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February, 2012 - 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, 2012

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Microsoft Private Cloud Whitepaper: A comparative look at functionality, benefits and economics


    Private cloud is a computing model that uses resources which are dedicated to your institution. A private cloud shares many of the characteristics of public cloud computing including resource pooling, self-service, elasticity and pay-by-use delivered in a standardised manner with the additional control and customisation available from dedicated resources.



    In our latest whitepaper, we compare private cloud solutions from Microsoft and VMware. We do this by defining private cloud using industry standard concepts, explain the Microsoft products needed to create a Microsoft private cloud solution and then define the technology benefits a Microsoft private cloud solution provides.

    The full whitepaper can be viewed/downloaded below.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Carmel College Virtualises Servers and Saves Thousands of Pounds to Reinvest in IT


    Carmel College wanted to reduce IT overheads through virtualisation. After finding VMware expensive and difficult to integrate, it decided to virtualise its servers with Hyper-V technology—part of the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system—to reduce power, cooling, licensing, and maintenance costs. The solution saves the college an estimated £40,000 a year in staffing and operational costs, and power and cooling overheads have been cut by 50 per cent.

    “With the Microsoft platform, we can integrate systems so all applications work smoothly. We’ve reduced operational and staffing costs, equivalent to around £40,000 a year.” Kevin Burke, IT Services Manager, Carmel College

    To learn more about how Carmel College embraced Windows Server 2008 R2 and saved £40,000 a year, view/download our full case study below.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    We need your feedback on Microsoft DreamSpark



    We want to your feedback on the DreamSpark service within the UK

    What is DreamSpark

    We know a lot of you use DreamSpark but we’d like to know a little more about its value to you. So we are running in conjunction with c3education to get a more detailed understanding.

    We would like to see if it is helping raise attainment levels for educators and students and get general feedback on the programme. We need this so that we have evidence to share with the public and with journalists interested in the story. The ideal situation would be to establish a baseline for the beginning of the programme and to record impact perhaps twice a year, to check whether we are on track.

    From today 21st of February 2012,we have a launched two surveys one for students and one for academics both surveys will close on the 29th of February 2012.

    Below are the links to each of the questionnaires.

    DreamSpark –Student Survey c3education will offer an Xbox 360 and a Kinect sensor to one lucky winner who completes the survey by 29th Feb 2012 and gives us their contact details at the end of the survey. You have to be a UK student. The winner will be drawn at random from all completions who fill in their details in the survey.

    DreamSpark – Educator Survey

    Your feedback and assistance, in completing these would be greatly appreciated, We will also share top level results through this blog and our Linkedin group.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Guest post from Gerald Haigh: Thinking aloud about cost savings in education


    Guest post from Gerald Haigh. Gerald is a freelance writer who regularly writes for the Microsoft UK Education Blogs.

    I’ve been doing some preparatory work on a new cost saving eBook (watch this space). The first one came out a year or so ago and already I’m detecting changes, some of them quite radical.


    Here are a few, together with some questions that you experienced folk out there may well be able to help me with.

    First, there was the change last year in licensing arrangements for schools, with the arrival on these shores of EES (Enrolment for Education Solutions). The move, which essentially means counting computer users rather than computers, has made big savings, to which can be added to other economies that come with academic subscription pricing on a huge array of software. (Ellie Jones blogged lots of detail on this in March 2011)

    So there’s one big cost saving already. One network manager, in a big school, reports that his licensing bill was cut by half, and a major supplier, a Microsoft partner, suggested some school customers made bigger savings than that.

    What I wanted to know, though, when I talked to one or two suppliers and customers was, ‘What happened to the money?’

    It seemed an easy enough ask, but it did tend to throw people a bit and make me feel I was in a scene from ‘Goodfellas’. All I wanted to know, though, was how this unexpected mini-windfall had been spent. Did it stay in IT? Was the school able to embark on a specific project? Did the cash soak away into the subsoil of an already parched looking school budget?

    What did happen, surely, was that it was handled in a whole-school businesslike and transparent way, focussed on teaching and learning priorities. If this is occuring, it would be good to get examples of this, and anything you can volunteer on this topic will be gratefully received (leave your feedback in the comments below).

    Maybe one impact was that you acquired additional Microsoft software, in an inclusive package perhaps? If so, do you use it all? In that regard I’m reminded of a blog we posted in September last year about Highbury FE College in Portsmouth.

    Highbury, too, had lots of Microsoft software, acquired in various packages. On investigation, they found that not all of it was being well used. In some cases another product had been bought in, even though the already paid-for Microsoft package contained an excellent solution. Firm management, applied over time, designed to bring all the College’s Microsoft products into productive use, enabled Highbury to reduce its IT annual revenue budget by £13,990.

    Could that be you? Do you have a Microsoft product that you’ve vaguely thought about looking into when you have the time? Could it work for you? Could it replace something else you’re spending money on?

    A supplier I spoke to mentioned ‘System Center 2012’ as something that a number of schools have tinkered with but never really properly used. Again, we’re interested in what you have to say – and by the way if you do happen to need guidance on System Center 2012, it’ll be covered, on 6 March, in one of the newly announced series of Microsoft Education Webcasts, listed by Tim Bush here.

    Another product that many schools have but are only just beginning to explore is Lync 2010. We’ve done some studies of Lync 2010 in action in higher education, where it’s a real time and money saver.

    Schools are different of course, but a look at the university experiences might well throw up some creative ideas of how to use unified communications in the school setting. One school, I know, is considering using it, in combination with Office 365, for ‘Virtual Parent Evenings’, for some of their parents who work and commute long hours and find it difficult to get into school. It’s a very ‘blue skies’ idea at the moment, but we’ll certainly be keeping an eye on it. And on the cost saving front, I’m sure that those academy chains that have a central team looking after a far-flung group of schools would find Lync just as useful for saving meeting and travelling time as the universities do. Some must be thinking along those lines, maybe even doing it. We’d like to know.

    Finally, just as I go to (virtual) press with this, comes news from Mark Reynolds of a Welsh school where, working with a Microsoft Partner, they’ve been able to transform their ICT infrastructure at astonishingly reasonable cost through the combined application of Windows MultiPoint server and solar energy. There’ll be a blog on that quite soon, and it’s sure to feature in the forthcoming eBook.

    All that’s just a taster, of course, but it’s exciting stuff, and we really would like to know more, examples of what we’ve mentioned, and of the many ideas we haven’t touched on. What saves money, what should save it but for some reason doesn’t, what’s the impact on network staff? Please get in touch.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    BizSpark Webcast - A webcast for students interested in entrepreneurship!


    Are you a student with an entrepreneurial mind? Thought about starting your own business? Are you interested in technology? Listen in on our first live webcast on Tuesday 21st February from 6-7pm!

    We have a great line up for the session, you’ll hear from Joshua March, Co-founder of, with his top tips and guidance on turning entrepreneurial ideas into reality.


    You’ll also hear from Microsoft's own Bindi Karia about our offerings, including the BizSpark programme which provides you with the tools, visibility and network support for your software startup to succeed.

    Our team will be on hand to answer your questions live! To sign up, pop over to our event page on Facebook and click ‘Going’ in the top right corner. While you are there, we would love to hear your thoughts or queries on the event. Alternatively, use #BizSparkUK on Twitter!

    If you’re into technology and business then this is well worth your time! We look forward to you joining us for the Webcast!

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Learning Suite: It’s all about the apps!


    In the video below, Anthony Salcito (Microsoft VP for Education), talks about the fact that when people come to Microsoft, they come to take on new challenges. The goal to have an impact in education is one of our biggest challenges and is something that is core to the business.

    To help every student realіze theіr full potential, educators across the sector all seek to better-engage their students. To assist with that goal, we must empower every teacher with the tools and resources to understand and engage every student at their own pace, in the right place, and in a way that allows them to achieve their greatest potential. Only then are we creating the right foundation for success, moving forward.

    Learning Suite

    With this in mind, we believe that resources such as Leaning Suite can help make a real difference in helping students achieve their full potential.

    So what is Learning Suite? Learning Suite is a free set of innovative applications that, when combined with the power of Microsoft Windows and Office, creates a robust, flexible and collaborative learning environment for both students and teachers.

    While we are really proud of Learning Suite directly, the power of this free resource is in the applications, themselves. The full range is show below:


    With 25 free applications offered within Learning Suite, there are a range of powerful, yet fun, tools to aid creativity, make collaboration easier, create more engaging classroom experiences and ultimately make studying more effective.

    For the purpose of this post, though, I wanted to focus the attention on 2 amazing apps. Not only are these some of my personal favourites, they also help demonstrate the breath of the apps currently available.

    WorldWide Telescope

    WorldWide Telescope (WWT) enables you to explore the universe, bringing together imagery from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world and combining it with 3D navigation. Impressive stuff!

    Users are able to pan around outer space and zoom as far into any one area as the data will allow. Images are taken from the Hubble Space Telescope and approximately ten earth-bound telescopes.

    The TED Talk video below offers a great overview of WorldWide Telescope.

    WorldWide Telescope now brings viewers the largest and clearest image of the night sky ever produced and offers a unique opportunity to provide inspiring and engaging classroom experiences. For real impact, try projecting Worldwide telescope onto the ceiling of your classroom and have students lie down, look up and experience a virtual stargazing session.


    Photosynth is a fantastic application, and a core part of Learning Suite, that analyses digital photographs and generates a three-dimensional model of the photos.

    Great for classroom projects, Photosynth allows you to take a bunch of photos of the same scene or object and automagically stitch them all together into one big interactive 3D viewing experience that you can share with anyone on the web.

    View the synth below for an example of the power of Photosynth. This could be ideal for your institutions next geography field trip, for example!

    How to get Learning Suite

    Learning Suite is free to download via the Partners in Learning Network.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Students keep work safe with Microsoft Live SkyDrive



    James Evans, one of our friends from EduTech at EduGeek, has written a blog around Windows Live SkyDrive and the benefits he feels it has for students.


    Windows Live SkyDrive, is a free-of-charge file hosting service that allows you to upload files to a cloud storage and then access them from a Web browser. It is part of Microsoft's Windows Live range of online services, and uses Windows Live ID to control access to files, allowing you to keep the files private, share them with contacts, or make the files public. Publicly-shared files do not require a Windows Live ID to access.

    The service offers 25 GB of free personal storage, with individual files limited to 100 MB.

    I have been using Windows Live SkyDrive since around 2008 and have generally used it to store my Microsoft OneNote data so that i can access my data anywhere be it on a different computer, on my phone or on my everyday mobile device and it has not yet failed me.

    I have noticed of late although it is a common every day occurrence with users in general, is that students that are working on work relating to a course they are currently studying at college or university have lost there work and have therefore been unable to hand it in on time or have had to start all over again which not only disrupts your routine it can prevent you from handing in your assignments etc. on time.

    The general reasons I have seen are:

    - Computer System crashes and no backup has been created
    - USB Device gets lost or damaged (or user performs a format not realising what it actually does)
    - User forgets to save the document they are working on and looses work completed over so many hours etc.

    The above scenarios can generally be prevented if someone is advised on how to look after their computer system, checking Anti-Virus software to protect their computer system, saving there work on a regular basis and keeping backups on a memory stick or/ other device.

    I know that many university's or colleges now provide their students with Windows Live SkyDrive along side there Student email address as many university's now use Microsoft Online Services (Live@Edu or/ Office365) but there are still many places that do not.

    As I have said above Windows Live SkyDrive is a Free service for you to use, and you can sign-up to this service by using your current Windows Live ID, and if you don't have a Windows Live ID then you can also acquire one of these for Free.

    You can sign up to the Windows Live SkyDrive service by browsing to and select 'Sign Up' on the right hand side, you will then be asked to sign-in using your Windows Live ID.

    Once you have logged in, select 'SkyDrive' from the top navigation bar:

    You shall then be taken to your SkyDrive File-Hosting Space,

    If you wish to upload your current documents to SkyDrive then you need to do the following:

    1) Select 'Add Files' from the Sub-Menu
    2) Select the folder you wish to upload the document to, or create a new folder
    3) Open up Explorer on your computer and the drag the files you wish to upload into the square box outlined on the page
    4) Once your documents have uploaded, select 'Continue' and you will then be taken to your uploaded documents.

    You can uploaded any of the following documents to your Windows Live SkyDrive Account:

    - Microsoft Word Document
    - Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet
    - Microsoft PowerPoint
    - Microsoft OneNote

    If you wish to create a document then just select the type of document you wish to create (found next to the 'Add Files' button in the Sub-Menu), give it a name and then you will be taken to the Microsoft WebApp for the respective file.

    When you wish to modify the file you have uploaded all you need to do is click on the title of the document and it will open in your browser using Microsoft WebApp, Select 'Edit In Browser' and then the document will look like this:

    Microsoft WebApps provide you with enough functionality to do the common tasks people wish to do with a Document, Excel Spreadsheet and Powerpoint Presentation, so you make more advanced changes you may choose to open this using your local version of Microsoft Office 2010, to do this select 'File' and choose 'Open In' you will the be presented with message providing you with a warning, just select 'Ok' and then you maybe asked to Re-Authenticate just type in your Windows Live ID User Credentials. Once you have done this you may also need to select 'Enable Editing' and then you can continue to modify your document.

    When you make changes to the document these will be saved back to the file stored on your Windows Live SkyDrive Account.

    *please note that the WebApps will save your document as you make changes and that if you open the document from SkyDrive using Microsoft Office 2010 installed on your computer you will need to make sure you also save regular.

    This will hopefully point you in the right direction so that you can get started with using Windows Live SkyDrive.

    If you wish to find out more information on how to use Microsoft WebApps visit the Microsoft Help Centre where you can find out the answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions and Tips on how to use this service:

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Banish Attachments Forever!


    Please see attached…

    Ok, put your hands up. Who still sends files as attachments in their email?

    Come on, be honest! Embarrassed smile

    I’m guilty of it myself – just ask my boss, after I dropped a 7MB “email bomb” on him recently. Despite having both SharePoint Online and SkyDrive at my fingertips there are times I find myself slipping back into the “old” way of sharing files.

    The life of an attachment (skip ahead)


    SkyDrive is free!

    And with Live@edu every single user gets one because they already have a Windows Live ID. So why not start sharing files that way – you can share with anyone, not just people inside your institution. Download the SkyDrive Gadget for Xobni and send links to your documents on SkyDrive right from Outlook.

    You can find out more about how much attachments suck over at the SkyDrive site, including how you can be a great friend in letting others know how they can avoid clogging up your inbox with their attachments, too!

    How do you share files?

    Have you been using SkyDrive for a while? Do you have some other clever trick for avoiding those large attachments? Let us know in the comments!

    Originally posted on the Live@edu blog

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Upcoming changes to the way we make Microsoft Office available to students


    There are a number of upcoming changes to the way we make Microsoft Office available to students as part of a worldwide program to simplify and broaden the availability of our academic offerings. These changes will enable more students to buy Office at a significant discount from the product available to other consumers. Today, 95% of higher-education students use Office, while only 23% are aware of Office student discounts. With the launch of Office University, we are expanding the number of partners who will be eligible to sell this product, including many popular retailers.

    The details of the current changes are:

    • Office University 2010 and Office for Mac University 2011 were released on 1 February 2012. Office University 2010 and Office for Mac University 2011 offers university and college students great value for the same applications, services and support as Office Professional 2010 and Office for Mac Home & Business 2011. With the release of these products, we are dramatically increasing the number of partners able to assort the product.
    • Office Home & Student 2010 is the current offering for school students and parents wishing to purchase Microsoft Office for their studies and home needs. This product is available from a wide range of retail and online partners.
    • Office Professional Plus 2010 and Office for Mac 2011 under Student Select will no longer be available for purchase through this program starting 1 April 2012. This is the current program used by Software for Students and other partners currently who specialise in this market.
    • Office offerings for students will remain, such as those available under Student Option for EES and Campus & School Agreement. A number of enhancements have already been introduced to make it more attractive for institutions to license their students under their institutional agreement, including free ESD and volume discounts.

    Microsoft has been working with our existing partners in the UK to help them prepare for these changes, so that they can in turn communicate with their customers –both Universities and the students themselves – about how they can continue to get discounted Office software packages.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Microsoft® Windows® Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V was a game changer


    The arrival in 2009 of Microsoft® Windows® Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V was a game changer for schools. This release of Windows Server included virtualisation built-in, for free. It means that if you’re already using Microsoft technology, you can work within that without adding a new layer of infrastructure and training. As Microsoft puts it, “If you know Windows, you know virtualisation.”


    The cost savings

    Just how much could be potentially saved? At Microsoft we’ve recorded one or two striking examples. Servers typically cost £3000 each to replace, for example, often on a rolling annual programme.

    We talked to three schools about this. Two were reducing from 20 servers to 5, the other from 20 to 6. All three separately calculated annual savings of about £7,000 a year in hardware replacement costs alone.

    By the same token, many schools will significantly reduce the cost of contracted IT support. On top of this there are energy savings, because not only do fewer servers use less electricity, but they also cost less to keep cool. Again, the schools tell similar stories, of annual energy savings in the region of £8,000 to £10,000 – good for the school’s environmental impact as well as the budget. Do some simple math, come up with a global sum, and it seems that, at the very least, a virtualisation project will pay for itself quite quickly.

    With the project successfully implemented, it will continue, year on year, to make a real impact on the whole-school budget. To give just one specific example, Steve Gillott, Head of ICT at Wootton Bassett School in Wiltshire, describes reducing his school’s servers from 13 to 3. “ It came to a point where we needed to replace the hardware anyway, so money was earmarked for that”.

    After seeing a demonstration of Hyper-V by Microsoft Partner Clarity-IT Solutions we decided that the additional benefits of virtualising our server infrastructure was a much better investment than buying replacement servers. The cost savings in the first year alone paid for the virtualisation project.”

    It was a decision that saved the school over £38,000 in that first year and continues to save £14,500 a year on
    electricity and support contracts.

    But does it work?

    School network managers were originally cautious about virtualisation. The cost savings looked attractive, but there was a gut feeling that by abandoning the notion of one separate server box for each key function, you were doing something risky. One of the early adopters of Microsoft’s virtualisation solution, the highly experienced Alan Richards of West Hatch High School, ran a year-long small-scale test before he was convinced. Indeed Alan, as you’ll see in his excellent major contribution to our recent Virtualisation eBook (available to view or download below), still recommends a test project. Not so much to make sure the basic technology works, but to be certain of exactly what’s needed for the particular school.

    Now, all the doubts about functionality and reliability have gone away. From its launch in 2009, Microsoft’s
    Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V technology, has been proving just how efficient and cost effective it can be. Plan properly and carefully, follow the key principles, take the right advice, and what you end up with is a virtualised environment that’s better than the system you had before – easier to manage and easier to change as your school’s needs change, and users aren’t subjected to irritating down time.

    For Alan Richards at West Hatch it’s that improved service that really counts. “ It’s obviously nice to save money, but the main reason for the change is to ensure reliability and sustainability for the school. Alan’s right, but it’s also true that by moving in a planned way to a virtualised environment with Hyper-V, the network team is effectively presenting the school with a considerable financial bonus that continues year on year.

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