Changes to Office 365 Offer Names

Office 365, as a suite of services, has a number of different “packages” or SKUs that it uses to bundle services together at different price bands so that customers have flexibility over how much they consume of their cloud services. Office 365 broke these into different tracks based on whether you were an enterprise, a small business, home user, education, government and so on.

From this October, 2014, Microsoft is making changes to Office 365 offer names, simplifying the naming conventions used for education, government and non-profits. Read on to find out more…

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How To: Automatically Configure Microsoft Outlook For Live@edu

Microsoft Live@edu offers every student and teacher Outlook Web Access as a method of accessing their email in a branded, web-based environment. This is great because it means users can gain access to their information from practically any web-enabled device with a browser. In a school environment it may be beneficial for students and teachers to access their Live@edu account using the Microsoft Outlook client as part of the Office suite of applications.

Luckily there is a way to configure Outlook automatically for your users so when they run it for the first time they will be ready to go!

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What’s new in Microsoft Office 365 for education?

With Microsoft’s announcement yesterday that its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) and Live@edu would eventually converge into the new Office 365 for enterprises and Office 365 for education offerings it also expanded on some of the benefits that will be available for education customers when it becomes available sometime next year.

Ray Fleming (@RayFleming), Microsoft’s education marketing manager, blogged last night about some of the changes over on the UK Schools Blog, but I’ve summarised some of the key benefits for education below.

Benefits:

  • Large 25GB mailboxes and the ability to send attachments up to 25 MB
  • Anywhere access to e-mail, important documents, contacts and calendar on nearly any device, including PC, Mac, Windows Phone, iPhone, Android and BlackBerry
  • Works with the programs students know and use most — Microsoft Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote
  • Student access to Office Web Apps for viewing, sharing and light editing of documents
  • Team sites to share, manage and search for information and resources
  • Industry-leading, always-up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spam solutions
  • Optional student access to 25 GB of free online storage on Windows Live SkyDrive
  • Latest version of Microsoft Live@edu, which has thousands of schools and millions of student users today

I’m really excited to see the suite in action – Live@edu is already used by tens of millions of users in more than 100 countries. In my opinion Office 365 for education represents are real step forward in offering cloud-based solutions for schools, colleges and universities in the UK.

Microsoft Fun, Free Friday!

0530hrs and my alarm goes off with an unwelcome screech – it’s time to get up ready for Microsoft’s Fun, Free Friday event held on it’s campus at Thames Valley Park, Reading.

The event was designed to demonstrate some of the technologies Microsoft brings to the education sector including everything from Live@edu through to XNA Game Studio. It was run as a series of quick-fire demonstrations of free technology offered by Microsoft to help schools at a variety of levels to enhance teaching and learning and ease management.

I was particularly taken with Live@edu, and Windows Live essentials (Messenger, Writer, Photo Gallery, etc).

Live@edu

Live@edu is, in my opinion, one of the crown jewels of Microsoft’s free (it really is!) offering: hosted Exchange email. Available to all schools in the UK the service, hosted at Microsoft’s data centre in Dublin, Ireland, provides users of the service:

  • A 10GB inbox.
  • 25GB Skydrive storage.
  • Office web apps
  • Instant Messenger
  • and much more!

Having worked in schools for a number of years I know that email is one of the most contentious areas when it comes to running a school network so being able to pass the lion’s share of the hassle over to somebody else, while retaining full administrator features, is nothing short of a God-send.

Students can work together collaboratively on documents and share them using Skydrive and Live Spaces and as a network manager or decision maker you can choose to enable or disable functionality as desired.

A feature-request did come out of Fun, Free Friday: the ability to restrict access to features ‘on demand’ – i.e. disabling Live Messenger for a particular lesson.  The guys at Microsoft were impressed with the suggestion, and have promised to pass it on.

When taken into consideration against FOSS software like Open Office, Microsoft Office and Live@edu really do provide the complete solution in a consistent and polished manner.  I think consistency is important, particularly in a learning environment, so to offer pupils and staff the ability to create, edit, share and collaborate on documents wherever they are using Office web apps and Live Messenger is brilliant and means that there is no need to cart documents around on memory sticks, or in email attachments.

Google, no matter how good they appear to be, cannot compete in this particular area yet – Microsoft Office and Exchange Server is just too good, and too widely deployed; and now the cost barrier is removed for academia it would be fool-hardy to go elsewhere.

Windows Live Essentials

This free suite of applications has been a round for a while, but we were treated to a look at a beta build of the next versions of Live Writer, and Photo Gallery.

I have been using Live Writer for a little while now and I immediately saw how it can help students, particular GCSE, A-Level and University, keep track of projects and share their progress through a Blog.

Live Writer makes it easy to manage blog posts, and pages and provides a really nice WYSIWYG interface that can even download your current Blog theme and allow you to live preview the post as you write it.  The software has good support for a large number of blogging services including WordPress, Blogger, TypePad and can also take custom settings.

Live Writer makes it easy to  incorporate multimedia content into your posts with some simple effects for photos, and integration with YouTube for videos.  Adding photos and videos has never been so easy!

Photo Gallery’s ability to take two photos and ‘fuse’ them into one ‘perfect photo’ (for example: two photos where one person is smiling and the other is blinking) was a real crowd-pleaser, resulting in a round of applause from the people there as their jaws all dropped in the demo!  I can see the whole suite really appealing to pupils in key stage 3 and above as they begin to tackle coursework that requires a log of their progress.

I had a thoroughly good day with Microsoft and I sincerely hope they continue to run events like this, not just for the food (Ben Nunney gave away his other half’s famous Bacon Brownies as rewards for answering questions correctly!) and free software, but because it allows people to see first-hand how Microsoft software can benefit them directly.  Sometimes events like BETT just aren’t enough to get the message across.

Tweets from the day were tagged with ‘#MSFFF’.

James