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Replace Forefront TMG with a high quality, flexible, edge security, SSO application from KEMP TECHNOLOGIES

SharePointEduTech have been working with a series of education clients all looking for an effective replacement for their Microsoft Forefront TMG server that will reach end of support in December 2015.The answer comes in the form of an Edge Security device from KEMP.

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TMG goes End of Life

Many schools, colleges and universities around the world are still deploying services such as Exchange, Lync, SharePoint or other web based services on premises and will continue to do so despite the compelling reasons to consider the cloud. For many years, these services have all sat securely behind a Microsoft Forefront Threat Management Gateway device. With TMG reaching its end of life status and Microsoft declaring no replacement models we spent quite some time looking for a cost effective replacement.

The answer came in the form of the Kemp Technology LoadMaster and its extended feature pack. Built in as a standard feature, the Edge Security Protection (ESP) has the ability to secure all of the usual public facing services. The ESP features offer a secure and effective gateway and offer all of the following familiar requirements from TMG.

  • End Point Authentication for Pre-Auth
  • Persistent Logging and Reporting
  • Single Sign On across Virtual Services
  • Active Directory Integration
  • RADIUS Authentication Support
  • Fully Customizable FBA Forms
  • Soft Lockout
  • Group Membership Validation
  • Dual factor authentication with RSA SecurID

SharePointEduTech have found, in KEMP LoadMaster, a flexible solution that allows customers to decide on the best options for their infrastructure when deciding on installation. You can chose between,

  • Virtual devices on Hyper V, Xen, VMware or Virtual box
  • Custom built hardware devices on premises
  • Cloud devices on AWS or Microsoft Azure
  • Bare Metal conversions of your existing high performing server solutions.Options for Kemp

Five reasons why this solution suits Education customers?

kemp_logo_new1. Flexible solutions with straightforward installation and commissioning

As you can see from the options above there is a Kemp Solution to meet your requirements, either on premises or in the cloud. Once installed the commissioning process is so straightforward. If you can manage a rule set on TMG then there is no reason you can’t manage your Kemp device.

The device will come with a series of inbuilt templates to allow for quick commissioning of all the familiar workloads. If your workload isn’t listed there is likely to be a downloadable template for you.

2. Top class Support

From time to time, things will go wrong, after all it is IT we are talking about here. The level of technical support offered by Kemp is first class. You decide on the level of support required from Basic to Premium plus. In our experience the Premium support gives you a high level of support that is really proactive. How often have you had a support engineer chase you for a response rather than the other way around? We have found the level of technical support from KEMP to be quick and effective. What more could you ask for?

3. Industry Standard

KEMP is not a new company. When we started to look for a replacement for TMG they took some finding. This might make you think that they are a small company. Nothing could be further from the truth. KEMP have been in operation since 2000 with over 26,000 worldwide installations. They are listed third in the Load Balancing market with a rapidly growing profile and they are consistently marked as an industry leader. KEMP is a big player who places a great deal of importance on customer satisfaction.

4.  Simple Licensing Model

Whether it’s on premises physical, cloud or part of your virtualisation infrastructure, KEMP have the right model to meet the scale of your implementation. The ESP features all come as standard and there are no hidden costs. Ask about pricing for your school and we guarantee you will be surprised.

5. Let’s not forget the Load Balancing

This post has talked about the TMG replacement provided by KEMP LoadMaster but don’t forget that you also get a top quality load balancing service as the primary feature of the device. Maybe you’ve been using other top quality devices or simple Windows load balancing (if you could ever get it to work properly). Now with KEMP you have the best of both worlds. Strong and effective Edge security and high quality, industry standard load balancing that won’t blow your budget.

Call to Action

If you want to know more, or discuss replacing your TMG services, we are just an email or a call away.

Email:                    info@sharepointedutech.com

Telephone:         +44 2476 362712

We can arrange a demonstration, a short trial or discuss and plan your move to KEMP LoadMaster supported by SharePointEduTech.

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SharePointEduTech – Have You Considered The Cloud?

As we move ever closer to July 15th when support for Windows Server 2003 will end, many colleges and universities are looking at this as an opportunity to move towards the cloud for their hosting and workload needs. We have a number of partners who are able to help academic institutions move to the cloud, including SharePointEduTech, who are running a series of webinars for Further and Higher Education.

This post explores some of the factors and objectives that colleges and universities should consider when migrating to the cloud, as well as providing details about our upcoming webinar series.

There has never been a better time for UK Colleges and Universities to consider moving their workload to the cloud. In a few short weeks Microsoft Support for Windows Server 2003 will end and many organisations are looking at ways to migrate that load. Moving to the cloud can often be a challenge for many organisations, overcoming obstacles from financial, ethical or an institutional reluctance to trust the cloud. How many IT Leaders and network support staff still say that they “like to see their server workload buzzing away”?

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The role of the IT Leader in FE and HE has never been more important. As budgets tighten and workloads increase it can often be a balancing act to find the best solution to meet the needs of the users and stay within budget. The concept of transferring that cost to a subscription model rather than capital expenditure is a great way to effect savings whilst responding efficiently to the needs of your customers.

The first step for many is a migration to Office 365 in order to lever the benefits of world class email and communication technologies such as Exchange online or Skype for Business. There are so many more opportunities in the cloud ‘beyond the mailbox’ and it is the role of Microsoft Partners to help customers see the wide range of opportunities available.

SharePointEduTech has been a Microsoft Partner for several years working in the education space delivering some great communication and collaboration solutions. As a Gold Cloud Platform Partner we are strategically aligned to help customers explore the cloud and see the potential benefits.

Whether it’s a simple migration to Office 365, or an infrastructure move to Microsoft Azure (IaaS), or even a University research facility looking to make use of big data compute space, there are options in the cloud that make compelling reasons to make the move.

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If you are interested in finding out more, SharePointEduTech are offering a series of Cloud Webinars in June that are designed to help IT Leaders in FE and HE see just what is available to them and how they can safely and efficiently make the move to the cloud.

Webinar 1 – Ten Reasons You Should Care About the Cloud, seeks to unpack the concept of cloud, explain why it is so important and provide you with the tools to make the case for considering cloud as the right option.

This webinar is followed by two strands:

Webinar 2 a) – Flexible Solutions for Adding Value to SharePoint and Office 365 is for IT Leaders who already have Office 365 and want to look at ways to add value beyond the mailbox. Maybe you have SharePoint Server on Premises and want to offer cloud services like One Drive for Business. Perhaps you are looking for ideas on how to increase user adoption. This webinar is for you.

Webinar 2 b) – Microsoft Azure – Options for Education will focus on the wider options available to Higher and Further Education in the Microsoft Azure platform. Many will hear ‘Azure’ and think ‘virtual machines’. This webinar is designed to help you consider the bigger picture, think about your big data requirements and how a cloud solution could help you deliver that requirement.

To register for these webinars, simply click the links above or go to www.sharepointedutech.com/elastic

Forest Hill School SharePoint Case Study

A technologically aware school moves to a branded SharePoint environment with the help of Microsoft Partner SharePointEduTech.

The school.

Forest Hill School is a boys’ 11 – 16 school with a mixed sixth form, 1450 students in all. It has specialist Performing Arts status. The school serves a heavily disadvantaged area, and was designated ‘Good’ by Ofsted in 2011 with Care, Guidance and Support judged ‘Outstanding’ . Forest Hill was one of the first of thirteen Lewisham Schools that have been, or will be, renewed under the Borough’s Building Schools for the Future project, which was in train before the cancellation of BSF in 2010   SharePoint

Properly installed and managed, ICT can be used to build a learning gateway which will be the school’s working environment, in effect a virtual version of the school. It goes by various names – ‘gateway’ and ‘portal’ are common, but there are others often incorporating the name of the school. As busy and vibrant as the ‘real’ school, this virtual school buzzes with communication and information, flowing and changing in tune with what’s happening in the classrooms and offices. Users enter first thing in the morning and leave it, well, any time they choose, because it continues to be available from home.

That was the vision to which the senior leadership at Forest Hill  School in Lewisham aspired when they had the opportunity to rethink and renew their ICT provision. However, although vision is a crucial part of leadership, bringing it to fruition is equally important. That it happened at Forest Hill – and remarkably quickly – is down to a series of well-taken decisions.

First came that determination that it could and should be done.

Then there was the conviction that the best way to achieve it was through Microsoft SharePoint.

From that followed the school’s realisation that although their IT ‘home team’ was skilful and knowledgeable, this task called for input from SharePoint specialists. And this, in turn, led to the engagement of proven SharePoint consultancy  SharePointEduTech.

Decision time.

By the end of 2012, Forest Hill , which was early into the BSF (Building Schools for the Future) programme, had been in its new building for five years. During that time, ICT had been provided by a managed and hosted service on a five year arrangement which was part of the BSF contract.

‘We moved from a building with no technology to a new- build school with lots of technology,’ says Deputy Head Jonathan Munt. ‘We pretty well overhauled everything – the MIS (management information system), registration, reporting, interactive whiteboards, the full package.  We became very cutting edge, a European Reference Site in fact.’

Towards the end of the five years, however, there was a change of contractor, and the level of service declined. Staff, who had worked hard to come to terms with rapid and radical change, began to lose their enthusiasm.

So, with the five-year contract coming to an end, the decision was taken for the school to take ownership of its ICT infrastructure. This, decided Jonathan Munt, could now include a fully developed school portal, providing ready access to all of the services required by students, staff, governors and parents.

The answer’s SharePoint

At Forest Hill, the legacy ICT estate included a SharePoint application that had been used largely, and in a loosely organised way for document storage. This, decided Jonathan Munt, would be the starting point for further development. He decided, too, that it was going to be necessary to seek help from beyond the school.

‘Our guys were good. I knew they could set something up, but I knew the system had more potential than we could achieve ourselves. I wanted something aesthetically pleasing, a multiplatform for students at school and at home, using their PCs or phones, a consistent experience wherever they were, able to access resources and communicate. I wanted parents to have information on their children, all of that and more. And I wanted it live, up to date, in real time.’

A big ask, you might think. But Jonathan wasn’t living in a dreamworld. He’d seen exactly that in other schools, where he knew that the work had been done by SharePoint specialists, SharePointEduTech, and so they were engaged first for consultancy, then for the implementation.

Building the solution.

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the school and the developers was the speed at which they had to work. Consultancy with the school began in late October 2012, the legacy ICT contract finished at the end of the year and the new portal – ‘FHS Connect’ – was installed over the Christmas holiday required to be up and running in early January. That this was achieved in all essentials, despite the represents a huge achievement by the developers and the school. It’s very clear that the key lay in a very professional relationship between SharePointEduTech directors and developers on the one hand and Forest Hill management and technical staff on the other. From the school there was clarity about the essentials of what they needed, and from the SharePointEduTech came responsive yet pro-active engagement with the mission. Adrian Edgar the SharePointEduTech director running the project pays tribute to Jonathan Munt’s decisiveness.

‘He has a clear vision of everything being in one central place where everybody goes for whatever function they need.’

For their part, the SharePointEduTech team were offering advice right from the start.

That’s not to say there were no modifications along the way. Always, with a project like this, when the customer sees what’s emerging, new and different ideas are sparked off. For example, says Adrian Edgar,

‘They originally characterised subject areas by year group with separate sites. Then they decided to revise that to key stages, providing a bit more flexibility. It was that kind of iterative process, changing to meet what they wanted.’

And for his part, Jonathan is equally impressed with the ideas coming from SharePointEduTech.

‘We’d planned one server for SharePoint,’ says Jonathan. ‘They recommended two. We wouldn’t necessarily have done that, but it’s made a big difference to the speed at which everything works. It’s an example of how good they are at the technical aspects.’

As time went on, Jonathan was increasingly impressed with this positive approach. One feature that continues to impress him is ‘My programs’, a place on the portal where students can place links to access, from home, specialist software on the school network. So, for example, computer science students can continue to work with their programming software from home without the need to have it on their home computers. In a school where many students do not have sophisticated equipment at home, this is a real bonus.

‘We didn’t know that was possible,’ says Jonathan. ‘Before, students keeping up with their coursework were having to squeeze in hours before and after school. Now they can work at home, it’s a real improvement for their learning.’

 

FHS Connect

What the school now has is an extensive and flexible portal – ‘FHS Connect’ – branded for the school, with separate single sign-on access for staff, students, governors and parents. So the staff view, for example, has headings that include My documents, emails, the school diary, a link to the  school’s ‘Fronter’ VLE, library software, timetable, details of ‘cover’ duties, notices and their own ‘My programs’ section. A feed from the MIS provides quick access to important student data. The whole, of course, is available on an anytime, anywhere basis. It looks neat and professional and – importantly – it carries the school’s branding out to users. The intention is that a teacher, for example, should log at the start of each day, because that’s where they’ll be set up for the day.

Let’s see. I’m covering for Rachel period 4, I have a couple of unread emails, there’s a note about access to school in the holidays, a reminder of the department meeting with a link to the supporting documents……’

The student view has some of the same headings where they’re appropriate, including ‘My programs’ and also draws on the MIS so they can see their targets and progress.

Parent view gives access to permitted MIS data, including attendance – daily and lesson by lesson, so a parent could track a child through the school day were they so minded.

The extra mile.

Jonathan Munt is clearly delighted with the way his vision has been achieved and exceeded by SharePointEduTech’s experienced and creative response.

‘We now have a new SharePoint environment that does a lot more than we thought possible, doing things we didn’t know it could do and so much is down to their advice. They have a very proactive approach that says “SharePoint can do this” and that specialist knowledge has proved crucial through the transition. I’m confident now that we have an infrastructure that’s future-proofed and resilient.’

You can download this case study as a PDF from here

SharePoint 2013 Sign in as a different user

OK let me start out by saying that in my opinion SharePoint 2013 is awesome, But….

One of the things I do miss from SharePoint 2010 is the “Sign in as a different users”

This was particularly useful when testing out different permission levels or functions so very sad to see it go. But thanks to Adrian Edgar we do not have to miss this anymore. In the address bar just put

http://<siteurl>/_layouts/closeConnection.aspx?loginasanotheruser=true and you can then just sign out and in again, if you use this a lot my advice would be to create a shortcut on the page, below you can see an example of our icon bar on SharePoint 2013 with the change user icon.

SharePoint Resource and Room Booking

One of the challenges we see many people face not just in the Education space but in every sector, is having a system in place to allow end users to book resources. Be that a meeting room, ICT suite, mini buses, digital camera’s the list is endless. I have seen many different ways that organisation deal with this problem ranging from spread sheets on a shared drive to emailing booking requests to an administrator or simply a pieces of paper pinned on a noticeboard.

Well the good news is that SharePointEduTech have just released their new SharePoint Resource and Room Booking, this allows end users to book and maintain their own booked resources by simply going to a SharePoint page and clicking to book in a familiar calendar type interface.

 

SharePoint Resource and Room Manager is compatible with SharePoint 2010 and also 2013 be that Foundation, Standard and the enterprise edition. End users have full control over their own booking meaning that if they make a mistake they can delete their own bookings but not anyone else’s.

Below you can find a video demo of the product and you can also download a 14 day trial so you can try it yourself from here once downloaded just send an email to hello@sharepointedutech.com and a 14 day trial key will be sent back to you.