"We would have had to invest thousands to have ensured the level of uptime and support that Office 365 for education provides as a standard service. There was never a question of us matching that level of support ourselves. There was simply no budget to do that."
-- Julian Elve, Head of Information Services, The Schools Network
The Schools Network The Schools Network is in the business of transforming education around the world. Over the past 25 years, this London-based, not-for-profit organization has partnered with business and the community, building a network of innovative, high-performing schools and academies. It works with schools and academies in the United Kingdom, China and Abu Dhabi. The Schools Network’s work results in better teachers, better student achievement scores, and students who are better-prepared to make a difference in the future.
The Schools Network found that changes to government policy meant that it would generate less income from grant-funded projects. The network needed to become more commercially-focused. It needed to find new ways to work effectively, streamline processes, and cut costs, without impacting programs that were leading to better outcomes for so many schools and students.
IT Challenges Over the course of its 25-year existence, the organization's entire technology infrastructure had grown and expanded in a manner that was more spontaneous and organic than planned and cultivated. The email infrastructure with its aging servers was particularly challenging to maintain. Travelling employees accessed email securely with virtual, private, network technology, but often only after a call to the service desk for help. In addition, the infrastructure tended to break, leaving some 500 users around the world with no way to communicate easily. The Schools Network realized that a cloud-based, messaging solution which was managed and maintained by an external partner, could be compelling and cost-effective.
IT Solution and Benefits The Schools Network examined cloud-based messaging solutions from Microsoft as well as several, other vendors. The Schools Network soon determined that the Microsoft Office 365 for education offering best-suited their needs. Microsoft Office 365 for education combines the Microsoft Office desktop suite with Exchange Online, Lync Online, Office Web Apps, and SharePoint Online. Not only did Office 365 for education provide features and functionality needed to support its dispersed employees, but Office 365 for education works with Microsoft Office Outlook 2010, which users were already familiar with.
The Schools Network worked with Perspicuity, a London-based Microsoft Network Gold Partner, to help in their migration to Office 365 for education. A team of users put the solution through its paces in a pilot. Then, over a weekend when users were offline, The Schools Network moved its 300 users over to Office 365.
The Schools Network needed to streamline its infrastructure, reduce operating expenses, and improve the availability of email—and it accomplished all these goals by migrating to Office 365 for education. Familiarity with the Outlook interface made transitioning to the new mail system virtually transparent to users, and they noticed they had better availability and responsiveness.
In addition, they found that streamlining the infrastructure with Office 365 reduced their IT overhead and their capital expenses. "When we projected the savings we'd gain from using Office 365 for education, we projected freeing up two days of IT personnel time per month, just from not having to manage email servers," says Julian Elve, Head of Information Services. Because Office 365 for education is available on a subscription basis, there are no upfront server and licensing costs. That alone saved The Schools Network more than £34,000.
With the email infrastructure in the cloud, personnel from The Schools Network can access email at any time, from anywhere, without difficulty. Moreover, the security and reliability Office 365 offers through regional datacenters delivers a level of protection not necessarily attainable from an in-house installation.
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