To improve the learning experience on campus, Western Kentucky University (WKU) is offering students a new suite of online messaging and collaboration services from Microsoft. WKU chose Microsoft Live@edu instead of Google Apps for Education because Live@edu offered more scope for integration into WKU’s existing IT environment and a professional communication and collaboration experience for students. To date, WKU has saved U.S.$104,000 in IT costs.Business Needs
The fastest growing university in Kentucky for 13 years straight, Western Kentucky University (WKU) has a vision of becoming a leading American university with international reach. It is home to Kentucky’s first and only independent Honors College and has many international students and faculty members. Today, WKU has approximately 21,000 students.
Faculty and staff use a Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 messaging and collaboration solution. Until recently, the university also provided students and alumni with an on-premises email service called Communigate. However, the steadily increasing number of students strained the university’s IT resources. One full-time email administrator managed the Communigate infrastructure, consisting of nine servers and three anti-malware (malicious software) appliances. “Running 45,000 student and alumni email accounts consumed bandwidth, slowed network traffic, and drained available space on our storage area network,” says Gordon Johnson, Director, Administration Systems and Applications, at Western Kentucky University. “We were getting 3 million emails a day in our spam filters. IT staff spent an increasing amount of time backing up the system, battling malware, and supporting students.”
With IT staff focused on maintaining capacity, there was little time or money left for upgrading messaging and collaboration functionality. “We weren’t keeping pace with email technology for our students and alumni,” says Johnson. “Students wanted more than 50 megabytes of email storage and larger attachments. They wanted an email solution with an integrated calendar that they could share with faculty and that integrated with the WKU Portal, a single sign-on environment used to access the Banner student information system they use to schedule courses, check grades, and monitor academic progress.”
To provide a better learning experience for students, WKU needed a more scalable, cost-effective, and feature-rich email and collaboration service. The university did not want to continue investing in physical infrastructure to host a new solution, so in October 2010, Johnson and his team began evaluating cloud-based options. Solution
Western Kentucky University chose Microsoft Live@edu for its student and alumni email and collaboration solution. Live@edu is a suite of hosted communication and collaboration services that includes Microsoft Outlook Live cloud-based email, which is based on Exchange 2010 and provides 10 gigabytes (GB) of storage per user, and Windows Live SkyDrive technology, which provides 25 GB of online storage per user. “The choice came down to Live@edu or Google Apps for Education,” says Johnson. “We chose Microsoft because it provided an enterprise-level programming environment for provisioning accounts and integrating the solution with our
||We are in the business of educating students, not administering email systems. With Live@edu, we can let Microsoft take on email management and free IT staff to deliver innovation to the classroom.
Vice President, Information Technology, Western Kentucky University
existing Exchange Server solution for staff and faculty. Plus, we were impressed by the rich feature set, and the familiar, Office-based user interface would make an easier transition for the students.”
WKU used the Windows PowerShell command-line interface and scripting language to automate the creation of student and alumni accounts. It also utilized the Microsoft Exchange Web Services Managed API to accomplish integration and synchronization of Live@edu with the on- premises Exchange Server email system, Active Directory Domain Services, and the Banner ERP system used for student records. “We also did some programming using the Exchange Web Services Managed APIs to interface our WKU portal with the Live@edu environment, giving students one-stop single sign-on access to all their IT services with one user name and password,” says Johnson.
In December 2011, WKU migrated 45,000 student and alumni email accounts to Outlook Live, dubbed TopperMail. “We didn’t move mail, just provisioned the accounts,” says Johnson. “Students used the built-in tool to forward their old mail to the new account, and we kept the old accounts until March 2011. We had a feedback mechanism on the logon page and extra crew on the support desk, and the whole process went extremely smoothly.” Benefits
With one of the largest Microsoft Live@edu migrations in the United States, Western Kentucky University successfully solved the dual challenges of reducing IT costs and improving email and collaboration services for its students and alumni. “We are in the business of educating students, not administering email systems,” says Bob Owen, Vice President of Information Technology at Western Kentucky University. “With Live@edu, we can let Microsoft take on email management and free IT staff to deliver innovation to the classroom.”
Moving to a Microsoft cloud-based email and collaboration solution means WKU has been able to:
Reduce costs. Retiring its previous on-premises student email solution saved the university approximately U.S.$50,000 in email server and anti-malware licensing fees. “We are also avoiding hardware upgrade costs for the nine servers, amounting to $36,000,” says Johnson. “We can also repurpose more than a terabyte of storage for other purposes, saving us $18,000. We have recouped almost 100 percent of our email administrator’s time, so he can work on more strategic academic support projects. Lastly, a scalable, cloud-based solution means we no longer have to worry about paying for increased capacity.”
Improve the student experience. Offering a rich, online communication and collaboration experience, Live@edu replicates the features and functionality that graduates will most likely experience in the workplace. “TopperMail is a much more professional experience for our students, with integrated web-based email and calendar and the ability to receive email and sync calendars and contacts on mobile phones,” says Johnson. “Already, our sororities and fraternities and other student organizations are creating email groups and collaborating online in ways they never could before. Live@edu is going to help us enhance all aspects of campus life so we can attract and retain students to maintain our growth and attain our vision.”
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