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November, 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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November, 2010

  • Microsoft UK Schools 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.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Live@edu takes off for RM's customers


    The Live@edu service, which is our cloud-hosted email and collaboration service*, has been chosen as the standard schools email system by a growing number of local authorities and Regional Broadband Consortia. Two years ago London Grid for Learning chose it, and the DCSF highlighted the potential for £11M of savings through using it. And the list of local authorities keeps growing. Of course, it's not all about somebody deciding what's best for schools - there are also plenty of schools which sign up for Live@edu directly, and just start using it.

    There are now 10,000 education establishments - schools, colleges and universities - using Live@edu, with 11 million active students around the world.

    The other thing that has been happening is that ICT suppliers have been building Live@edu into their existing hosted services. Not only does it help them to reduce their costs, but it also means that they can provide an enhanced service to schools.

    RM have just announced our partnership, to bring Live@edu to the 4.5 million users of the RM Learning Platform. As Billy McNeil puts it:

    "This is an exciting development for our customers. As well as developing our own cloud services for schools and authorities, the learning platform is built using standards that enable us to integrate a variety of innovative technologies and services that benefit our customers. Live@edu was the obvious choice - it complements our existing services, and in a period where there is immense pressure on school budgets, free email and storage are extremely welcome."

    Once complete, integration will bring a number of benefits. The RM Learning Platform identity management system will enable schools to choose to automatically create Live@edu accounts, reducing administration overheads, while staff and students will benefit from single sign-on between the two systems - no need to remember another username and password.

    We've obviously worked closely with RM for many years, and this new step is another good example of the benefits that schools get from the way we work in partnership. In effect, it enhances the services schools get, without adding to their bill.

    For more info, take a look at RM's Press Release. And for more on Live@edu, take a look at our UK Education website

    * Live@edu offers each user Outlook Live email including a 10GB inbox, a calendar, Forefront antispam and antivirus filtering, and optional services including a personal 25GB online Skydrive, instant messaging, video chat, mobile e-mail, Office Web Applications and document sharing.

  • Microsoft UK Schools 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.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    The Oxfordshire ICT Schools Annual Schools Conference 2010


    Last week I spoke with Mark Reynolds, our Schools Business Manager, at the Oxfordshire ICT Conference for schools. Unlike some of these kind of events, they had a large and growing audience, partly through extending the invitation to school governors too. It meant that there was quite a mixed audience, and plenty of diverging discussions in the break.

    I’d agreed to give a talk looking beyond the here and now, and unconstrained by the uncertainties of policy and funding.  It was a look over the horizon at the future,  telling a story of how people may work in the future, and the technology and learning implications. I  used our ‘Productivity Vision’ video, which looks at the workplace of 2019, and then continued by deconstructing the technology behind the video – to look at what exists now – either in research labs or in real life - and how the components might build to get to the vision described for the future. Unfortunately, I can’t share the whole presentation (I used a multimedia, interactive piece of software to present it), but I can share the short video that I used as the introduction, which is the starting point for the story I told.

    You can view the video on our Officelabs Envisioning website, and you can also watch a video as Ian Sands, Director of Envisioning, steps through the video scene by scene and describes in greater depth the story behind the people and technology on display.

  • Microsoft UK Schools 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 school network managers who are considering virtualisation projects ,or are wondering if they should be considering virtualisation projects.

    The reason that virtualisation is so important at the moment is that it can help you reduce the total cost of your network, as well as introducing more reliability and flexibility. In the Cost Saving examples, server virtualisation is one of the big winners for schools, with an average potential saving of over £50,000 over three years. (And there are plenty of case studies from UK schools to prove this, such as Wootton Bassett School, West Hatch School, Neville Lovett School
    Lodge Park TC)

    Predicting resource requirements for a new ICT application, especially one that is widely used, such as a learning platform, 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 business goals with server and services virtualisation technology. It's designed to help network 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

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Controlled Assessment and avoiding hundreds of USB sticks


    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 school 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 teacher 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 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

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    November webinars for schools


    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

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Edugeek marks an anniversary


    Today's Edugeek logo

    I've noticed that the team at Edugeek have been having fun with their website logo. Today there are two different logos in use at the top of their site. One is for Children in Need. The other is to celebrate a 25th anniversary. [Hint]

    You can follow the discussion on the Edugeek website (and if you're not a regular visitor, then can I recommend it as a great community for school network managers)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    This week’s webinars for school network 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 


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Microsoft Certification - Online seminars for Schools


    If you read this article in the TES, you’ll know that more employers now look at experience levels rather than exam results alone when deciding on which candidate to employ, students need something to give them that extra edge.  Increasingly employers use their own tests to assess candidate capability and as experience in the work place can only come from the working environment, a Microsoft Certification provides opportunity where exam results alone may not.

    Microsoft Office Specialist Logo (2010)Hundreds of schools around the UK are benefiting from the building of Microsoft Certification directly into their ICT curriculum. Microsoft training and certification now generates League Table Points and is nationally accredited and mapped. Your students can gain a GCSE Grade B directly through Microsoft Certification  - even your staff and the wider community have the opportunity to be involved!

    If you have 15 minutes why not come along and attend one of our online seminars:

      • Tuesday 16th November – 14.30
      • Thursday 18th November – 14.30
      • Tuesday 23rd November – 11.00

    Register today and you’ll get to explore topics including:

      •  Microsoft Certification & National Accreditation
      • The Microsoft IT Academy Programme
      • League Table Points through Microsoft Certification
      • Microsoft Certification equivalency to GCSE Grade B
      • Online testing – so no more administration

    Places are limited to 20 attendees per seminar and are filling up very quickly.

    To register for your place please go here.

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