To provide better email and collaboration services for faculty and staff, the European University Cyprus replaced its on-premises email system with a Microsoft cloud solution that includes Microsoft Exchange Online. Now faculty members have access to email anytime and anywhere to stay in touch with students on and off campus. The hosted solution helped the university reduce total cost of ownership for email by 40 percent. Business Needs
Based in Nicosia, the capital city of Cyprus, European University Cyprus (EUC) offers undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in a range of programs in arts, business, education, law, and health sciences. EUC is a member of Laureate International Universities, the largest network of higher education institutions in the world, with more than 600,000 students.
“Two years ago, we developed a new vision for the university focused on achieving leadership and offering superior services to our students and faculty,” says Haris Hassabis, Managing Director at European University Cyprus. “We want to differentiate ourselves from other universities through a more customer-oriented approach.”
In 2009, in the face of fiscal restraint, the five-person IT department took a more active role in supporting the university’s vision of superior services. It replaced its rudimentary, on-premises email service for students and alumni with Microsoft Live@edu, a no-cost suite of hosted email and collaboration services. In addition to improving student services, the solution reduced the support burden of physical infrastructure, saving time and money.
“Live@edu solved the problems with student email, but a year later we were experiencing similar problems with our on-premises email system for faculty and staff,” says Costas Papaconstantinou, Director of Management Information Systems at European University Cyprus. “It took almost one full-time equivalent to maintain our aging email servers, and I was getting calls in the middle of the night to solve service interruptions. Faculty wanted to access email remotely and share calendars, and there were problems with limited inbox capacity. Sometimes student assignments were rejected because the professor’s inbox was full. We wanted to get out of supporting email altogether, so we could focus on more strategic IT projects for the university.” Solution
Because European University Cyprus had already experienced the benefits of a cloud-based solution with Microsoft Live@edu—improved services and less physical infrastructure to support—the university decided to replace its remaining on-premises email system with a cloud-based email solution for faculty and staff. In September 2010, the IT department evaluated several cloud service providers, including Google Apps for Education and Microsoft Office 365. “We wanted an email solution for faculty that would interoperate with Live@edu and our Learning Management System, Moodle,” says Papaconstantinou. “The Microsoft offering was the best.”
Microsoft Office 365 is a collection of cloud-based communication and collaboration services that includes Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online for sharing information, and Microsoft Lync Online for instant messaging, presence functionality, and web conferencing, as well as Microsoft Office Professional Plus desktop software and Microsoft Office Web Apps. All these services are available without having to invest in software licenses or install any physical infrastructure.
To begin, EUC is taking advantage of a low-cost, per-user, per-month subscription to Exchange Online, which includes access to the Microsoft Outlook messaging client, browser-based access to email using Microsoft Outlook Web Access, and access to email from mobile devices using Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync technology.
With the help of Microsoft Services, the European University Cyprus employed best practices for the most efficient, cost-effective migration possible. They were able to migrate all the mailboxes in one weekend. “The migration from the old on-premises system was so smooth,” says Papaconstantinou. “We moved 400 mailboxes within one weekend. The changes to our users’ computing environment were minimal. Staff got to work on Monday morning as usual, except with an inbox capacity that is 10 times larger. Everyone was happy.” Benefits
With Microsoft Online Services that provide cloud-based communication and collaboration offerings, EUC established itself as a technically savvy institution that cares about finding the best tools for students and staff. “By moving to cloud technology, we can focus more on our students and on providing support to our faculty for their teaching and research,” says Hassabis.
With cloud-based email, faculty members can connect with students while travelling, extending the scenario for learning beyond the campus. “Faculty members are thrilled with mobile access to email on their smart devices,” says Papaconstantinou. “Now they can share calendars with colleagues and build productive learning relationships with students, no matter where they are in the world.”
Staff members in the IT department are also more productive because they don’t have to support faculty or student email. “With Microsoft cloud services, my staff and I have more time to work on new projects with greater business value and get more technology into the hands of students and instructors,” says Papaconstantinou. “I’m glad that I am not getting calls in the middle of the night to deal with servers crashing and email emergencies.”
EUC also reduced costs. Choosing a Microsoft cloud-based email service means the university can do more with a limited IT budget. It is no longer funding a full-time-equivalent position to support email.
“Microsoft Online Services helped us reduce our total cost of ownership for email by 40 percent, thanks to savings in hardware costs and software licensing,” says Papaconstantinou. “With the money that we are saving, we can take advantage of more Microsoft cloud services. We are looking at additional services within Office 365, such as Lync Online, and other Microsoft cloud-based products, such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.”
Concludes Hassabis, “The best part about my job is being with young people who want to improve constantly, who want to transform their lives. Microsoft helps us in the pursuit of their dreams.”
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