB Guardian system is all about and why they’re looking at Windows Azure as the next step forward to help them widen the use of the system.

    <a href="http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?vid=efed47e0-1b7a-4c44-9af5-8e603470c981" target="_new" title="RNLI and AWS Mob Guardian Windows Azure Testimonial">Video: RNLI and AWS Mob Guardian Windows Azure Testimonial</a>

    (Video link)

    In a nutshell, MOB Guardian is a device that sits on a seagoing vessel and fires an alarm to a monitoring centre should the crew get in to trouble. Scaling this system was the challenge and that’s where Azure comes in with compute power on tap and the potential for huge cost savings.

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