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The FE Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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November, 2010

  • FE blog

    How Microsoft uses the Windows Server 2008 R2 features to enhance our own security


    The Microsoft IT team publish case studies of how we've used our own products within our own infrastructure - sharing their real-life experiences.

    This month there's a case study about the way that we've implemented the security features in Windows Server 2008 R2, along with Windows 7 on the desktop - and the benefits that we've seen so far. It covers a wide range of things, including:

    • DirectAccess to replace a mixed bag of remote access VPN technologies *
    • Network Access Protection (NAP) to manage the integrity and compliance of devices accessing the network
    • BranchCache to increase network responsiveness for remote offices
    • AppLocker to prevent unlicensed software, unsupported apps and malware from running

    When you look through the detail, you'll see that there are big similarities between our IT infrastructure and a typical education IT system. I've taken the following statements from the case study - don't they look similar to a typical large university network?

    • "Multiple remote access methods…led to end user confusion"
    • "…the team could only manage mobile computers when users connected to a VPN or came to the office."
    • "With about 71,000 highly mobile users [we] needed a new way to measure and improve the corporate security policy compliance…including desktop computers, roaming portable computers, visiting portable computers, and unmanaged home computers."
    • "…the trend toward data centralisation places more content in data centers that are remote from branch offices. A very large (and increasing) number of remote sites are connected to these data centers. These remote sites range in size from very small (less than 10 users) to very large (greater than 5000 users)."

    And although the scale is different, the challenges are also similar to colleges and many schools.

    If you're looking for a good guide to help you think about your network security strategy, which not only makes your network more secure, but also helps improve the end-user experience, then can I recommend the case study to you?

    Read the full story about how Microsoft uses Windows Server 2008 R2 to enhance network security.

    * As an end-user of our IT systems, I can definitely say that using DirectAccess has been a vast improvement over a normal VPN solution. It has made the security virtually invisible to me, and hugely increased my remote experience, especially when I'm working from home or a wireless hotspot. The biggest reason is that it doesn't get in the way of normal internet traffic, and invisibly enables the intranet/corporate network access I need.

  • FE blog

    Tech·Ed 2010 - Download the presentation videos free


    If you've ever been lucky enough to get to Tech·Ed, you'll know that some of the best technical presenters are there, presenting some of the most useful technical content for IT managers. Each year over 100 people from UK educational institutions travel out to it (this year, it was in Berlin), but I know that many, many more people want to attend, but simply can't get sign off for the costs.

    imageWhat is fantastic is that all of the main sessions are recorded and are now available free online. So  this is the site to visit if you want to know all about DirectAccess troubleshooting, or Failover Cluster in Windows Server 2008 R2 - or you simply want to watch a keynote, or learn about our views on authentication and passwords, or get an industry view on the latest hacking techniques (and what you can do to defend against them).

    You can find the videos and PowerPoint slides on the Tech·Ed site. And you can search by subject, rating, speaker etc. And even download them as a WMV or MP4, so that you can watch on your commute.

  • FE blog

    Final External Speaker line-up for the Microsoft FE Briefing on 3rd December


    We are holding our annual Further Education Briefing next Friday on 3rd December 2010 at the Microsoft Campus, in Reading.

    In addition to the Microsoft speakers that you'll have the chance to hear from, we've confirmed the final line up of external speakers at the event:

    • Three key Microsoft partners are talking - Quest, Damovo and Dimension Data
    • Two key college customers will be sharing their experiences - Robin Gadd from Brockenhurst College and Paul Chapman from Leicester College
    • Matthew Dean from AOC will be talking about the outlook for the FE sector - the drive for efficiency and effectiveness - and the implications for IT.
    • Tim Bush from the University of London Computing Centre will tak about their new shared service

    The agenda runs from 9:30 to 3:15, with plenty of breaks giving you an opportunity to catch up with colleagues and ask detailed questions of the presenters.

    The focus of the day is the contribution that IT can make to saving cost in your college, both in your IT budget and in other budget areas, so there are plenty of reasons to attend. You can register online, or call us on 0870 166 6680 (quoting event 7958) to book your place.

  • FE blog

    The Virtualisation Hub on TechNet - getting the right planning information


    The TechNet team create useful technical content for IT Managers, and their latest project is absolutely perfect for college IT managers who are considering their next step with virtualisation projects ,or are wondering if they should be considering virtualisation projects.

    Predicting resource requirements for a new ICT application, especially one that is widely used, such as an MLE, is a tricky task. It's hard to know the adoption curve that you'll have on your hands. You make your best estimates, then spend money on new hardware and hope your estimates were right. Only actual usage tells whether your server infrastructure is running efficiently. What may make this process more painful is the knowledge that your existing environment probably has the capacity to deliver this application if only the servers were used in a more efficient manner.

    Deciding whether, and what form of, virtualisation is appropriate to your needs will require answers to a number of questions. When and where will your usage demand happen, within your organisation or from remote users and external stakeholders? Is there a predictable demand timeframe for some or all of your services? How will back-ups and data compliance be enforced, and where must your data reside to be secure while complying with local authority or national guidance?

    The TechNet collection of guides will help you to plan how to accomplish your goals with server and services virtualisation technology. It's designed to help IT managers to direct their limited resources to the most efficient activities, even making changes dynamically to utilise resources as demands change during a business day or week — for example, a busy Web server during the week that lays largely unused over the weekend could be repurposed on Friday evening for large database processing jobs and returned to serving Web requests late on Sunday. (Although the scenarios below aren't education specific, the business and technology challenges parallel your own!)

    · Increase Server Availability and Support Burst Demand with Virtualisation

    · How to Improve Server Utilisation and Reduce Infrastructure Costs

    · How to Support a New Location with SharePoint Virtualisation

    · Manage Storage Migration with Virtualisation

    · Planning for Disaster Recovery Using Virtualisation

    The resources are all broken down into four lifecycle stages, making it easy to find the information relevant to you - whether you're researching, or planning a deployment.image

    You can read much more about the technical and planning side of server virtualisation on the TechNet Virtualisation hub

  • FE blog

    Controlled Assessment and avoiding hundreds of USB sticks


    Although this idea originates in schools, there is a direct impact for colleges too

    The external exam protocol called 'Controlled Assessment' is currently causing headaches for teachers and network managers,

    Essentially, it’s a way of letting students do coursework, in class, under controlled and supervised conditions. Work’s put away between sessions and the exam boards want evidence to show students can’t get to it. (They speak of “maintaining the integrity of the work” and will visit exam officers to quiz them about it.)

    If it’s paperwork, of course, it’s about locked filing cabinets. But what about work that’s done electronically? How, in an age of anytime, anywhere learning does a college block access between sessions? And furthermore how do you operate the required controls during the actual sessions? No surprise to learn that the requirements vary, subject to subject, exam board to exam board. Internet access, for example, may or may not be permitted. One exam board suggests you hand every student a memory stick.

    One of numerous teachers and network managers who’ve thought about this is Adrian Edgar, Director of ICT at Culford School, Bury St Edmunds.

    Adrian, writing a guest post on Dave Coleman’s SharePointEduTech blog, describes how he first thought it was going to be about students working with memory sticks, handed out and collected each session, and indeed the the AQA guidance actually says that’s how to do it.

    As Adrian tells me though:

    “The logistics, with what might be hundreds of memory sticks, just don’t bear thinking about.”

    The solution he’s come up with uses Windows7 and Active Directory, with 'User Management Rights Administrator' (UMRA) from www.tools4ever.com. The techie story is there on Adrian’s post,  but from the teacher and student’s point of view there are two key points. Firstly, the teacher, at the start of a controlled session has only to open up a folder for the group he or she is working with and decide to give access to the work. All the security issues are taken care of in the background. And secondly, the student is provided with an environment that’s separate from everyday work and so, in Adrian’s words:

    “It helps that mindset that says, ‘This is like opening up an exam paper’ – there’s that extra gravitas.”

    This is far from the final word on the subject. Adrian’s aware there’ll be other solutions, and indeed he credits Jim Christie, IT Manager at Long Eaton School with the original idea. Dave Coleman, for his part, would like to know how others are tackling the problem and tweets a promise to post ideas on his blog.

    Read Adrian's blog post on Controlled Assessment on the SharePointEduTech blog

  • FE blog

    November webinars for FE


    Secrets of Successful Desktop Virtualisation: The Optimised Desktop

    VDI is a hot topic at the moment but what actually is it? When is it the right solution … and when not? Given the challenges nowadays – making the right choices is even more critical than ever.

    In this Microsoft Education live meeting, Quest will discuss the future trends for the desktop, the options available, and how to blend different approaches for the right results.

    Quest will discuss real world examples – including their current VDI project at Kingston University rolling out globally to 20,000 students and staff – to make this a practical session which cuts through confusion and hype to provide realistic ways forward.

    Dates and Times:           

     Tuesday November 23rd – 14:00-15:00
    Thursday November 25th – 14:00-15:00

    If you would like to join one of these webinars, please register  here


    System Center Service Manager 2010

    System Center Service Manager is Service Desk solution providing incident and problem resolution, change control, and asset lifecycle management. By unifying knowledge across the System Center suite, Service Manager helps IT continuously adapt to new business requirements while reducing cost and lowering time to resolution.

    This session presented by Microsoft partner Silversands , provides a good overview of the key functionality of the product  and will give you the opportunity to get any questions you may have answered.

    Dates and Times:

    Tuesday 23rd November 10:30-11:30 
    Thursday 25th November 10:30-11:30

    If you would like to join one of these webinars, please register here

  • FE blog

    Final Agenda for the FE Briefing on 3rd December


    We are holding our annual Further Education Briefing in two weeks, on Friday 3rd December 2010 at the Microsoft Campus, in Reading.

    With the current squeeze on education budgets looking likely to last, there is a clear focus on the ways that the IT systems within Further Education can be used to reduce the cost of delivery for a college.  And we know the pressure isn't just on budgets, it's also on your time. So we have ensured that the agenda for this year’s FE briefing covers a wider range of topics and focuses specifically on practical advice that you can use to reduce costs both within your IT budget, and beyond.

    Paul Chapman, Head of Libraries and E-Strategy and Leicester College will be talking about their project to reduce their IT cost and build more network resilience - through virtualising their datacentre. Paul spoke recently at another event here in Reading, and got excellent feedback from the audience, and he will definitely be one of the highlights of the day.

    Tim Bush, from the University of London Computing Centre, will be talking about their hosted Moodle project, and it's integration with Microsoft's cloud services, specifically Live@edu. This will be especially interesting for anybody who is thinking about the shared services agenda, as it is an example of a successful shared service, but with a commercial service level agreement.

    We also have a number of Microsoft partners speaking, all of whom have worked on cost-saving projects with Further and Higher Education. This will ensure that by the end of the day, not only will you have ideas of what other institutions are doing to reduce IT and other costs, but you'll know which of our partners can offer support and services to help you in your college.

    The agenda runs from 9:30 to 3:15, with plenty of breaks giving you an opportunity to catch up with colleagues and ask detailed questions of the presenters.

    You can register online, or call us on 0870 166 6680 (quoting event 7958) to book your place.

  • FE blog

    This week’s webinars for college IT managers 16th-18th November


    There  are a couple of webinars during this week that if you have time in your diary, come along and take a listen.

    System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 webinar

    System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) lets you see how your IT system is running, from your servers right down to individual desktop computers enabling Operations and IT Management teams to identify, and resolve issues affecting the health of distributed IT services – before they become problems. SCOM can monitor both your Microsoft on non-Microsoft environments and therefore provide a unified solution across the entire campus.

    Microsoft partner Inframon will be presenting this session and will be available to answer any of your questions.

    Tuesday November 16th 10:30-11:30
    or Thursday November 18th 10:30-11:30

    You can register for this webinar here


    System Center Configuration Manager 2007 webinar

    System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2007 has long been a favourable choice for education organisations of all sizes to comprehensively assess, deploy and update servers, clients and devices across physical, virtual, distributed and mobile environments.

    The upcoming version R3, introduces the ability to centrally monitor and control the power consumption of Windows clients, and can therefore help organisations decrease their carbon footprint and potentially realise significant cost savings on energy bills and reduce their overall environmental impact.

    In this live meeting with Microsoft Partner Dimension Data we will explore some of the key capabilities of SCCM and give you chance to ask the experts your questions.

    Tuesday November 16th 2pm-3pm
    or Thursday November 18th  2pm -3pm

     You can register for this webinar here 

  • FE blog

    Salford Software FE event–Hopwood Hall College, Manchester, 25th November 2010


    Salford Software would like to invite you to a free event for FE colleges taking place at Hopwood Hall College, in Manchester on 25th November.

    The purpose of this event is to share the experiences of Hopwood Hall College’s IT team with other like minded organisations.  The college had a clear vision to be a leader through technology. Through the use of Microsoft technologies they are now providing their students and users with an enhanced learning environment.  Experts from both Microsoft and Salford Software will also be attending this event. 

    Richard Green, Live@edu UK Business Manager will be presenting the roadmap and updates on Microsoft Live@edu and Microsoft’s Cloud services.  

    Matt Dunkin, Principal Architect at Salford Software will discuss the benefits of using technologies like Microsoft Forefront Identity Manager and introduce you to solutions including The Hub and Student Centre.

    Matt McSpirit, Technology and Virtualisation Advisor from Microsoft, will introduce Building Your Private Cloud.

    In the words of Salford, this is how they describe the day:

    "Whilst student numbers are on the increase, so is the requirement for improved services.  Solutions like the Hub (SharePoint) allow students to work collaboratively and promote an efficient online working.  As a trusted advisor, Salford Software can help you to understand how to overcome some of the challenges that are currently being experienced across the FE sector.  We can demonstrate how, by maximising the benefits of your existing Microsoft skill sets and taking advantage of the low cost licensing available to education, your organisation can improve the way that services are managed and delivered.  Using Microsoft technologies it is possible to create a simplified yet more secure IT environment."

    Booking is available online here

  • FE blog

    Need some support for deploying Windows 7?


    Although I'm afraid I can't offer to send you a top-techie from Microsoft to help you with rolling out Windows 7 in your college, I can offer a good second best, thanks to the TechNet team. They got together with some of the product and support gurus on Windows 7, and created a big batch of videos on Windows 7  for IT Managers, containing very practical advice for people deploying Windows 7.

    Videos for IT Managers header

    There's a long list of topics covered in the E-Learning Series:

    • Preparing for Windows 7
    • Bare Metal Installation
    • USB Installation
    • Upgrading from Windows Vista
    • Migration From Windows XP to Windows 7
    • Creating a Dual-Boot System
    • Basic Windows 7 Deployment
    • Using Windows Deployment Services
    • Compatibility - Evaluation and Remediation
    • Offline Image Servicing
    • Configuring Devices in Windows 7
    • Configuring Internet Explorer 8
    • Software Restriction Policies
    • Network Connectivity
    • Accessing Local and Network Resources
    • Remote Management with Windows PowerShell
    • BitLocker and BitLocker To Go
    • DirectAccess
    • Offline Files

    You can view them all on the TechNet site, or download them for offline use or to view on your commute.

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