Filed under: Cloud Computing, SharePoint, SharePoint 2010
It has been an interesting month for talk of Cloud Computing and specifically the availability of Office in the cloud. Microsoft announced a much needed upgrade to its BPOS and Azure offerings by launching Office 365. Using Microsoft’s extensive data centres Office 365 will bring together 4 key pillars of Microsoft’s productivity and communication tools in Office, SharePoint, Exchange and Lync. Whereas the lack of maturity within current cloud offerings was a barrier to moving resources off site the ‘full fat’ nature of Office 365 is likely to represent a big change from the view that hardware must always be on premise.
Check out the video below which gives a 5 minute overview of Office 365
Are schools likely to be moving to the cloud with all services in the near future? At a meeting I attended last week opinion amongst Network Managers was divided with a number needing to see the level of functionality available off site before commiting. Of course the greatest concern remains the quality of broadband connection into the school. As this hopefully improves we are likely to see a big move to the cloud over the next 3-5 years.
Yesterday I started talking about the trial Twynham School is running on ‘Cloud Computing’. This is being led by Network Manager Dave Coleman and Tony Smith who is Head of ICT. Since September Twynham has had Terminal Services 2008 installed with a number of applications being run through SharePoint over the internet. These have included Outlook, Word and Excel with a small group of teachers and a few students testing the robustness of the system. Starting this week we have opened the trial out to two of Tony’s classes for the specific use of Microsoft Project 2007. It made sense to start our trial with this software as it is less memory hungry and is only used for 6 weeks of the year on a specific A-level course. Running the software remotely saved the need to set up the software on all the computers yet it can still be accessed in different rooms each year without any setup.
The student homepage is shown above for Twynham’s Learning Gateway. Dave has provisioned the applications on the right side of the page for the specific classes using Active Directory and SharePoint audiences. Although we are only in our first few lessons of the new term the signs are encouraging that this model can work.
Of course the real test will come over time with potentially 2,000 users pulling on a server farm both inside the school and at home. Will it work on this larger scale? At this point the jury is out amongst the technical staff with some wondering if a large secondary school can effectively run a setup of this nature in-house. This reality seems to be what is driving Microsoft to move into Software plus Services and could lead to an explosion in the use of SharePoint Online.