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April, 2010 - Microsoft UK Schools blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The UK Schools Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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April, 2010

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows InTune beta – something to put on your ICT strategy roadmap?


    After writing the summary this morning on the cloud-based services from Microsoft, it’s now out of date. This afternoon we’ve launched Windows InTune as a beta. At the moment this isn’t available in the UK, so I’m including it on the blog so that you can think about its place in your future ICT strategy, but we have confirmed that the service will be fully available within a year of the beta programme.

    This is a new future cloud service for managing Windows PCs over the web, announced through the limited beta programme. It allows you to use a single web-based console, with tools for updates, malware protection, troubleshooting, remote assistance, security policy configuration and desktop virtualisation. The aim is to simplify PC management and improve the end-user experience, and also to reduce the number of servers you need to run to keep your infrastructure going – reducing capital expenditure. It also includes the upgrade licences for Windows 7 Enterprise, anti-virus and other management tools for the workstations that are covered.

    Windows InTune has been designed for medium-sized networks – from tens to a few hundred PCs – so school networks fit exactly the profile.

    How do you buy Windows InTune?

    You will pay per-PC, per-month, and it can be purchased individually, or as part of your existing volume licence agreement. Pricing  (Academic or otherwise) hasn’t been announced yet, so we’ll have to wait until nearer release to compare it to today’s pricing model for education networks.

    Where to find out more on Windows InTune

    The Windows InTune website has plenty of detail – including an easy to understand FAQ page. There’s also a Windows Blog post with an overview.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Microsoft and the Cloud – what it means for education


    There’s recently been a lot of discussion within education about different models of ICT services. Individual schools tend to use a mix of services provided on-premise (or on-site as we used to call it) and cloud-based services (what we’d call Internet-based, or web-based, in the good old days). And newer models, such as the managed services used within BSF, have accelerated the trend towards cloud-based services – and at the very least, services which absolutely rely on a 100% reliable Internet connection. And this hybrid model, relying on both on-premise and cloud-based ICT infrastructure, looks like it is going to become more common across schools. For example, Becta say that schools can’t meet their carbon targets unless they dramatically reduce the numbers of servers in schools, so there will be non-IT pressures to make change too.

    But this doesn’t just affect education – the integration of on-premise and cloud-based services is a hot topic for all IT Directors across business and the public sector, from small local businesses to global enterprises, and for all levels of government agencies and departments.

    How do all of the dots join up in this new IT services picture? Well, thinking about it has prompted me to write a summary of what’s going on with cloud-based services at Microsoft, to fill in some of the picture from an education viewpoint.

    Microsoft Online Services and Education

    imageWe’ve recently made a public big shift in our emphasis towards cloud-based services; but behind the scenes there have been very big changes going on for years to get ready for the day that cloud takes off right across the world.

    I’m going to use ‘Cloud’ to represent all of the Internet services that users and institutions might be using. It might be a mix of desktop and web-based software, or an entirely web-based service. Either way, it’s something that involves a web-service as part of the IT delivery.

    imageSo here’s my summary of the cloud-based services that Microsoft do that may be directly relevant to education, and the essential differences.

    The first service, Live@edu is education-specific, and not available outside of education. The other services are designed for a wide range of business and public sector customers, so you’ll see some overlap between the different services. Although that can feel like duplication, it also means that you’re able to select your online services rather like an a la carte menu – choosing the combination of options to match your exact needs.


    Live@edu is a free hosted service, designed specifically for education, which allows you to outsource some of your IT infrastructure to the cloud. The starting point for many is email, where you keep your existing school email domain ( and point it over to our email servers – and we then run an Exchange 2010 mail service from our data centres for you, with each student getting a 10GB email inbox. As part of the service, each student gets their own Windows Live ID, which also means that they can use the hosted SkyDrive service too – with 25GB of file storage hosted on the web for each student. In the future, we’ll also be integrating SharePoint into Live@edu, giving you more options for collaboration between users. (London Grid for Learning (LGfL) chose Live@edu to run their email services for all schools across London – with the DCSF calculating that they could save £11M a year from doing it.)

    How do you buy it?

    As it’s free, you can simply sign up directly at the Live@edu site

    Where to find out more

    imageWindows Azure

    Windows Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing operating system. This is essentially a set of services that developers, software vendors and systems integrators can use to develop applications and new business models. We host the servers in the cloud, running cloud versions of the same platforms that would normally run in-house – things like web servers or highly-available SQL servers. The developers use exactly the same tools as today to develop their applications (eg Visual Studio) on their own desktop/in-house machines, and then they can choose to deploy locally or onto Windows Azure in the cloud.

    Because our job is to run an agile, efficient, secure and trustworthy central service through our worldwide datacentres, it means that the developers don’t need to worry about building and managing virtual machines, patching operating systems, and designing their own redundancy system. That’s the Azure team’s job.

    The Windows Azure Platform also includes AppFabric, which is an add-on to allow you to integrate your on-premise and cloud infrastructure, with access control and service interoperability

    How do you buy it?

    It is based on a pay-as-you-go subscription, calculated on the volume of data/workload that’s used. In a sense it is very similar to a normal utility, like gas and electricity – you use as much as you want, and pay for what you use. And just like the electricity company, it’s our job to make sure the capacity is there when you want to use it. It also allows you to convert capital expenditure into resource expenditure – because you aren’t buying big fixed capital infrastructure – just simply renting the capacity you need, when you need it.

    Where to find out more


    Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS)

    This provides hosted versions of applications – like Exchange, SharePoint, Live Meeting (for web conferencing) and Office Communications (for instant collaboration) . So instead of installing your own infrastructure, you subscribe to the BPOS services you need, either as standard configurations, or as a dedicated services with your own dedicated architecture. It’s especially good for education, as it means that users can access information from virtually anywhere, whether on our off campus.

    One of the benefits of using a cloud service for something like SharePoint is that you can then focus your IT resources on adding value to business-critical projects, rather than on running utility services.

    By making it a cloud-based, subscription service, it is easier for you to provide the right subset of resources for the right users – choosing both the users and the services, and then not having to worry about the deployment and maintenance costs.

    How do you buy it?

    You simply license the users for the applications you want – on a per-user, per-month basis. There’s no additional device licences required, or any usage costs. It’s just a flat-fee monthly subscription. To reduce the monthly cost, you can roll this under your existing Volume Licence agreement

    Where to find out more

    And yes, there’s a free trial (available on the link above)


    Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

    This is a cloud-based customer relationship management service that can be accessed through Outlook or an Internet browser, and has rich integration with Office applications – Word, Excel and Communicator. It’s a comprehensive service which includes marketing automation, sales force automation, and customer service and support capabilities, as well as integrated workflow and business intelligence. In education, this is most likely to be valuable to independent schools, colleges and universities.

    The beauty of this cloud service is that you can start a deployment in a small way, without having to build your own infrastructure, and then grow it as you need to. The cloud system is built on the same code as the on-premise system, so you can move between deployment options in the future.

    How do you buy it?

    It will be a per-user, per-month subscription, but unfortunately the online version of Dynamics isn’t available in the UK yet – currently it’s only in North America. But it should be crossing the Atlantic this autumn.

    Where to find out more

    And yes, there’s a free trial (available on the link above)


    Microsoft Private Cloud Infrastructure

    This is a set of resources, products, and management tools that allows you to run your own private cloud (or contract another organisation to do it for you), using the best practice techniques that we have developed for our cloud infrastructure. It enables you to dynamically pool, allocate, and manage resources to deliver flexible/agile Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Capabilities like self-service portals let your end-users rapidly consume IT services by self-provisioning (and decommissioning) infrastructure on a shared server fabric, virtualised by Windows Server Hyper-V and managed by System Center. Departments are thus able to deploy their applications with a lot more speed and agility. This allows your own IT team to focus their time on solving business problems rather than worrying about keeping the basic infrastructure running. It provides a less complex, more agile and more efficient infrastructure, in-house. And there’s also a hybrid model, where you contract a service hoster to provider a ‘virtual private cloud’, perhaps as a top-up to your in-house infrastructure.

    How do you buy it?

    Well, because it is based on a set of best practice advice, you’ll find that the key components are being built into the products you already have – like Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V – and the Systems Management Server products. And in addition, we’re releasing free toolkits – like the Dynamic Infrastructure Toolkit for System Center and the Dynamic Data Centre Toolkit for Hosters.

    Where to find out more


    Office Web Apps

    The Office Web Apps are online companions for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Office Web Apps provide quick viewing of Office documents and basic editing capabilities. There are two methods of accessing Office Web Apps.

    • Individuals (eg your students off campus) can use the Web Apps in Windows Live, and the files are stored online in their webspace on their SkyDrive.
    • For institutional use, they can be hosted on premise on your SharePoint 2010 or they can be hosted with Microsoft Online. In this mode, files are stored within your infrastructure. It is mainly intended as a companion to the full Office suite, but available over the web when you don’t have Office installed, or when it speeds up sharing and collaboration.

    How do you buy it?

    Individuals can access it on Windows Live using their Windows Live ID. For institutional use, every licence for Office 2010 under a volume licence scheme (such as a Select licence) includes an additional licence for Office Web Apps.

    Where to find out more

    imageForefront Online Protection for Exchange

    This is a fully hosted service for managing the inbound and outbound flow of e-mail, through e-mail gateways with multiple filters that provide organizations with a defence against e-mail-borne malware, including spam, viruses, phishing scams, and e-mail policy violations. In addition, the service has a Web-based administrative console for writing rules to help enforce your organisation policies governing e-mail usage (eg limiting which domains users can send/receive email from etc)

    How do you buy it?

    You would normally buy it through your existing volume licence agreement, on a per-user or per-device basis.

    Where to find out more

    imageWindows InTune

    This is a new future cloud service for managing Windows PCs over the web, announced on 19th April with a limited beta programme. It allows you to use a single web-based console, with tools for updates, malware protection, troubleshooting, remote assistance, security policy configuration and desktop virtualisation. The aim is to simplify PC management and improve the end-user experience. It also includes the upgrade licences for Windows 7 Enterprise, anti-virus and other management tools for the workstations that are covered.

    At the moment this isn’t available in the UK, but we have confirmed that the service will be available within a year of the beta programme.

    How do you buy it?

    You will pay per-device, per-month, and it can be purchased individually, or as part of your existing volume licence agreement.

    Where to find out more

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Office 2010 availability dates for schools


    imageWe have been developing Office 2010 for quite a while now – and many of you have been taking part in that by running the beta versions (at the last count, 7.5 million people have downloaded the beta version).

    Late on Friday, Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 reached their last stage in the development process – called Release To Manufacturing (RTM in geek-speak). That means that it is finished and ready to go, and the code is then released to be made into the final product – whether that’s creating the DVDs that you buy in a shop, or creating the download websites for our volume licence customers.

    Making the physical disks takes a little longer than the download sites, so here are the dates when you will be able to get hold of Office 2010:

    • April 27 – If you already have Office and bought Software Assurance you can download from the Volume Licensing Service Centre
      This covers all schools who have a School Agreement or SESP, and those of you who’ve bought Office 2007 under the Select licence with the Software Assurance.
    • May 1 – You can buy new Office 2010 licences from your Microsoft partner under School Agreement, SESP or Select.
    • June – Home users can buy a retail copy of Office 2010 from the shops

    If you’ve missed it, here’s a brief overview of what’s new in Office 2010.

    And here’s my view on the Top 10 reasons Office 2010 is good for schools.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    What is our CIO thinking about?

    imageIf you are responsible for a large IT system, then one of the biggest challenges you face is the huge pressure from internal and external forces for constant change – and also to reduce your budgets. The Microsoft Chief Information Officer Tony Scott is no different. I recommend taking ten minutes to watch the video he’s just recorded “Critical Trends within IT 2010” where talks about critical trends facing the IT industry, including cloud computing, virtualization, and the ongoing need to reduce costs and improve efficiency. He also talks about the changing role of the CIO, which is becoming more central to all organisations.

    This video is part of a larger series created by the Microsoft IT team (the ones who keep our internal network moving forward). Part of their role is to share their good practice with our customers. After all, they are often deploying beta versions of our new products in a live, mission-critical IT environment – so they learn a lot of things in advance of our customers.

    One of the ways that they do this is through TechNet, where they run a section called “Microsoft IT Showcase: How Microsoft Does IT”. As you’re working on your IT strategy plans for the next year, and especially if you are implementing any of our new products, it makes a great additional resource to use (mainly because the pragmatic advice is based on real-world deployments, rather than theoretical designs).

    They publish a wide range articles, white papers, and webcasts on issues from cost-cutting, new product deployments, to identity and access management.

    I’d also recommend their video Centralized Server Virtualization Drives IT Cost Reduction, which is one of their most viewed case studies. It describes the process, the cost savings, and the user and organisational benefits of the changes “

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    The TES writes a scary Information Security headline


    People are definitely getting concerned about the need to secure data in schools. On Tuesday, in the "When too much security means less security" post I mentioned that there are new stricter penalties faced by organisations for losing/disclosing personal data, with fines up to £500,000. And there has been some discussion about the need for encryption of teachers’ laptops on the EduGeek website

    One of the issues that I’ve found is that some head teachers believe that it is fundamentally an IT problem – and therefore the network manager gets given ownership for it. However, it really needs addressing at a whole-school level (and the IT team can arrive as the heroes who can provide a solution to the problem).

    But how do you get Information Security onto the senior leadership team’s agenda?

    Last week’s TES might help. When you get into school on Monday, grab it (dated Friday 9th April) and make sure the SMT see the article on page 11:

    Schools face £500k fine for data lapses

    Penalties increase 100-fold for worst transgressions

    Schools have been warned to check procedures for protecting pupil data after the information watchdog was given powers to issue fines of up to £500,000.

    The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), previously only able to issue fines of up to £5,000, is planning to punish organisations which mislay or misuse sensitive personal information.

    Although most high-profile data losses reported so far have been from government organisations, headteachers have been warned to ensure their policies are watertight.

    And the very next thing you’ll want the SMT to read is Becta’s “Data handling security guidance for schools

    There’s plenty of supporting information on this blog on strategies and actions for protecting your data – start at the Information Security article for help.

    Probably the very first step to take is to ensure that all of your file servers are kept in locked room.

    The second is to make sure that your teachers’ laptops have encrypted drives, and that your staff use encrypted USB memory sticks for any sensitive data.

    If you’re one of the many schools that already buys your Microsoft software under a subscription agreement (such as School Agreement or SESP) then you’re already licensed for Windows 7 Enterprise – which comes complete with BitLocker (allowing you to easily, safely, and invisibly encrypt every teachers laptop) and BitLocker To Go (which allows you to encrypt any USB memory stick). I think implementing this gets you a long way towards to meeting the guidelines (without any additional cost!)

    imageRead the TES article






  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Project Genie – pupils thinking about climate change and reducing school energy bills


    pg logo
    We’re supporting the team running “Project Genie”, which is all about making climate change meaningful to pupils in primary schools. In the pilot programme, the schools that took part saw energy use savings of up to 40% – which is pretty significant when you consider that most schools spend more on energy than they do on ICT.

    The benefit of saving money, whilst at the same time engaging pupils in leading learning, is a useful mix, so I wanted to hand over to the Project Genie team to tell you about it:

    genie logo houseProject Genie is your whole-school solution to teaching climate change in primary schools through the education and empowerment of children. Microsoft have played a significant role in providing a robust cloud-scale technology platform that enables genie to deliver on its promise of educating and empowering children to ensure rapid, measurable and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. For more information on the work of Project Genie go to

    There’s a specific section on the site for teachers – which spells out what’s happened to date (140 pilot schools with 34,000 children), and what resources are available for KS2 (and coming for KS1). And the project has (politically balanced!) endorsement from Gordon Brown and Boris Johnson. And they’ve scored a hit with The Genie in the Bottle trailer, having persuaded Tom Baker to record the voice-over, and getting support from us, the Met Office, UCL and Global Cool.

    Watch The Genie in the Bottle trailer

    imageVisit the Project Genie website for more information

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Kodu for PC – a teacher’s tutorial


    Kodu for PC is a (free) visual programming language which was launched earlier this year. In the past it’s been available for Xbox, but now there’s a PC version, and it gives you another way of developing programming skills in your students. And as it uses games as the core, it helps to keep your students focused for longer. (More on Kodu for PC here)

    Stuart Ridout, who’s head of ICT at Stantonbury Campus School recorded a tutorial on it, and popped it up onto YouTube. Although you can plug an Xbox controller into your PC, his tutorial is recorded just using the keyboard and mouse, so anybody can do it once they’ve downloaded Kodu. And all in under 8 minutes from blank screen to a simple game.

    Stuart Ridout’s Kodu tutorial

    If you can’t see the video above, then use this link

    Once you’ve seen it, you may also be interested in his next two videos – as he started to re-create something like PacMan, in 3D, in Kodu – see Part One and Part Two.

    And for further inspiration from Stuart, take a look at his “Visualising revision help” poster – an absolutely brilliant idea and something I’d like to see on my fridge at home when the GCSE years arrive in the Fleming household.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Saving money by doing IT differently?


    imageI’ve just finished reading a story in Computing about the Co-op saving money on IT, when they cut their Microsoft licensing bills by at least £1.5 million, by changing the way that they implemented technology. Having written so much about cost-saving recently (including the “Stop buying so much software” post) it grabbed me straight away. Although it is a commercial organisation (and therefore they don’t get the same kind of discounts that education does – typically our Academic licences get discounted by 80% from the full commercial licences), I immediately saw parallels to the education system.

    In the case of the Co-op, they have 800 individual pharmacy stores, with individual IT systems. And in each store, an SQL server running their back-end systems. And they have made their saving by centralising the whole thing – having a mega SQL Server 2008 running at head office. The £1.5m saving quoted is actually only the starting point, as they’ve also cut half a million already off hardware upgrade and maintenance costs, and there’s also savings in other Microsoft licence costs too.

    Although at a school level it’s not possible to get a similar economy of scale, the article might give you some ideas (especially if you’re thinking about school federations). At a national or local authority level there’s definitely some ideas that would be relevant to education.

    The immediate parallel for education is the way that many schools in authorities have their own individual MIS databases, which is an almost exact parallel of the Co-op story. Although the parallel obviously breaks down when you compare the independence that individual schools are given, compared to the centralisation possible in a distributed business.

    Read the full article "Co-op cuts Microsoft licensing bills by £1.5m" on

    imageQuickly find all the other "Money Saving Tips" on this blog

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Are you ready to deploy Windows 7? Need a bit more help?


    Thanks to Rich from Bechtle, I know where you can get some help. Rich has just blogged about the Windows 7 Deployment Learning Portal on his Software Ruminations blog.

    Windows 7 Deployment – the Learning Portal

    We spend almost $10 billion a year on research and development, and so each time we release a new product, there’s new things it can do. And a lot of the R&D spend is focused on making IT easier. If you’re running a reasonably big IT system (as most education IT systems are), then one of the things that has been a hassle is deploying new versions of software, and managing the complex IT networks that are out there.

    When we developed Windows 7, the engineers spent quite a bit of time working out how to make the deployment process easier, and building tools to help that process. That’s good. The downside is that things have changed. If the last time you rolled out a new operating system was when you deployed Windows XP, then you’ll find that it has (a) got much easier and (b) changed the steps you take. All those previous tools – like Ghost and other specific deployment applications – may no longer be the best, quickest, cheapest and easiest way to deploy Windows.

    And the Windows 7 Deployment Learning Portal takes some of the pain out of getting yourself up to date. Instead of dumping all of the information onto you, it allows you to take a series of mini-tests:

    • Preparing for deployment
    • Configuring an image
    • Migration
    • Compatibility testing
    • Deployment Methods

    At the end of each test, you get a mark, and links to specific TechNet pages relating to the topic – so that you only need to read the stuff you don’t know, not waste time sifting through the stuff you already know. And the links point you towards things like articles, How-To guides, Step-by-Step procedures etc.

    And there’s an incentive too – the first 150 people to pass get a free MCITP (Microsoft Certified IT Professional) self-study guide, and the first 500 get a voucher for a free certification exam – so that you can get a new qualification for your CV/annual performance review.

    imageGo to the Windows 7 Deployment Learning Portal

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    When too much security means less security


    In December, my local BBC News station showed an interview with a head teacher, who’d had to crawl across a sloping playground, covered in black ice, to send out a text to let parents know the school was closed. Which surprised me because he was using one of the systems that allows you to send out the message from a website. And it made me realise that the school had a security problem. Why? I’ll explain later…

    There’s no doubt that information security – whether that’s us as individuals keeping an eye on our own personal information, or the huge amounts of other people’s personal information that seems to flood our systems/inboxes – is a hot issue at the moment. According to the Information Commissioner’s Office:

    • There are new stricter penalties faced by organisations for losing/disclosing personal data - fines up to £500,000
    • In the last two years, 800 data security breaches were reported to the ICO
    • One quarter of data security breaches were the result of mistakes
    • One third were the result of theft, often of an unencrypted portable device

    And since January, the ICO has reported on loss/disclosure of sensitive personal data by a wide range of public sector organisations, including Highland, Warwickshire, St Albans City and Lancashire Councils, the Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust, and even the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

    The Becta Data Handling Security Guidance continues to be updated on actions for schools to comply with the Data Protection Act – including more clarity on what constitutes ‘sensitive personal data’, which now includes individuals’ ethnic origin, as well as a range of SEN information. (The jist of the advice is that it would be unwise for ‘sensitive personal data’ to leave the school - eg on a SMT laptop/USB stick/printed report - except in the most exceptionally secure circumstances).

    Lock everything down?

    So there’s no doubt that improved security systems (eg encrypting every staff laptop with Windows BitLocker) makes things more security, and gives you less to worry about. But there is definitely a point where more security measures, and especially the imposition of these onto staff who don’t buy in, can actually lead to lower security.

    I read an excellent article “Please do not change your password” on the Boston Globe which carefully works through the argument. You should read it yourself in full (unlike most ‘IT security’ articles, it’s an easy read) but here’s some of the things I took out of it:

    • Asking users to regularly change online passwords may not make any difference to security
    • Users still write passwords down and stick them on or in their desks
    • All too often, users are being asked to take too many security steps, where they don’t see the value
    • Noncompliance with security systems may be a problem caused by the experts, not the users, because security professionals aren’t always justifying their recommendations with a sound case to users or others
    • ‘Bullet-proof’ passwords should be the first line defence, and ‘one-time’ measures the next step – like anti-virus and anti-spyware protection (with automatic updates)

    And it left me wondering “Which is more secure – a different password on every website/system, or a small password series which I can remember, with unique ones on the really important websites, like my bank?”. At least I don’t need to write down the second option!

    If you want to know how your users think, then the comments on the article provide a great starting point to understand the range of views. I sympathised with ‘aldopignotti’, who wrote “We have to change our passwords every three months, which isn't a big deal EXCEPT we have three separate systems with three different set of rules. Also, there are six other systems that don't use network passwords so if I want to have one corporate password, I have to change it in nine different places.”

    So next time you’re thinking about enhancing your network security, maybe making security easier for your users would be the biggest improvement to your system security.

    Back to the head teacher at the beginning of this story. How did I know the school had a security problem? The reason was that the head had to leave the comfort of his home, and his broadband connection, to travel to school through snow that closed all the schools in his county, and then crawl on his hands and knees across a treacherous playground. So that he could log on to a website. Why? Simple – the password was written on a piece of paper pinned on the notice board in the school office. (And what’s the betting that some of their other system passwords were stored in the same way?)

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