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February, 2009 - The UK Higher Education Blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The HE Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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February, 2009

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    There are so many reasons to deploy a unified communications solution


    To be more precise, because this is a Microsoft blog, there are so many reasons to deploy Microsoft’s Office Communication Server 2007 (OCS).  Every day since I first became a member of Microsoft’s dogfood deployment of OCS I’ve been amazed at just how powerful it is and how much better I’m able to communicate and collaborate because of it.  With the weather as it is, and this is what it looked like outside my window at this morning

    Monday morning in Sheffield , then it really does come into its own.  I’ve had several planned meetings that are now converted to virtual meetings because of the snow.  Previous to OCS they would have just been abandoned but now, thanks to OCS we can generally carry on with a focused discussion and business doesn’t stop.

    Here’s an example of an OCS live meeting we had the other day:

    live meeting

    This was with Coventry University, Julian Datta and me.  Coventry University were up in Coventry using one of their Microsoft Roundtable devices, Julian was in the office in Reading and I was at home in Sheffield.  We had a productive meeting without any of us having to travel and yet each of us could collaborate and communicate fully.

    It’s a fact that the deployment of OCS is making me more productive, gives me more time with customers and partners, saves travel expense and time and keeps my CO2 emissions down.  Is there a university that doesn’t want better resource utilisation, more time between students and teaching staff, reduced costs and a reduced environmental footprint?  Well, it seems that plenty of universities are now deploying OCS but more of that later.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Is your university looking for cost savings?


    I’m not expecting anyone to say “no” to this because all the conversations I’m having with universities imageindicate that we are clearly in a difficult and testing time and budgets are being squeezed.  Microsoft UK has just launched a new web-site showing several ways that the UK’s public sector can save money without cutting services.  The site lists a series of Webinars linked to five distinct areas where our customers in the public sector are saving costs today.

    Nicola Hodson, Microsoft’s General Manager Public Sector UK, has just issued this letter which identifies 5 areas where money can be saved together with examples of who is doing this and how much they are saving:


    These are exceptionally testing times for managers in the public sector. Yet, as a CIO, you will know better than most that technology has a leading role to play in driving efficiencies whilst improving productivity and front-line citizen contact.

    Helping the Public Sector find Cost Savings – now.

    The Government is looking for a further £5 billion efficiency savings, while at the same time, the demand for state services is hardly likely to decrease. Through Microsoft’s extensive public sector experience we have identified five key areas where we can be of practical and immediate help.

    1) Save costs on travel, training and telephony

    Wakefield Council has made savings of £4 million and eliminated 127,000 annual commuting miles through a flexible, mobile working strategy.

    2) Reduce IT power and estate costs

    Slough Borough Council has already saved over £100,000 while Perth and Kinross Council has reduced its power consumption by 87% and saved over £100,000 in its first year, through Microsoft’s virtualisation technology.

    3) Optimise your technology infrastructure

    Our Infrastructure Optimisation model allows organisations to maximise the value of their IT, turning technology from a cost centre to a business enabler. Edinburgh Council’s annual savings through Infrastructure Optimisation equate to a £9 saving for each and every citizen.

    4) Give everyone the data they need to maximise productivity

    Our Business Intelligence tools put accurate data at managers’ fingertips and can reduce data entry costs. Norfolk Police see Business Intelligence as a front line tool in fighting crime and have reduced their operational costs by £200,000 at the same time.

    5) Make the most of your Microsoft investment

    We want you to gain maximum impact from your engagement with us. We appreciate not every organisation is fully aware of all aspects of their IT estate or what they are entitled to through their strategic agreements. Further benefits from Microsoft might include business value planning services, free e-learning and financing options. We can also engage the experience of our extensive public sector partner network.

    To explore how we could support your organisation, we would like to offer you:

    • Tailored Executive Briefings to explore these challenges and find ways in which technology can assist
    • Software Roadmap Briefings
    • An invitation to our new Technology Immersion Centre
    • A series of practical webcasts with public sector organisations who can demonstrate the five key areas.

    Further details and a selection of public sector case studies can be found at

    For more details, please don’t hesitate to contact my team at

    Yours sincerely

    Dr Nicola Hodson

    General Manager, Public Sector UK

    Additionally, you can also contact and Microsoft’s UK Higher Education team can help you too.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    New for live@edu – multiple platform and browser experience and much more……


    If I were to ask a university “which missing feature in Exchange Outlook Web Access (OWA) would you most like to see” then cross-platform/browser support would almost certainly be at the top of the answer list.  Of course, OWA does work on different browsers already but the premium experience has only been available on Microsoft’s IE.

    So what’s new?   Well, for those using Exchange on live@edu there’s a whole load of new stuff not least of which is:

    Cross Browser Experience

    yes, that’s

    Cross Browser Experience

    and multi platform too.

    This means that IE users, Safari users and Firefox users will have the Premium view for OWA on Exchange.

    What else is new?

    We’ve also added instant messaging (IM) integration and a threaded conversation view.  This great experience is available on multi platform/browsers too.

    For more information, please follow this link where there’s a short video demo.

    Come and join the many other universities across the UK and deliver this experience for your students and staff today by visiting

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Do you know your GPO from your AD?


    If you don’t, then this may not be for you! Microsoft Learning have put together a new online game which is designed to help (and encourage!) system managers or developers to consider certification (as in, Microsoft certification, rather than men-in-white-coats-certification. Hmm, I wonder if over the Atlantic, they don’t have that second meaning, as in “Mark is certifiable”)

    Anyway, if you want to find out if you’re certifiable, or you want to set up healthy competition between your IT team across campus (or even amongst your STEM students), then this could be just for you. And it could be ideal if you’re in the Midlands and get the promised 2-8 inches of snow overnight tonight! One long day of electronic tests for everybody tomorrow!

    The game takes the form of a trivia show, and includes a broad range of technical questions geared towards one of two disciplines: Developer, or IT staff. Some of the questions appear to be taken straight from the pages of Microsoft Certification, so it looks like a primer for someone preparing to take a MS Certification exam. I managed some right answers, but then got caught out by one of the “rogue” questions (does anyone know the nickname of the original Microsoft logo?).

    Choose a character, select your field of expertise, and pit yourself against the entire online tech community in a quest for Tech IQ supremacy, a top spot on the leaderboard — and departmental bragging rights.

    Check out the game at and let me know what you think. Enjoy!

    You may also find yourself wandering down memory lane as yet again Clippy makes another satirical comeback. After having been P45’d out of Office a while back, he’s starting to make increasing appearances across various websites, with his new satirical hat on. My favourite places that he pops up is on David Salaguinto’s Office Offline blog, like in this cartoon below, and in “Are you Certifiable” he comes back as a quiz show contestant. All better than those times when he used to pop up and say “You look like you’re writing a letter. Would you like some help with that?”

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    The Microsoft freebie list


    I have a colleague, Daniel Good, in the US, who runs a blog which exists purely to aggregate information from other Microsoft blogs. With the volume of information we publish regularly, it is sometimes tricky to find the right source of information but often there’s a blog out there, written by the team that are completely focused on the thing you want (like this blog, solely focused on information for UK Universities). So it makes a good starting point to go looking for specialist information.

    imageThe blog is called “Blog MS – Official Microsoft Team Blogs”, and as of today indexes 214 Microsoft team blogs (ie written by a team responsible for something, rather than a single individual). Every week Daniel produces a summary of what’s been published on those blogs, so if you have a need for information this Monday morning, then you know where to go.

    One of his interesting posts is the “Guide to Free Microsoft Software and Online Services”, which he’s assembled from information provided by colleagues. If you want to find some free Microsoft software, or a free online service, then this post is the place to go. It’s a long, long list, so if you want to find a freebie, make it your starting point.

    (Assuming you haven’t found it first on the Microsoft UK Education site’s Free Stuff list)

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Microsoft at UCISA – pre conference session


    This year’s UCISA conference is adding a new feature for exhibitors, which is a pre-conference session and Microsoft is pleased to be one of the four taking full advantage of this.  Those attending will already have received a post from UCISA but just in case you missed it or if you’re not attending but want to ensure your colleagues are fully aware, here are the details:


    Microsoft (Room 13)

    Planning for the Microsoft roadmap – understanding Microsoft’s technology and strategy directions in Higher Education

    Microsoft wishes to invite you to attend a pre-conference briefing session, where you will be able to hear about its latest technology roadmap and future directions. The session will pull together the many strands of Microsoft’s product strategy, specifically including the roadmaps on Windows, Office, Live and the Education Products Group, to help you with preparing your business plans for implementation during 2009, 2010 and beyond.  As a result of some of the content, attendees will be asked to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement specifically covering this event, so that we may share information which is not currently in the public domain. (See link, we will have copies with us on the day).  The presenters will show how Microsoft’s strategy can help universities around four key priorities:

    • Research Excellence
    • Student Experience
    • Employer Engagement
    • Business Agility

    It’s our aim to ensure that this session is as interactive as possible, with plenty of Q&A opportunities and demonstrations.  Presenters will include Dominic Watts, Microsoft’s Higher Education Business Manager and Nick Umney, Microsoft’s Lead Technical Specialist (Health & Education).


    Please let me know if you or a colleague is able to attend via this link.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Windows 7 beta download ends next week


    If you haven’t downloaded the Windows 7 Beta yet, you might want to rush and do it today or over the weekend, as the download is only available until the 10th February, so get your copy now, even if you don’t intend to install just yet! (MSDN and TechNet Subscribers will have access for longer).

    To get more information on Windows 7, check out the following resources:

    The other thing worth mentioning is that on Thursday evening, Mark Russinovich will be hosting a meeting via live streaming called “Virtual Roundtable : Windows 7: To the Beta and Beyond”. It’s on Thursday 12th Feb at 7pm, so you’ve got chance to grab your dinner and a cup of tea before settling down to watch (you’d miss The One Show, minus a presenter, and EastEnders, so an extra bonus to consider?)

    Join Mark Russinovich and a panel of subject matter experts for a live discussion of what's in store for IT pros with Windows® 7. Learn about the evolution of features like Group Policy, BitLocker™ To Go, DirectAccess, BranchCache™, and Software Restriction then get tips on troubleshooting, deployment, and application compatibility. Bring your questions—Mark and the panel will answer as many as they can during the hour-long event, then publish the rest in a Q&A after the event.

     Sign up for it here

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    A free event in Reading - introduction to our web mapping



    Carla, from our Virtual Earth team tells me that they have another free seminar coming up in March, where there’s a chance to get an overview of our web-based mapping solutions. I think this is probably going to be more useful for developers within your teams, and potentially some of the academics, but there’s bound to be somebody out there that I didn’t think about that will find it relevant to a project. The day has a mainly technical slant, and there’s a session of tips for developers.

    Here’s the details:

    An Introduction to Microsoft Mapping Platforms

    Friday 6th March – Microsoft, Thames Valley Park, Reading

    The Microsoft Europe Virtual Earth team is holding a free one-day seminar to provide you with all the information you require to integrate online mapping into your website to create a user experience that will delight your users. Never before has it been so easy to track resources geographically, analyse information, manage a mobile population, or map a wide range of different locations.

    The agenda will consist of:

    - An introduction and overview to Virtual Earth, helping to set the scene and agenda for the day.

    - Informative sessions with a chance to hear from customers and partners who have utilised Virtual Earth as well as technical presentations and the latest updates from the team.

    - A masterclass from Johannes Kebeck highlighting useful tips and tricks for developers, ensuring you get the most out of the Virtual Earth platform.

    - An opportunity to network with other customers, partners and developers as well as members of the EMEA Virtual Earth team.

    The day will run from 9.00am until 4.30pm.
    Places are limited so if you do wish to register please do so by following this link (You’ll need Invitation Code: 5292A6)

    You can also register by phone on 0870 166 6680 (The event reference number is 4015)

    imageYou may get the chance to learn about some of the ways of creating map mashups too – like the way that University of California have added their own diagrammatic campus maps overlaid onto the satellite imagery. I can imagine all kinds of practical uses for this by a premises team, or even for mapping your network infrastructure.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Free one day Virtualisation conference in London



    “Explore how to make IT more cost-effective in uncertain times. Microsoft and partners invite you to this invitation-only event.”

    Dan sent me details of our “Virtualisation and Management Conference” on 10th March. Overall it makes good agenda, but I do take issue with the phrase “…in these uncertain times…” because within education, I don’t think things are as uncertain as implied. Although budgets are currently tight, I think that what is certain is that education budgets will be a lot tighter over the next two to three years. As we head towards next Government financial year, there’ll be some adjustment of belt-loops coming up. It may not feel as if we’re in the budgetary good times, we’ll probably look back to today fondly in a couple of years!

    I think what that means is that it is worthwhile investing time in looking at ways that you can reduce your IT budget in the future – making some strategic decisions whilst you’ve still got flexibility in your budget to implement changes. And that’s why I shamelessly say that spending a day in London on 10th March is a good investment of time.

    You’ll hear from various Microsoft speakers of course, but the two gems of the agenda for me are:

    • Perth and Kinross council will talk about their strategy and how they saved £100,000 by virtualising.
    • The afternoon has split streams, where you can choose between sessions from Computacenter, Avanade, Infosys, HP, Unisys and TCS.

    This event isn’t just for education, or even just for public sector organisations. So you’ll be able to compare hnotes with a range of other organisations who’re looking at virtualisation, which might add some more depth to the event.

    Anyway, here’s the details:

    FirstquotesExplore how to make IT more cost-effective in uncertain times.

    Get a fresh view on virtualisation and a head start on planning your next move. See how customers are using Microsoft's virtualisation and management technologies to cut costs, save power and space, reduce carbon emissions and be more flexible and effective.

    Understand how the right virtualisation and management tools can deliver these savings and benefits quickly in your organisation without disrupting or undermining your existing IT investments and skills.

    If you have already invested heavily in virtualisation, see how Microsoft can bolt on to make that investment work harder and slicker. Then, take that knowledge and see how Microsoft's key partners can help you turn the idea into reality and accelerate your project with their skills, experience and insights.

    Exclusively for this event, six key Microsoft Partners — Avanade, Computacenter, HP, Infosys, TCS and Unisys will deliver workshops on their approaches to delivering virtualisation, insights and customer experiences. Choose from a variety of sessions that show you how to accelerate your virtualisation project and move from strategy to execution.

    Don't miss out; achieve faster, more cost-effective IT... Endquotes

    The event is at our London offices on 10th March, and runs from 9am to 4pm.

    You can register (and see the full agenda) here, for which you’ll also need invitation code 0CB2A8

    The UCISA Conference starts on the same day, but if you’re boss is too mean to sign off the train trip to Liverpool…

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    A question of security


    I was at a conference yesterday (sadly covered by Chatham House Rule so no juicy snippets) which looked at security of public sector ICT systems, and there was a session which was about malware. Although it was delivered in a matter-of-fact deadpan way, it left me feeling just a little bit nervous (and made me check that “Auto Updates” were enabled on my home PCs, as soon as I walked through the door of Chez Fleming).

    I’ll tell you a bit more by the end of the week, but one of the debates was about whether people running bigger ICT systems automatically applied updates (eg Windows Update), or tested them first. Now I’m not sure if you can compare universities and central government departments, so I need a bit of input on the poll below before I’m prepared to say any more…

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