Webinar: Office 365 and Google Apps - Enjoying the best of both worlds
Case Study at Burgmann Anglican School
On-premise email restrictions led Burgmann Anglican School to consider a cloud suite that provides students access to email and other systems,anywhere, anytime and on any device. With Google apps and O365's respective strengths and limitations, this school wanted to reap the benefits of both platforms. Was this going to be possible?
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Brett North, National Manager – Services & Operations
Richard Bance, Head of ICT - Burgmann Anglican School
Brett North conducted a poll regarding use of Office 365 and/or Google apps amongst attendees with results showing:
Is your school currently using Microsoft Office 365 and/or Google apps?
Not using either and don’t plan to 1.72%
Currently using MS 0365 15.5%
Currently using Google apps 17.2%
Currently running one and considering running both 18.9%
Planning on rolling out 0365 36.2%
Planning on rolling out Google apps 10.3%
OK, a bit about Burgmann. We’re a co-educational independent school located in Gungahlin, a northern part of the ACT, with two campuses about kilometres apart. We have roughly 1,500 students, 165 staff and in my team I have three fulltime and two casual.
Moving forward, what let us down in this path? What were the key challenges and issues?
Addressing requirements was the key – and in particular, our non-functional requirements. We had no viable emailing system for students that could be accessed remotely at all. Pretty much, we didn’t have the capacity internally to manage – partly in infrastructure but mainly from a staffing point of view.
Performance of the system was a fact we had to consider. Definitely, security was a major factor and also this gets tied back into privacy but also scalability of the email solution was important.
But really, our major issue was we didn’t have the capability to provide basic services anywhere any time any place. And one of the last issues was that staff were using students’ private email accounts to communicate, which technically has an issue from a child protection point of view so we had to work out what we could do.
So, what were our objectives? Well we were just after a student email solution that was simple and easy to use, that enabled anyone to access anything from anywhere at any time on any device, and that had appropriate security controls.
Investigation. We were looking for a solution with a security model that provided safety and reliability. Building upon the investment we had in Microsoft product, this pointed us towards Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS). This provides users with the single sign on access to systems and applications that can be located across organisational boundaries – so not necessarily on premise, not necessarily in our organisation.
We started with Live@Edu in 2012, then migrated to Office 365 in early 2013. But once we started working with these tools we found that there were more features to explore because this platform offered way much more than email. OneDrive is a really good file storage but it also allowed you to collaborate – you could share files with staff and students as you wished. Lync is also a really good collaboration tool. It’s used as a unified messaging application. Now we’ve got some people that are actually using it quite well in that sense and there’s some students I know to be particularly using it well to prepare for studying for exams. And also too, there are various web apps in the Office space – your Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote that are quite useful as well.
So, what this slide shows is a combination of on premise and in the cloud. This shows the quick make up – how we use our active directory, our users are involved there, we have the ADFS farm and that relays the trust to the Microsoft cloud so we can use the different tools – be it the Office web apps, Exchange, the OneDrive which is where the SharePoint lives and also using the Microsoft Lync.
We did a bit of further investigation into Google Apps and we decided it also offered great features and functionality in addition to Office 365. We didn’t see any reason not to connect to both Google Apps and Office 365. Strategically, staff wanted to use it. We wanted to provide staff and students with choice. We could use our ADFS infrastructure!
When it comes to preference it comes down to the choice of the individual because both platforms have all the tools. We made the decision to go with Office 365 for email over Google Mail, but we intended to let the students choose the rest. Our rationale was Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Presentations are apps similar to Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. MS Lync and Hangouts are similar encourage collaboration. The key point is having a choice!
Personally, I prefer the Microsoft products. However there is no reason not to use Google Apps. It’s whatever works best for the staff and the students that will help them achieve better outcomes. I feel that Google Apps will potentially provide a richer App experience in the future, but regardless we’re not going to miss out on either.
The solution process. We did not have the expertise in this area, in particular, Identity Management and SSO skills. We had to find a trusted and experienced partner to work with. We knew that there was some serious complexity involved in the solution and the infrastructure was complex – we needed a single sign on solution that was going to cross organisational boundaries but also have the appropriate security measures in place.
We wanted to integrate Google Apps with our existing ADFS infrastructure, we weren’t sure it was going to work (as it had not been done it appeared which seemed strange to us). After consultation with our chosen partner, we were advised that it appeared it could be achieved.
The Computelec Engineer spent time researching ‘best practice’ approaches for deployment, and implemented the solution exactly as per my requirements and it works very well.
And where does that leave us? Well we pretty much have the best of both worlds. It means we can use Burgmann managed credentials to access both platforms! A two platform solution: Google Apps and MS 365. Apart from choosing Office 365 email over Google Mail, students get to choose the best applicable apps. The key outcome we have is choice.
From a school operations perspective, it streamlines staff and student communication, we found we can connect to other schools via Lync (both parties need to agree). We are trialling this at the moment. From an IT perspective, we don’t have to worry about ongoing costs (no cost!). We have less worries around infrastructure (except for the SSO infrastructure) management. There is less concern around infrastructure refresh and/or upgrade. And the bottom line (which my business manager really likes) it lowers our RISK as this is a real transference of RISK away from the school.
Staff and student uptake. This is where we’re at. All students have access to Office 365 mail. Seventy percent uptake for mail (some just choose not to use it and probably never will). Uptake is lower in years 10, 11 and 12 than other years. However from year 5 to year 9 it’s nearly 100 percent uptake. All students have access to OneDrive – 25 percent uptake (we are trying to move from USB mindset to OneDrive mindset). USB drives get lost or just stop working for no reason. Students are starting to use the Google Platform, which we are just getting used to – year 8 IT are currently using Google Sites already for website design topics. Office 365 and Google integration into IT lessons starts with year 5. Staff PD on Cloud Computing within the school is scheduled to start next term. However, we do have some teaching staff are piloting Lync and OneDrive right now.
What worked, what didn't and pain points along the way?
It’s all worked – I haven’t had any issues. What hasn’t worked? Pretty much nothing. And pain points – just learning about how these things work initially from an administrative point of view, there hasn’t been a lot – it’s been pretty nice. And additional improvements – well I guess it’s a design thing. At the moment if we lose our net connection to the school students lose their access to the systems. So what we’re looking at is moving one of our ADFS servers into the cloud which means that if we lose our internet connection on the premises for whatever reason, staff and students can still work ok from outside the school.
So, our roadmap and the integration of this into the curriculum. Going forward - being free to Choose is still the key premise. BYOD program – piloting in year 11 and 12 with the potential to be expanded in 2015. Cloud services such as Office 365 and Google Apps are key to this being a success. Browser as a platform being investigated closely.
Ongoing PD is essential to success to further embed technology and technology toolsets within the curriculum.
Have you experienced any difficulties migrating from SkyDrive to OneDrive for business?
R: I think it’s almost impossible to be perfectly honest because they’re two different tenants. One’s a consumer product and one’s a business product so in our case to do was because we were still Live@EDU email at the time so it was an easy decision to move straight into OneDrive without file migration. So, while I haven’t answered the question it is actually near impossible unless you manually do it student by student which isn’t a fantastic way to do it.
Brett North: Richard, how do you go about meeting privacy concerns with cloud storage of personal data?
Richard: The servers we use is software as a service in this case Office 365 and Google Apps both have privacy statements on their websites and we pretty much edited and used those for our privacy statement to reflect the fact that we do do this – that we do store stuff in the cloud. And in saying that we’re not going to put things like student details and names and addresses and phone number or parent details in the cloud. Pretty much it’s just going to be the list of teachers and learning type work. But pretty much you handle it through your privacy statement and also how you word that but also have a copy of the statement that both Microsoft and Google provide.
Brett North: How do you envisage helping staff and students choose between similar products in Google Apps and Office 365 and how do you present fragmentation between different departments or year levels?
Richard: That’s a really good question. To some degree it’s ok and to some degree it’s not. With these two platforms, it’s really a toolset and it’s how they present the work back. They actually use an LMS platform to present the work back whether it be in a Google App format or an Office 365 format. We don’t see it as a problem yet because we’re actually now at the point where they’re actually starting to do the PD with the staff to see how we can take it to the next step where we can work out this next strategy. So at the moment I don’t know but it’s probably going to be ok because there’s another option we have in the LMS system.
Brett North: I’ll take this question asking is the Office 365 set up difficult? How long does it typically take for an organisation to get set up?
There’s a number of different elements to it that Richard touched on. You could do a base migration to an Office 365 environment or a Google Apps environment which would be around the 3-5 day time but for other features to come in around the AFDS integration, SSO etc., you can be adding on extra days for those components. What was found out in building Richard’s project was that when one platform was built with the AFDS and the SSO, those elements were allowed to be used for the Google Apps so the Google Apps component was only the four day part because the foundations were already built.
Either one on their own for the total package would be around the 8 day mark but for any additional feature or to add Google Apps to Office 365 or vice versa you’re looking at an additional 4 days.
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