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  • FE blog

    Azure & StorSimple: Upcoming Free Events and Webinars


    We’ve got some great Azure based webinars and events being held over the next few months. These include hands on technical events while others are introductions to Azure and StorSimple. If your keen to find out more information on what Azure can do for you, please join us at one of our free online or in person events.

    StorSimple Briefings and Webinars

    60TB of geo-replicated Cloud storage with a further 10TB onsite for c£33k per annum!! Better still, automatic data tiering and de-dupe are out of the box.

    Find out how you can capitalise on the benefits of Microsoft’s Azure cloud and specifically how cloud based storage can help reduce storage costs, improve data management and deliver business benefit. Join us for an overview of a new class of storage technology called Cloud-integrated Storage, or CiS


    •        Intros & welcome

    •        Windows Azure Overview

    •        Cloud Storage & StorSimple

    •        Azure Demo and Customer Case Study

    •        Q&A

    2nd April, 10am - 12pm - Microsoft, Cardinal Place, Register by emailing: t-rospa@microsoft.com

    7th May, 10am - 11am, Online Webinar, Please Register Here

    4th June, 10am - 12pm, Microsoft, Cardinal Place, Register by emailing: t-rospa@microsoft.com

    Identity & Access on Azure

    Learn more about how Azure can help enhance your identity management and access control for on-premises, hosted and public cloud environments. Windows Azure Active Directory is a comprehensive identity and access management cloud solution enabling you to manage user accounts, get single sign on across Windows Azure, Microsoft online services like Microsoft Office 365 and a world of non-Microsoft SaaS applications


    •        Azure overview and update

    •        Identity & Access and Windows Azure

    •        Hybrid scenarios / architecture guidance

    •        Windows Azure Active Directory

    •        Windows Azure Multi-Factor Authentication

    •        Examples & typical ROI and benefits

    26th March: 9:30 to 12:00, Microsoft, Edinburgh, Register by emailing: t-rospa@microsoft.com

    10th April: 9:30 to 12:00, Microsoft, Cardinal Place, London, Register by emailing: t-rospa@microsoft.com

    Big Data on Azure

    Learn how Azure can help unlock data in your organisation and reveal new insights to help drive better decision making using Windows Azure HDInsight, a Big Data solution powered by Apache Hadoop. This briefing will also explain how to surface those insights from all types of data to business users through Microsoft Business Intelligence toolsets and show you how to get BigData with no hassle.


    •        Azure overview and update

    •        Introducing HDInsight - How to implement BigData on Windows Azure

    •        Architectural patterns and guidance

    •        Visualisation with PowerBI tools

    •        Examples & typical ROI and benefits

    10th April: 14:00 – 17:00, Microsoft, Cardinal Place, London, Please register by emailing: t-rospa@microsoft.com

    SharePoint on Azure

    Leverage the benefits of your existing SharePoint investments whilst at the same time begin to take advantage of the economic benefits and agility of public cloud. Whether is it reducing your SharePoint data storage costs using Azure or taking your test and development environments for SharePoint to the cloud this briefing will help you understand how these two platforms can be used to achieve cost savings of IT hardware and infrastructure.


    • · Azure overview and update
    • · SharePoint & Azure
    • · Hybrid scenarios / architecture guidance
    • · Example - Building a SharePoint farm for DR
    • · Typical ROI and benefits
    • · SharePoint test and development on Azure scenarios

    17th April: 9:30 to 12:00 , Microsoft, Cardinal Place, London, Please register by emailing: t-rospa@microsoft.com

    Test and Dev on Azure

    Learn how Windows Azure can help create faster development and test cycles for your applications. Learn how to rapidly self-provision as many virtual machines as you need for your application development and testing in the cloud without waiting for hardware, procurement or internal processes. Learn how to connect globally to your on-premises network with Windows Azure Virtual Network and confidently scale up, scale out, and generate load to deliver applications faster.


    •        Azure overview and update

    •        Test and development on Azure

    •        Architecture guidance

    •        Examples and typical ROI and benefits

    20th March: 13:30 to 16:00        Microsoft, Cardinal Place, London, Please register by emailing: t-rospa@microsoft.com

    26th March: 13:30 to 16:00        Microsoft, Edinburgh, Please register by emailing: t-rospa@microsoft.com

    20th April: 13:30 to 16:00        Microsoft, Cardinal Place, London, Please register by emailing: t-rospa@microsoft.com

    Big Data Hands On Experience Workshop

    With Windows Azure HDInsight, our Big Data solution powered by Apache Hadoop will allow you to surface and unlock new insights from all types of data through Microsoft Excel.

    Hadoop with No Hassle:

    - Quickly build a Hadoop cluster in minutes when you need it

    - Choose the right cluster size to optimize for time to insight or cost.

    - Seamlessly integrate HDInsight into your existing analysis workflows


    · What is Windows Azure

    · Big Data - What do we mean by this?

    · Experimenting with big data

    · The art of data visualization

    · Introduction to HDInsight Service

    · Hands On Demo's

    · Build a HD Cluster

    · Run a script

    · Map your results onto EXCEL

    · Big Data in Mobile Gaming

    · Specific use cases and typical benefits - ASOS

    · Art of possible and future of Big Data 

    27th March: 10:00 – 14:00, Microsoft, Cardinal Place, London, Please register by emailing: t-rospa@microsoft.com

  • FE blog

    Why you should go green with the end of Windows XP


    With the end of support for Windows XP, many organisations and individuals, including schools, are looking at replacing their computers. Aside from features like battery life, touch enabled screens etc, one aspect of selecting the right device for your school is the environmental profile of the device. This is not just about the planet but also has financial benefits.

    • Just by changing the operating system from Windows XP to Windows 7 or Windows 8, you can save up to 30% of the electrical running costs,
    • If you move to a more modern portable device with new hardware chipsets designed to work with a modern operating system like Windows 8, you can expect up to 60% power savings.

    When spread across all the PCs in your school, this can be a great saving, both financially and for the planet. Students at West Wycombe Combined School, which undertook such an upgrade, produced a great in-school project where the children measured the changes in power use, and what impact that would have on the planet. See our blog story on this.

    The device decision you make has knock on impacts on the planet, so it is worth it to consider:

    • Does it use lamps contain mercury for the display which can cause problems when the device is disposed of at the end of its life?
    • How much of the case is made from recycled metals or plastics, rather than requiring more ore or oil to be extracted and processed?
    • Does the manufacture offer programs to recycle the device at the end of its useful life?


    Some large organisations ask questions like this when they go out to tender for new devices, but clearly no school has the time or resources to take an approach like that. The easy solution is to look at some of the environmental certification and registration programs that have been developed, and just specify them when you select new devices.

    The largest of these is EPEAT which:

    • Operates in 42 countries around the world.
    • Is used by governments, universities, and multinationals, including Microsoft as part of the criteria for devices they buy.
    • In 2011, 32% of the world laptops sold were registered with this program.
    • Has 23 mandatory criteria which get a Bronze rating, and 28 optional criteria; achieving 50% of these merits a Silver rating, and 75% gets the Gold EPEAT badge. The criteria cover not only the device, but also the organisation that makes it.
    • All the big PC manufactures produce PCs that qualify for the program e.g. HP, Dell, and Apple.

    As a school, specifying you only want to be offered EPEAT registered devices will still ensure you are provided with great choice. However, you are also ensured that they have gone through some checks around environmental sustainability that should give you financial saving through efficient power consumption, and improved product quality from the greater scrutiny around the manufacturing of the PC.

    While EPEAT is the most widely used worldwide standard to help recognise greener PCs, there are some drawbacks. Currently it does not cover tablets, mobile phones and servers. They have stakeholder groups working on this which should enable them to expand to this in the next year or two. In the meantime, there are some less widely used standards you can consider. For tablets you could use the Swedish TCO Tablet standard.

    If you want to learn more about this subject area there is a Microsoft sponsored site that provides more information – see www.greeneritchallenge.org

  • FE blog

    Farewell Windows XP – 8th April 2014


    If you're still an XP user or were an advocate of this version of Windows you may have already heard that support for the product is soon to be finishing up. Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 will go out of support on April 8, 2014.

    Why is Microsoft ending support for Windows XP and Office 2003?

    In 2002 Microsoft introduced its Support Lifecycle policy based on customer feedback to have more transparency and predictability of support for Microsoft products. As per this policy, Microsoft Business and Developer products, including Windows and Office products, receive a minimum of 10 years of support (5 years Mainstream Support and 5 years Extended Support), at the supported service pack level.

    If your institution has not started the migration to a modern desktop, you are running behind. Based on historical customer deployment data, the average enterprise deployment can take 18 to 32 months from business case through full deployment. To ensure you remain on supported versions of Windows and Office, you should begin your planning and application testing immediately to ensure you deploy before end of support.

    If you are still on XP - what this means for you

    "It means you should take action. After April 8, 2014, there will be no new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates"

    Running Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 in your environment after their end of support date may expose your institution to potential risks, such as:

    Security & Compliance Risks: Unsupported and unpatched environments are vulnerable to security risks. This may result in an officially recognized control failure by an internal or external audit body, leading to suspension of certifications, and/or public notification of the organization’s inability to maintain its systems and customer information.

    Lack of Independent Software Vendor (ISV) & Hardware Manufacturers support: A recent industry report from Gartner Research suggests "many independent software vendors (ISVs) are unlikely to support new versions of applications on Windows XP in 2011; in 2012, it will become common." And it may stifle access to hardware innovation: Gartner Research further notes that in 2012, most PC hardware manufacturers will stop supporting Windows XP on the majority of their new PC models.

    How to begin your migration

    Enterprise Customers: Microsoft offers large organizations in-depth technical resources, tools, and expert guidance to ease the deployment and management of Windows, Office and Internet Explorer products and technologies. To learn more about migration and deployment programs, please contact your Microsoft sales representative or Certified Microsoft Partner. Learn how to pilot and deploy a modern desktop yourself, download the free Microsoft Deployment Toolkit and begin your deployment today.

    Small to Medium Business: There are many options for small and medium businesses considering moving to a modern PC with the latest productivity and collaboration tools. Small to mid-size organizations should locate a Microsoft Certified Partner to understand the best options to meet their business needs. If your current PC meets the system requirements for Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, you can buy Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8.1 Pro from a local retailer or Microsoft Certified Partner. If your PC does not meet system requirements, consider purchasing a new business PC with Windows 8.1 Pro.

    Over the next few weeks we'll be publishing useful information and resources to help with the migration and help you to understand your options.

    Getting up to date with Windows and Office means more than simply being supported. It offers more flexibility to empower employees and students to be more productive, while increasing operational efficiency through improved PC security and management. It also enables your organization to take advantage of latest technology trends such as virtualisation and the cloud.

  • FE blog

    Microsoft Global Education Forum - Changed Forever by Saltash.net Student Leaders


    Article originally posted on the Teachers Blog, by Stuart Ball.

    Last week were at the Microsoft in Education Global Forum in Barcelona. Before I write about what went on during the week, I wanted to share with you the experiences of those who turned out to be the most influential people there. The students form Saltash,net community school.

    For the last nine years Microsoft has provided a Global Forum for Education in which Teachers, School Leaders and Ministers of Education share the very best practice from around the world and award the best of the best internationally.

    This year’s Global Forum in Barcelona was different. For the first time in the history of the Forum, students took part as educational experts in their own right. Four students from saltash.net Community School presented their ideas to ministers of education, school leaders and teachers from over 100 countries. They judged awards, provided a help desk and guidance for teachers, were interviewed by Anthony Salcito; worldwide head of education at Microsoft, interviewed Steve Beswick; the head of Microsoft Education in the UK and launched a worldwide student leadership project for schools all over the world. Together with their teacher Mr Scott Wieprecht they were presented with an award at the final Gala dinner by the Catalonian Secretary of State for Education.

    The students; George, Amy, Jack and Rowenna from years 8 and 9 were photographed, videoed and interviewed all week like the Global superstars they are. James Bernard, Head of Global Partnerships at Microsoft was one of many to make a special point of thanking each of the students for the transformational role they played at the event.

    Day by day at the event


    Four teachers and four students flew from Bristol to Barcelona on the day before the conference.

    On day one the students presented the now award winning project devised by Scott Wieprecht called the ‘OffPerts’: a student-led expert group that investigates features of Office 365 and produces guides for students and teachers. The students devised, shot and edited videos and these soon gained the attention of Stuart Ball: Education Programme Manager for Microsoft in the UK who has supported the group ever since, inviting them to be the first students to present at a product launch in the UK and then the Global Forum in Barcelona.


    On day two the students presented their personal experiences of being involved in projects at saltash.net in which they provided assistance to teachers when each student in the class had access to a laptop / tablet for all their lessons. The audience was made up of over 150 global leaders in education who had come to the conference to plan similar projects on a larger scale. The advice of the students was used to inspire them as they started their two day workshop.


    Later the students demonstrated new software to teachers and school leaders from over 100 countries and listened to internationally renowned keynote speakers, some of whom they were able to ask questions. There was growing realization by the on looking media that the students opinions were based on their firsthand knowledge of leading innovative projects and so the queue for interviews and photos began getting longer and longer.


    On day three the students split into two pairs; Rowenna and George worked together with Spanish students to develop the essential features of future schools. They then presented this back on stage to the audience of global education leaders. This was highlighted as one of the best sessions in the conference by delegates. Jack and Amy each joined judging panels for teacher projects. They each listened to a range of projects and then debated their views with judges from Microsoft, School leaders and Educational leaders. The judges tweeted later how enormously impressed they were by the students and asked can they really be only 12 years old?


    On the final day of the conference, the student’s launched a project open to all of the mentor and showcase schools in the conference in which they offered to assist in helping student leadership projects develop all over the world by running monthly virtual student-led sessions.

    On the final day of the conference, the students pre-launched a global project, with the working title “Project Aspire”, to delegates on the schools track. The project, available to any forward thinking school in the World, would see schools regularly link up and exchange ideas about student leadership projects, and give suggestions of ways students could progress with there over a variety of levels.

    They attended a keynote speech by non other than the Prince of Spain and European representatives together with a panel of teachers and school leaders from around the world who agreed that the role of students was changing in education. Julio Fontan from the world famous Fontan school in Colombia stated that he had seen a shift in the role of students at this conference compared to the others he had attended which made him more hopeful for the future of education globally.

    After the keynote the students fitted in interviews including one with the Head of Microsoft in the UK; Steve Beswick. The students shared their ambition for a national student led conference to be held in Cornwall in 2015. Mr Beswick was extremely impressed and requested for them to send him a costed business plan.


    After the interview with Steve there was time to visit the world famous Sagrada Famila which the students averaged as 7.5/10 compared to 8/10 for the cable car.


    On returning to the hotel the students discovered that their interview with Anthony Salcito for his Daily Edventures blog earlier in the week had impressed the boss so much that it had earned the honour of seating at the top table for themselves, the four teachers from saltash.net and Stuart Ball at the Gala Dinner.


    And finally, the suspense of the awards ceremony where, in front of over a thousand delegates from the world of education, Mr Scott Wieprecht from saltash.net had his student-led OffPerts project honoured with an award presented by the secretary of state for education to loud applause from the audience.


    Later we returned to the stage for more photographs with some of the people who made the whole event possible. Thank you to all of the students for an amazing week after which the Microsoft Global Forum will never be the same and thank you to all of those who worked so hard to make this happen including staff from saltash.net; Scott Wieprecht, Grant Taylor, Sam Owen, Ben Rowe, Isobel Bryce, David Jones, Kellie Alders, Katie Boothman and Dan Buckley; and staff from Microsoft; Stuart Ball, Steve Beswick, Anya Ruvinskaya, Maria Langworthy, Razan Roberts, James Bernard and Nasha Fitter.



    Day five should have seen an exhausted group of students and teachers but no; fired up by their success, the students were planning how to take the OffPerts project to the next level and introduce a UK wide and global project later this year.


  • FE blog

    CreateBook: Free until the 21st March


    Great news to kick start your Monday! The Tablet Academy's amazing new eBook creation app for Windows 8, CreateBook, is going to continue to be free until the 21st March.

    Since its recent launch, educators and students have been busy creating media rich eBooks that include video, text and audio.


    With an intuitive interface, CreateBook is great for creating everything from narrated story books to multimedia revision guides. Furthermore, with the ability to easily preview and share your books, export password protected content and instantly export screenshots of your books, CreateBook offers a comprehensive eBook creation experience that is proving to be one of the most popular education apps within the 'New and Rising' category in the store.

    We love this app and highly recommend grabbing this while its free. Let us know what you create using CreateBook by sharing an update in the comments below. Even better - share your actual books via Twitter @microsofteduk.

    Look forward to seeing what you and your students come up with!

    CreateBook: Download from the Windows Store today

  • FE blog

    A presenter’s dream: using your Nokia Lumia to connect to the interactive whiteboard


    It doesn't get easier than this… I have found myself with an overwhelming need to share this cool video which beautifully demonstrates how easy presenting can be for teachers, lecturers and students thanks to the power of technology and Windows devices in education.

    Challenges of presenting

    So I'm sure most of us would agree that one of the last situations we want to find ourselves in is the flustered, sweaty hiccough of our technology failing us during a presentation. In my opinion, the only dignified space for heart rates to be racing that high is in the gym. If you're in the situation of single-handedly presenting and managing your device and slides (most likely), it can be limiting in terms of freedom to 'walk and talk'. I also believe it cuts into your ability to concentrate 100% on what you are saying, as you may be worrying about the potential occurrence of a technical fault, particularly if AV is involved with embedded videos!

    Truly 'Mobile'


    Phill Ruffell, a lecturer at North Hertfordshire College is challenging presentation limitations with his Nokia Lumia Window's Phone which he uses to be fully mobile while presenting - that's right, no HDMI cables needed!

    You'll see from the video that he can simply connect his Windows phone to the interactive board by downloading the 'Nokia Beamer' app on his phone and then flashing up a QR code via www.beam.nokia.com on the interactive board with his pc. All he then has to do is scan the QR code on his phone and his Windows Phone is synched!

    He can then effortlessly propel his PowerPoint presentation via the Office 365 app on his phone, which will automatically be synced up to his docs on his PC through his Office 365 account and Microsoft account.

    I'll stop there and let you learn from the pro himself..

  • FE blog

    Student Advantage: Office for all


    Any institution worldwide that licenses Office for staff and faculty can now provide access to Office 365 ProPlus for students at now additional cost. At BETT 2014 we literally spelled out our latest offer, Student Advantage, in chalk!


    Watch the video below as the artist showed visitors to our stand how schools, colleges and universities can now get Office, on up to 5 devices (PC or Mac) for all their students.

  • FE blog

    Communication & Collaboration


    Guest post written by Education writer Gerald Haigh

    The more I come into contact with Office 365 the more I realise the importance of the two ‘Big Cs’, ‘communication’ and ‘collaboration’. They’re linked, of course, but not completely, because you can, for example, have communication without collaboration. So when I was serving the Queen on National Service, the orders pinned on our notice board were models of clear communication, as in, ‘Signalman Haigh will report to the guardroom at 0600 carrying a rifle, a banana and a feather duster’.

    OK, I made some of that up, but you get the drift. What the orders did not say was, ‘Gerald, could you look at this document about your guard duty and suggest any changes you’d like to see? Signed, your friend and colleague, the Regimental Sergeant Major’.

    Orders represent communication without collaboration, and they’re common enough even, dare I say it, in schools. Collaboration, on the other hand, cannot happen without communication, The people intent on collaboration need to be in easy contact, and up to recently that meant being together in a room, or, if that wasn’t possible, passing papers around by mail or fax, or email, or by being available to each other by phone or other electronic means.

    Of those options, the number one choice was to have everyone in a room. That’s why highly paid decision-makers have spent hours on motorways and trains in order to have face-to-face meetings. The other options – phone, fax mail – were always second best.

    Then came digital communication, the cloud and a whole new way of improving communication in the cause of efficient collaboration. And right there, at the cutting edge, is Microsoft’s Office 365. And what’s the key difference between Office 365 and more traditional channels of remote communication?


    I’d say the clue is in that word ‘channels’. Phone, radio, fax, all provide channels – lines, along which communications can buzz happily to and fro.

    Office 365, though, allows several kinds of communication to proceed alongside each other, looking sideways as well as out and back. People can hear and see each other, interacting, intervening, showing, sharing, editing and creating documents, generally doing what an IT director described to me recently as ‘Collaborating and connecting in a digital space.’

    That move from ‘channels’ to a ‘digital space’, to which everyone involved has anytime, anywhere access is crucial. While good channels provide efficient and speedy zooming to and fro, a digital space gives elbow room, choice and flexibility. Costs are lowered, efficiency goes up. Face to face meetings are still often the best, but now there are viable alternatives, which carry advantages of their own, especially when it comes to organising, tracking and recording what’s happening.

    All of that is undeniable, but then I remembered something I wrote for the TES in 1998, in a history ‘special’. It was about the Great Exhibition of 1851, and the way the organisers pulled together in the specially built magnificent Crystal Palace in Hyde Park , 100 thousand exhibits provided by 14 thousand exhibitors from 28 countries across the world. I was knocked out by the achievement of those Victorian administrators, and when I wrote the story, I described it as,

    ‘A tour-de-force of enterprise, vision and courage in an age before telephones and when postal services in many parts of the world were often indifferent to say the least.’

    That was collaboration at a distance with knobs on I’d say, given the difficulties. And why did it work? Because there was, said the organisers (led by the tireless and highly able Prince Albert, Consort to Queen Victoria) enormous tolerance and good will on all sides. Everyone wanted it to succeed. Delays, glitches, misunderstandings were dealt with calmly, always with an eye to the greater good.

    And there you have it -- the easily overlooked essential ingredient. Collaboration is not first and foremost about technology. It’s about people working together willingly and purposefully. So, just as the Microsoft message has always been that learning comes before devices and software, so collaboration won’t be transformed by technology if hearts and minds aren’t in collaborative mode in the first place.

    ‘Great Expectations’ TES 17 July 1998


  • FE blog

    Equip your students with the tools and skills they need for Microsoft Certifications


    Great new flyer from our friends in the IT Academy team on how a combination of Student Advantage, IT Academy Training and Certification can help provide the tools, training and support learners need to secure a job.

    To learn more, view or download the full flyer below:

  • FE blog

    Windows Azure in Education: Target Tracker Case Study


    Part of Essex County Council, Target Tracker develops software for schools. Its Primary Target Tracker application—which provides information to support learning—ran on Microsoft Excel. To stay ahead of its competitors, Target Tracker rebuilt the solution using SQL Database in Windows Azure. The firm now has an application that scales to meet the needs of thousands of schools in England and overseas.


    To learn more about their journey to Windows Azure and the benefits Target Tracker have enjoyed since making the move, view or download the full case study below.

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