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News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Is your university looking for cost savings?

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    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 http://www.microsoft.com/uk/psvalue.

    For more details, please don’t hesitate to contact my team at ukps@microsoft.com.

    Yours sincerely

    Dr Nicola Hodson

    General Manager, Public Sector UK

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

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    A free event in Reading - introduction to our web mapping

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    image 

    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

    A question of security

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    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…

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    OfficeRocker is back

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    Darren Strange’s last post was July 2008 when he was comparing PCs to fishbowls and CD players (read it and you’ll see).  After too long, he’s back

    He’s not announcing his comeback with this post about How to stop blogging and how to start again.  He’s quickly followed this up with a great piece on Office Communication Server 2007 which, incidentally, has now been updated to Release 2.  I can’t stop there with OCS R2 without pointing you to this site which was used for our launch yesterday www.OCSR2LAUNCH.com.  Not only is it a fabulous showcase for OCS R2 and our partner capability but it really shows Silverlight off too.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Microsoft’s live@edu programme gets even better

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    The news in my inbox this morning, and to all live@edu customers, is that live@edu support is getting even better.  As universities have been evaluating student email options, many often cite Microsoft’s support as a key reason for adopting live@edu and deploying it to students.  Understandable really, if this service is going to be the main communication method with students then you need to know where to go for help.  Microsoft recognises this so has just informed live@edu customers of this:

    Hello,

    We are happy to inform you of exciting changes in Customer Support now available for the Microsoft Live@edu program.

    Highlights of the changes include:

    · Support now available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via phone or web

    Phone Support: (800) 455-6399 or (425) 703-3305

    Web Support: http://support.microsoft.com/oas/default.aspx?&prid=12480&ln=en-us

    · Simplified web interface now available for submission of support requests via the web (Access IDs are no longer required)

    Details are provided in the Live@edu Support Guide attached to this mail.

    Thank you again for choosing Microsoft Live@edu!

    The Microsoft Live@edu Team

     

    If you’d like to see more information then I’ve posted the attached document on my Skydrive email . Did I ever mention that Skydrive, also included in live@edu, is now:

    image

    Not only would that be a very impressive memory stick but it will never fall out of your pocket or get left in a library PC by mistake because it’s in the cloud.  This means that every live@edu user has 25GB of storage in the cloud as well as 10GB email, massive document storage and collaboration capacity at Officelive workspace and another 5GB with Mesh.

     

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    There are so many reasons to deploy a unified communications solution

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    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

    Ever wondered about MOSS licensing?

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    As Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) deployment is increasing in UK Higher Education I’m getting more questions about different licensing scenarios.  Thankfully, Microsoft’s ladylicensing has posted an excellent guide which is already helping universities look at evaluating when to buy MOSS for Internet Sites or CALs.  There are two separate but linked postings and I’d recommend them to everyone planning their MOSS deployment:

     

    MOSS FIS or MOSS CALs for External Users - What is the CAL Break even point?

     

    MOSS - Microsoft Office SharePoint Server - Common Licensing Scenarios

     

    Thank you Emma.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    This is the week that will be BETT

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    This week will be my 5th BETT since joining Microsoft and each year I have noticed that:

    1. The buzz around learning technology gets bigger and bigger
    2. The enthusiasm of the teachers demonstrates what is meant by vocation
    3. Representation from the Higher Education sector is always lower than I thought it would be

    It’s point 3 that really puzzles me.  BETT does attract some from HE but it’s generally, and this is my counting only, from the schools of education within the university and rarely learning technologists from the HE sector.  I know that this will be slightly different in 2009 for instance and I look forward to welcoming all HE visitors to the Microsoft stand.

    With only two days until BETT, and currently it’s all-hands-on-deck back at TVP to get everything ready for the opening day of the show. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that 80% of the people that come through the doors visit the Microsoft stand – which makes us the busiest stand at the show. And so everything’s got to be right by 10am!

    So, if you are going to be visiting Olympia, here’s a summary view of the things you can pop along to Microsoft and see:

    • Microsoft Surfacethe first time in a public event in the UK, and pretty exciting (I’ve been playing with one on-and-off for the last fortnight, and it still makes me smile at how clever it is).
    • The Wall of Cool – a dozen netbooks – small, low cost laptops – for you to look at and compare. Although there are loads of suppliers at BETT, all showing off their latest mini laptops, you can’t visit a stand elsewhere where they are all lined up together. We’re putting them all into our Wall of Cool, so that you can compare them side by side, and you’ll be able to see how their speed, graphics, weight and design vary between manufacturers and price brackets. (I looked at them all on Thursday, and there’s some big differences between them, and some obvious winners in the dozen!). I’m not going to give the game away, so come and take a look yourself. And if you have preferences, drop me an email to let me know how you’d arrange them into your personal Wall of Cool.
    • Plenty of schools talking in the theatre. We’ve got a cracking line-up of schools and local authorities, all telling their own stories of how they’re using ICT to enhance learning. Schools include Broadclyst, Shireland, Twynham, New Line Learning, Warwickshire local authority and Bowring.
    • The Digital Literacy Curriculum – we’ve got an announcement on that on the schedule for Wednesday, so I’ll have to wait until then before I can tell you more than you can see here.
    • And finally, we’ll also be making some announcements about our support for the Government’s Home Access Programme. Some details are already here, but more will be out this week.
    • Live@edu – Microsoft will demonstrate how live@edu is used in a learning and teaching environment, all the tools will be used here including virtual earth, Mesh and Office Live Workspace

    hopefully that’s enough to whet your appetite. And if you’re coming along, both Ray and I will be there so please look us out and say hello.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Giving the student experience a real Buzz in Manchester with Hornet

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    Students fortunate enough to be residents in the University of Manchester’s halls will already be familiar with the Halls of Residence Network (Hornet).  Established in 1998 the University of Manchester provides internet connectivity to many of the student bedrooms in the halls through its Hornet services.  More information on Hornet can be found here http://www.manchester.ac.uk/halls/internet

    Earlier in 2008, Hornet contacted Microsoft to ask if we could help sponsor awareness of the Hornet IT support facility so that students could easily locate where help can be found. I’m really pleased with the result, so pleased in fact that I’ve posted the photographs of the Hornets proudly wearing their hoodies.

    microsoft002microsoft001microsoft003

    Apparently, the university’s students have been asking Hornet reps where they can buy the hoodies from.

    So now, not only do Hornet’s residents great super IT facilities and support but they are also left in no doubt about where to go for a great deal on Microsoft software, yep you guessed it http://www.TheUltimateSteal.co.uk

    Like all universities, Manchester is working hard to deliver value to its students and Microsoft is pleased to be associated with the university and Hornet in helping students get the best out of technology to support their learning.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Daresbury Labs: dares and wins with Windows HPC Server 2008

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    Oh dear, sorry about the terrible pun.  Daresbury Laboratory, part of the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council, has recently deployed a dual boot system for its latest cluster using Microsoft Windows HPC Server 2008 and is benefiting from:

    • Streamlined deployment capability
    • Enhanced cluster management
    • Expanded user choice
    • Increased ease of use thanks to familiar Windows environments

    Daresbury labs, in the UK, has around 550 staff of which the Distributed Computing Group (DCG) is a part.  The DCG hosts and runs national high performance computing (HPC) facilities for its user community which works on simulation code in the fields of quantum chemistry molecular simulation, engineering and environmental simulations.

    It has never been more important than in today’s economic climate to justify capital expenditure, in addition to this more consideration is being given to the environment.  Therefore, what Daresbury Labs has done is to deploy a system which can attract more users, therefore giving more value back to, and a higher utilisation will help to ensure that wasted cycles are kept to a minimum.  Key to this is expanding the users choice and by offering them something which is easier to use than earlier deployments.

    Keen to maintain its reputation as innovative, Daresbury Labs needs to provide the latest in high performance computing services and technology.  It’s also seeking new ways to increase its user base by offering services to non traditional HPC users by providing the academic community new choices.

    One of the reasons DCG chose a new Windows HPC Server 2008 cluster because of its strong management features including job scheduling capabilities based on SOA.

    “The new functionalities offered by Windows HPC Server 2008 provide great potential”

    Igor Kozin, Computer Scientist at the Distributed Computing Group, Daresbury Laboratory.

    Daresbury partnered with Streamline Computing to implement the new cluster with Linux already deployed followed by installing Windows SPC Server 2008 in a short time frame using Windows Deployment Services.

    For more details on this story and others please use this link.  Other UK Academic customers using Microsoft’s HPC customers include Cambridge and Manchester Universities plus many others all seeking to increase the value of their HPC facilities.

    Also, during January 2008 in the UK there is a pricing promotion for Microsoft HPC Server 2008 so please feel free to get in touch via the blog for more information.

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