The Progression of Cloud Computing
in Further Education Colleges
Email and Storage in the Cloud
A study based on Cloud Technology projects managed by the
Association of Colleges and funded by the Skills Funding
Agency - 2012 - 2013
Detailed outcomes from Individual Projects
4.7 Email and Storage in the Cloud
Needs and Opportunities
Colleges are experiencing increasing demands for email accounts and associated personal storage
for both students and staff. Colleges also experience high staff support overheads for email and
storage requirements. Storage allocation to students and staff is often limited by the capacity of
in-house servers. Support requirements for email and storage are 24/7 which can pose challenges
to College IT teams.
Cloud technology provides the opportunity to outsource email and storage to the cloud. This
brings the opportunity to upgrade storage allocations as and when required, for 24/7 support to
be provided and to enable collaborative working.
Accrington & Rossendale College: This is a collaborative procurement project to migrate from
traditional, low capacity, on-premise email and storage provision to the Office 365 cloud delivered
“Office 365 gives our learners the resources that we couldn’t have provided economically prior to
the implementation – more storage capacity in the cloud and the ability to access their data from
anywhere and on mobile devices. Losing their work on pen drives that go astray is a thing of the
East Riding College: This project involves the movement of email to Office 365 in the cloud.
Exeter College: Faced with ever-increasing demand for storage and access to productivity
applications and data, anytime, anyplace, this project aims to ensure students’ expectations are
met without the need to add further hardware in-house. The College data centres are at capacity
and it is hoped that this project will mark the beginning of a process of moving a significant
proportion of the College’s systems to cloud-hosted environments. In turn we anticipate improved
business efficiency and user experience.
Grimsby Institute: This project involves
student email in the cloud. Email is now
swapped to Google Mail. This opens up
other Google Apps for students to
use - such as Google Docs etc. This
swap will allow easier student access to
email on their own devices. The
adoption of Google Mail and
Google Apps has gone really well. We
are currently averaging around 350
unique users of the system daily. To
facilitate our cloud desktop, a new
email system was set up for our
learners. Google Mail also allows
access to Google Apps giving our
learners access to feature-rich collaboration tools, all hosted in the cloud. At present we have
16,000 accounts on Google, averaging around 1300 logons per day.
Hartlepool College: The College engaged initially in a cloud-based email selection process. There
was a student-centred exercise to select between Google and Microsoft 365. The majority preferred
365. Email has been migrated to Office 365.
Highbury College: This IaaS project encompasses but goes beyond email and storage in the cloud.
It involves progressive migration of College IT services to an Eduserve cloud. Highbury College
was working with Eduserve initially to replace a secondary data centre with a cloud solution and
ultimately to move specific applications to the cloud. This project is enabling Eduserve to ‘feeltheir
way’ towards the cloud services they might offer to Colleges.
The College has good senior management buy-in to this project. The project is focused on the
conversion of VMware to the Eduserve environment. The cloud environment replicates the
VMware of the College at the Eduserve Swindon Data Centre. This was against a background of
the current challenges of replication of this at the College having heavy overheads.
Northampton College: The original plan was to implement Live@Edu with Microsoft.
Subsequently Microsoft decided to discontinue Live@Edu and replace it with Office365 instead.
The College sought to implement a 365 solution.
North East Worcestershire College: This project involves cloud -based email and storage and
other applications, including VLE, supported by single sign-on.
Reaseheath College: This project involves anytime, anywhere access to emails, Microsoft Office
applications and SharePoint.
Xaverian College: This project involves the College utilising Office 365 as a cloud-based solution
to support students work independently through the use of online technologies.
Six projects - Accrington, East Riding, Northampton, Reaseheath and Xaverian Colleges - were
concerned with migration to Microsoft Office 365 email and storage in the cloud.
Two projects – Grimsby and North East Worcestershire College - involved Google Mail.
A larger infra-structure project, focused on replacement of a secondary data centre, at
Highbury College involved the planned migration of all of the College’s IT services to the
The Hartlepool College project included a consultation with students to select between Google
Mail and Office 365.
Accrington, Hartlepool, North East Worcestershire and Reaseheath Colleges all report
significant savings on servers and associated energy reductions.
Three out of the five Microsoft Office 365 projects reported smooth implementation. East
Riding and Northampton encountered challenges and have resorted to alternative solutions.
The East Riding challenge was in the complexities of introducing 365, in that it didn’t support
the Microsoft Forefront Identity Manager FIM and that the SkyDrive offering is currently more
suitable for staff and student use of web applications and off-site storage. East Riding is using
SkyDrive whilst awaiting 365/SharePoint updates. Northampton set up Live@Edu
successfully and on its discontinuation had to repeat this for 365 where they encountered
complexities and personal storage allocation problems. Coupled with this the staff did not
like 365. They have resorted to a system where students use their home email or Google Mail
Xaverian used IAM Cloud (an Office 365 transition facilitator) to host mirrored AD
authentication based on Microsoft Azure server technologies on Microsoft’s European Servers.
The Google Mail implementations at Grimsby and North East Worcestershire have proceeded
Reaseheath have also implemented SkyDrive.
Accrington and Rossendale College: This is a collaborative College model using a single cloud
Application for 4 Colleges.
East Riding College: Email in the cloud. Office 365.
Exeter College: Data centre in the cloud, including email and storage.
Grimsby Institute: Google Mail.
Hartlepool College: Microsoft Office 365.
Collaborative working with
Eduserve to progressively
migrate College IT
provision to the cloud,
including email and storage.
The following diagram shows the high level architecture approach offered by Eduserve.
Northampton College: Planned to move email and storage in the cloud and subsequently they set
up their normal students to be mail-enabled forwarding mail to students’ home email accounts.
North East Worcestershire College: Working with a consultancy to implement single sign on to
email and a wide range of applications.
Reaseheath College: 365 email and SharePoint.
Xaverian College: 365 email in the cloud.
Accrington and Rossendale College: Microsoft 365. There was an initial unavailability of
Microsoft 365 tenancies but this is now resolved.
East Riding College:
“The implementation of Office365 has been a lot more complex than originally anticipated and
the functionality of the system has not fully met our expectations. Whilst our consultants and
Microsoft have provided a great deal of assistance, the ‘look and feel’ of Office365 does not, in its
present state, present end users with an experience that matches that of the Microsoft SkyDrive
There are upgrades planned by Microsoft which we will explore; however, the inability to
support Microsoft FIM in Office365 has caused us to rethink our strategy on the deployment of
this service. It is clear that the College can offer their users greater flexibility with cloud-based
technologies but most of these are delivered by College ICT services rather than externally hosted
clouds. The Microsoft SkyDrive offering is the most suitable for staff and students wishing to use
web-based apps and off-site cloud storage. However, remote email and FIM capability is best
serviced through the College OWA portals and an internet-based gateway into the FIM portal
hosted on College servers.”
Exeter College: Immediately prior to implementation and testing it became apparent that there
was a lack of clarity of understanding between the technical team at the College and that of the
In order to limit the risk to other College activities, resource was redirected during the summer.
On 25 September a meeting took place between the College and suppliers at which a means of
resolving the outstanding issues was agreed. There is now a revised implementation date of 15
Hartlepool College: Phoenix Software was engaged as the IT partner for 365 implementation.
Highbury College: Eduserve.
North East Worcestershire College: The College found it necessary to make a change of IT partner
and used the JISC communities to advise on this.
Google Vault for back-ups was not ready for UK Education and was not priced but the College
found an alternative.
“Licensing from Microsoft took at least two weeks to come through once our campus agreement
was renewed. We hit a stopping point when we tried to get the licences for Office 365. Microsoft
refused to issue the licences even though they are free as we had less than 30 days on our campus
agreement. Our campus agreement has now been renewed including the Office 365 licences and
we are just awaiting a code from Microsoft so that we can integrate the mail system with the
cloud and move the student account across.”
Project and Change Management
Accrington and Rossendale College:
“Migration takes several days so we couldn’t live in term time.”
East Riding College:
“We have completed the implementation of Office365, Exchange, SharePoint and Lync;
however, it has emerged that Forefront Identity Manager is no longer supported under Office365,
only Live@Edu is. We have therefore deployed FIM as an ‘on-premises’ solution delivered
within our own cloud environment to external users.
It has also emerged that Office365 in its present format does not provide satisfactory cloud-based
application and storage solution to our users, the SharePoint based platform is too complex and
there is some management overhead involved in its set-up. In discussions with our consultants
and Microsoft it has been determined that the functionality of Office365 will be improved when
the platform is upgraded to SharePoint 2013 next year. We will continue to operate the Office365
gateway and await developments from this upgrade.”
Exeter College: The following have been achieved: identification of functional requirements,
estimation of storage and performance needs leading to the production of a requirements
specification. This project has been aligned with the VLE project which has meant that there are
some decisions, relating to potential hosting partners and cloud service products, which need
careful consideration to ensure that maximum benefit is derived for the user experience. Partners
have been selected and specifications agreed. The production service has been created in the cloud
but is not yet fully functional; this is due to security concerns surrounding the strategy for
integration with the College’s Active Directory.
Grimsby Institute: The approach was piloted in College learning centres.
Hartlepool College: The migration process initially went well. After the migration was completed
it was discovered that there was an issues at Microsoft data centre which had affected a number of
other migrations from Live@Edu which delayed the completion and training for four weeks until
Microsoft resolved the issue. Due to the delay with Microsoft this caused some issues with staff
and contractors’ availability to finish the project and complete the training. The new system was
publicised to students using Blackboard and the College displays.
Northampton College: There was a need for an increase in bandwidth which was supplied by
JANET. It took considerable time for this to be implemented. New firewalls were also purchased
from BTiNET and were configured to accommodate the increased bandwith.
Live@Edu was set up and tested and worked well. It provided 10GB of mail and access to 25GB
of storage and access to Microsoft Office applications online. On the discontinuation of Live@Edu
by Microsoft, the College set up Office 365. This involved a good deal of technical time and liaison
with Microsoft including five new authentication servers. Storage quotas were reduced by
Microsoft to 500MB of SharePoint storage instead of the previous 25GB.
The service was rolled out to any students who wanted to use the Office email without the storage
and a limited number took up the offer.
North East Worcestershire:
“Staff buy-in - moving all users away from a system they are used to -presents many
challenges which is why we are working in a staggered roll-out with buy-in from senior
managers and College leaders. Never under estimate the amount of support and training that is
needed within a large organisation to move to new ways of working. With a small ILT team there
were issues around providing the support needed and timescales to complete supporting
The one fundamental lesson learnt is to introduce new systems slowly; the initial training given
to senior managers covered all features of Google Apps and on reflection proved to be
overwhelming. The step was then taken to focus training on specific apps within the suite and
deliver training and resources based around these.
This has led us to deliver training over a much longer period of time than was original planned
for but these costs for training were always planned once the initial resources were created as
part of the project. The training for using Google Apps is now delivered alongside training to
support the College VLE as the two go hand in hand.”
Xaverian College: The College initially planned to implement the Live@Edu infrastructure and
with a transition to Office 365. A network failure to the College’s staff and back-office servers
meant that Live@Edu reached the end of its life before provision could be moved to Office 365. In
November 2012 the College was approached to submit a zero cost (funded) application to
Microsoft to allow for the IAM cloud (an Office 365 transition facilitator) to host mirrored AD
authentication based on Microsoft Azure server technologies on Microsoft’s European servers. The
College agreed to enter into a delivery contract with the IAM cloud.
East Riding College: SharePoint online and Lync setup.
“We have also carried out a significant amount of work in open workshops with staff to test the
functionality of these elements of Office365. We have found that end users are much more
comfortable with the Microsoft SkyDrive solution than Office 365 and that there are still some
issues with the Lync client working properly on Android devices.
We are continuing our investigations into the Lync client problems as we intend to roll out an
‘on-premises’ Lync solution for VOIP by March 2013.
In summary, we have a functioning Office 365 platform but it does not yet meet the requirements
of our user base. We are awaiting the upgrade of the platform to SharePoint 2013 in January at
which point we will again evaluate the functionality of Office365. In the meantime we are
recommending to users the Microsoft SkyDrive Cloud solution which provides access to web
apps, 7GB storage and collaboration capabilities.”
“The adoption of Google Mail and Google Apps has gone really well. We are currently averaging
around 350 unique users of the system daily. Although we have only activated this for students at
present we already have staff looking at the features and requesting access.”
“This cloud-based email project will significantly improve staff and student productivity by
reducing time required to manage emails, allowing better access to resources anytime and
anywhere and improve student/staff collaboration. The new system will also significantly reduce
internal storage, improve resilience and system performance. There is an initial indication of an
increase of student usage of email through the new system.”
“It is hoped that by using a cloud service that there will be an improved quality of service as
result of this change. This is because extra resilience and back--up has been added into the
Highbury infrastructure using the cloud infrastructure.
We also hope that the solution in future will allow the College to implement new technologies at
a more affordable price point, ultimately delivering more for less. It will also give us more
flexibility in how we use the IT infrastructure.”
Northampton College: A staff and student survey was undertaken with less than 10% liking the
365 email system. Students preferred their own personal email accounts and the storage facilities
of Google Drive or SkyDrive. Office 365 was therefore discontinued, with College mail now
forwarded to their home email accounts and assistance given with setting up a Google Mail or
Outlook account if necessary.
North East Worcestershire College: By utilising cloud-based applications North East
Worcestershire College have enabled collaborative technologies and mobile working options to
help support the work of all staff and students. The funding from the AoC has allowed the
College to dedicate time and resources to supporting staff and students to use these technologies
and explore avenues for reducing costs by working with partners to develop our cloud-based
Reaseheath College: Access has been achieved to email and calendar from onsite and offsite
seamlessly. Access to office web apps and SkyDrive has also been achieved. The existing
SharePoint intranet was migrated to the cloud-hosted version ready for September 2013. All
students have Outlook accounts that can be accessed from anywhere. They have access to
SharePoint pages and to SkyDrive. The staff intranet (SharePoint) will be moved to the
cloud-hosted site and the two physical servers retired.
Xaverian College: Mail is now managed by a third party with guaranteed 99.9% up time,
something that the College would never have been able to guarantee. Together with additional
functionality in including calendars and shared contacts, the College is now in a position to share
information internally in a much more efficient manner. The ease with which the Office 365 system
can be added to users’ own devices (including tablets and other mobile devices) has borne
immediate fruit with College managers of all levels receiving information on the go and not
having to log on to a work station to identify issues to be dealt with.
The College has been trialling the new mail system with members of the College council with a
very welcoming response. Students see this change of mail provision as a very positive move. In
Autumn 2013 the College launched its new Intranet system embedding mail for the very first time.
This step change for the College will see students receiving email information directly within the
learning platform they access every day at College.
Accrington and Rossendale College: £52,000 savings per College over four years.
East Riding College:
“We will not be able to determine these until we have fully deployed the ‘on-premises’ Lync
solution which has been delayed due to the fact that we will also be migrating our existing PSTN
services to VOIP using a full Lync deployment scenario. The Lync solution within Office 365
does not yet give us the functionality to support the Virtual Classroom on this platform.”
“Expected savings are reduced expenditure on email and file servers, associated storage and
back-up capacity, reduced cost of implementation, reduced requirement for the re‐engineering
of College data centres in order to accommodate required increase in capacity, reduced energy
consumption and consequent reduction in machine‐room cooling costs.”
The College anticipates being able to evaluate these savings by end of 2013.
Hartlepool College: The following savings have been identified:
The cancellation of the current spam filter subscription per year - £4,000
Saving of exchange licences per year - £500
Cost saving for not replacing physical email server - £8000 over 3 years
Highbury College: The College anticipates substantial savings during the project which are
illustrated in the table below (estimated). As part of the project a true cost-saving analysis will be
carried out and disseminated to the sector.
Saving -estimated (per annum)
Power/ UPS (Running Service)
Cooling (Running & Service)
By undergoing this project the College will not be updating its secondary back-up data centre this
summer and as such will using the Eduserve cloud instead. This has meant that the College will
not need to update its Storage Area Network (SAN) and Blade servers at this site. In addition to
this there is a lower staffing resource for the IT team to manage this site therefore increasing the
savings that are being made. A number of College services are running from the cloud service
which has shown the same level of uptime as previously provided by the College but at a reduced
North East Worcestershire: Savings have been achieved in ILT staff time re user names and
“The exchange and intranet platforms were hosted on two separate Power Edge servers that cost
an estimated £ 480 per year to run. By removing these two servers from our back-up routine (as
the information is now backed up in the cloud) we again made savings on our DR maintenance
agreements and although hard to quantify we strongly feel that there will be a reduction in the
amount of maintenance needed to be completed by our in-house IT team. There is also a saving
made by removing our reliance on our current library authentication software of around £3,000
Reaseheath College: There are cost savings on maintenance of servers of approximately £1500 per
server with a total of £7500. There will be no renewal costs for the servers when they are due for
replacement (average cost £4000 each). Additionally there is a reduction in power consumption by
237w per server, which also means less Ups requirements.
Xaverian College: Prior to moving email to the cloud, a single specialist member of the network
team supported the email system. With the move to Office 365, the management of email is now
distributed across the team with most of the technical management being performed by a third
party. Staff savings are estimated at £8000 per year with further savings on the termination of the
previous Novel Licensing contract.
Sustainability and Expected Longer Term Impact
Accrington and Rossendale College: The College has achieved an energy saving solution which
is scalable in terms of numbers of accounts and future storage requirements.
Grimsby Institute: There is lower energy consumption through thin clients.
Highbury, North East Worcestershire, Reaseheath and Xaverian Colleges all anticipate energy
Replicablity for the Wider FE Sector
Accrington and Rossendale College: This solution is replicable in single Colleges and across a
group of Colleges. The College will make a case study available and is willing to make documents
such as tender documents available.
East Riding College: For institutions not already hosting their own web-based Exchange,
SharePoint, Lync and FIM services, Office365 offers a workable, if slightly complex, solution.
Hartlepool College: The approach is replicable in Colleges wishing to migrate to Microsoft Office
365 and will be demonstrated, through JISC RSC Northern, to other Colleges in the region who
have expressed an interest or are planning to migrate to 365.
Highbury College: This approach is intended to be replicable through Eduserve supporting other
Colleges based on the experience with Highbury.
North East Worcestershire: All resources created have been designed with sharing and
modification in mind. All leaflets whilst sent as PDFs to staff have been created in Publisher
allowing easy modification. Interactive presentations have been created using Xerte with the RLO
models to be made available again for easy modification.
The project is being discussed and shared via the West Midlands JISC E Learning Conference in
May 2013 and all resources will be made available via a specially constructed Google site with this
being shared again through the JISC portal.
Xaverian College: The College is committed to working in partnership with other local providers.
As part of MANCEP (Manchester Catholic Education Partnership) the College is actively engaged
in bringing academic and operational teams together to share experiences and good practice. It is
through this ‘collegiate’ approach that the College intends to demonstrate both the financial and
operational benefits that can be gained through moving towards cloud-based service provision.
With thanks to all project partners who contributed to the
development of this report and consultant Chris West
The Association of Colleges 2013
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