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5 New Schools Sign on for Microsoft's Office 365

Microsoft is attracting higher education to the cloud as schools begin deploying Office 365, Microsoft's paid follow-on act to Live@edu. Last year Georgia State University became the first institution to roll out Office 365 for its faculty and staff. Now, several others have announced plans to move to the cloud-based application suite too.

Office 365 includes a multi-tier mix of Office applications, Microsoft's communication and collaboration products, and cloud-based storage. While the company still appears to be signing up institutional customers for Live@edu, it has said that Office 365 will supplant and expand on Live@edu's free set of services to enable better collaboration among students, staff, faculty, and alumni.

The current plan structure continues to provide free email, calendaring, and storage for all institutional users; but additional free services, such as conferencing, instant messaging and presence, Office Web apps, and SharePoint collaboration are free only to students; institutions will pay a monthly fee for faculty and staff to have comparable services. To gain access to Office Pro Plus and other services, schools will have to pay monthly fees for all users.

According to a blog entry by Microsoft General Manager for U.S. education, Sig Behrens, five schools are signing on for the hosted services of Office 365, including the University of Nebraska, Tulane U, U Texas at San Antonio, the Kentucky Community Technical College System, and U New Mexico.

U Nebraska will be migrating from Lotus Notes to Office 365 for its staff and faculty over the next 12 to 18 months, specifically for email and calendaring. According to a letter sent by system President James Milliken to employees, all campuses, with one exception, will be adopting the cloud-based email system. U Nebraska Medical University will implement Exchange 2010 due to HIPAA requirements. He also said that "Student migration will depend on existing agreements." Currently, students get a lifelong email address through the university system's Live@edu agreements.

Tulane is migrating staff and faculty off of Live@edu onto Office 365. According to a statement from Microsoft, the New Orleans school wanted a cloud solution to help reduce hardware and other costs. Tulane chose Office 365 to reduce total cost of ownership and to provide a collaboration environment with functionality users were already accustomed to.

U Texas at San Antonio is moving email for its 7000 staff and faculty members to Office 365 from Exchange 2003 to address storage limitations in its previous email system. Mailbox quotas of five gigabytes were insufficient for some users; with Exchange Server 2010 online, available as part of Office 365, the standard quota will be raised to 25 gigabytes. The university said it would be using two capabilities in the new service, delegate access and legal hold. The first function allows another person, such as an assistant, to manage a user's email and calendar. The second is a capability within Exchange that lets the online service preserve deleted and edited mailbox items from both primary mailboxes and personal archives. By using the hosted service, the university expects to reduce hardware costs and overall data center costs for power and cooling.

The Kentucky Community Technical College System offers Web-based email to its students, and campuses will be migrating their current Exchange-based email system to Office 365. According to Microsoft, schools will eventually integrate their on-premise implementations of Exchange and Lync used by faculty and staff with Lync services made available to students.

In spring 2012 U New Mexico's flagship university will introduce Office 365 to 36,000 students. That deployment will provide them with email, 25 gigabytes of storage, calendaring, SharePoint, Web access to Word, Excel, text chat, video chat, and synchronization with mobile devices. Faculty and staff are expected to be migrated from Novell GroupWise and Webmail to an on-premises Exchange infrastructure by fall 2012.

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