Section 4.7 email and storage in the cloud


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Section 4.7 email and storage in the cloud

  1. 1. The Progression of Cloud Computing in Further Education Colleges Section 4.7 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 November 2013
  2. 2. 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. The Projects 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 platform. “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 past!” 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 1
  3. 3. 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. Outcomes Similarities 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 cloud. 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. 2
  4. 4. Differences 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 account. 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 smoothly. Reaseheath have also implemented SkyDrive. Delivery Models 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. Highbury College: Collaborative working with Eduserve to progressively migrate College IT provision to the cloud, including email and storage. 3
  5. 5. 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. Supplier Relationships 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 offering. 4
  6. 6. 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 SaaS/hosting partner. 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 November. 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. Reaseheath College: “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 5
  7. 7. 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 documentation. 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.” 6
  8. 8. 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. Impact 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.” Grimsby Institute: “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.” Hartlepool College: “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.” Highbury College: “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.” 7
  9. 9. 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 systems. 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. 8
  10. 10. Savings 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.” Exeter College: “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. Description Capital Expenditure Saving -estimated (per annum) £55,000 Power/ UPS (Running Service) £6,500 Cooling (Running & Service) £3,500 Staff £5,000 Total £70,000 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 cost. 9
  11. 11. North East Worcestershire: Savings have been achieved in ILT staff time re user names and passwords. “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 per annum.” 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 savings. 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 10
  12. 12. 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. 11
  13. 13. With thanks to all project partners who contributed to the development of this report and consultant Chris West The Association of Colleges 2013 2-5 Stedham Place, London, WC1A 1HU Tel: 020 7034 9900 Fax: 020 7034 9955 Email: website: