4-page Case Study
Posted: 6/26/2012
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Kilmarnock College Office 365 Transforms College's Email System, Provides Competitive Edge

In 2009, Kilmarnock College subscribed to the Live@edu cloud service for its student email and collaboration services, a solution that has proven to be a resounding success. Learning that Live@edu is being upgraded to Microsoft® Office 365, the college recognized the opportunity to replace the aging and restrictive on-premises email infrastructure used by both curriculum and service areas. As a result of the migration, the college has reduced hardware costs, greatly reduced support calls and the need to conduct nightly backups, and freed its ICT (information and communication technology) staff to start thinking about how it can use Office 365 for more strategic initiatives. As part of a phased approach, students and staff alike will ultimately be using the same online service—and Kilmarnock College email provision will be operating completely in the cloud.


Located in East Ayrshire, a local authority area of Scotland in the United Kingdom, Kilmarnock College serves approximately 5,500 full and part-time students annually. Founded more than 50 years ago, the college’s mission is to play a lead role in the development of skills, the economy and community life. To that end, it offers a wide range of career-oriented programs, including the arts, social sciences, beauty, business, hospitality, tourism, computing, ICT, administration, early education and childcare, engineering, health and social care, motor vehicle, science, and sports. In addition to offering certification through full, part-time, and evening classes, Kilmarnock also partners with several universities should its students wish to move to a full degree program.

For any college in the United Kingdom, technology is a key differentiator. Employers have the expectation that students will graduate with an understanding and proficiency in the most popular industry tools, including email, collaboration tools, and Microsoft Office applications. Providing students with these fundamental skills is essential to preparing students for the workplace. Savvy students understand this and a college’s enrollment and satisfaction depends on providing the best technology value possible.

* With a name like Microsoft and the success we have had with Live@edu, we knew we could trust Office 365. *

Brad Johnstone
ICT Service Leader, Kilmarnock College

In 2009, Kilmarnock College subscribed to the Microsoft Live@edu cloud service as a way to host and manage its students email system. This solution has proven to be a resounding success. “Live@edu has been a fantastic solution for us,” says Brad Johnstone, the ICT Service Leader for Kilmarnock College. “Previously, not every student got an email address and managing the system was a challenge. Now, every student automatically gets an account, and we don’t have to manage anything.”

However, Kilmarnock College’s 300-member staff email was still being hosted and run on-premises using Microsoft Exchange Server 2003. Over time, the ICT team noticed a big divergence in service. Students using Live@edu had a seamless, trouble-free experience that required absolutely no maintenance. As Johnstone notes, the ICT team hasn’t had to touch the system since it first went live. Meanwhile, the on-premises solution was posing some challenges.

A small 50 MB mailbox limit had users saving files across PCs and the network, making saving and finding data a challenge. Performance was suffering, and the ICT team was receiving at least four or five helpdesk calls a day. The possibility of the system going down was a very real concern, requiring time-consuming backups every night. In addition to the frustration and loss of productivity experienced by users, the small ICT team of five members was spending far too much time reacting to issues—and not enough time on more strategic initiatives that would give Kilmarnock College a competitive advantage.

Kilmarnock College considered upgrading to a newer version of Exchange Server, but backing up the system was still an issue. In addition, the ICT department simply didn’t have the resources to deploy and maintain another on-premises solution. Therefore, when Johnstone discovered that Live@edu was being migrated to Office 365, he saw a real opportunity for transforming the entire messaging and collaboration system to one entirely hosted in the cloud. “With a name like Microsoft and the success we have had with Live@edu, we knew we could trust Office 365,” he says.


When Kilmarnock College first signed up for Live@edu, it worked with Microsoft Partner Oxford Computer Group for its deployment and customization. Today, every student is automatically assigned a Live@edu account when they enroll. They use Office Web Apps for document creation and editing, and Microsoft SkyDrive® for cloud storage. In addition, the college is using the cloud service for newsletters, outreach from the ICT department, marketing drives, and more. “We have had to do absolutely nothing to the Live@edu system since we first started using it, which made us confident that Office 365 would work.”

Once again, Kilmarnock College reached out to Oxford Computer Group to help transition its staff to Office 365. Using a phased approach, the consulting firm first transitioned the service staff, and then the curriculum staff by integrating the college’s on-premises Microsoft Active Directory® with the Office 365 service. “Transferring email accounts from on-premise to Office 365 was simple using the tools provided by Microsoft,” says James Barnes, a network technician at Kilmarnock College. “There are a few methods that can be used. For me the easiest way to transfer was using PowerShell commands; this meant I was able to script multiple transfers at once.” The Live@edu system will remain live for one more academic year, at which point the students will also be rolled into the new Office 365 environment.

Oxford Computing Group has created a Management Agent that enables multitenancy environments within Office 365, which will streamline the process of integrating the student and staff Active Directories.


Although Kilmarnock College is still in the process of moving entirely to the cloud, it is already reaping the benefits of the new system. From saving money to getting a less frustrating email solution for staff, the results are already clear. Even though email was the primary driver of moving to the cloud, Johnstone also recognizes the myriad opportunities that Office 365 offers, such as using Microsoft SharePoint® Online for content storage and management and Microsoft Lync® for a new telephony environment, and a great way to develop and promote distance learning.

Reduced Server Costs

Although the college had considered upgrading its Exchange Server, the ICT team knew that it simply didn’t have the resources to deploy and maintain the new system—approximately £15,000 for hardware, £10,000 in deployment costs in the first year, and then an annual maintenance cost of at least £2,000 per year thereafter. In fact, hosting new server on-premises simply didn’t make sense. “When investigating the costs relating to an in-house solution our physical server was already more than the proposed consultancy for implementation,” Johnstone says. “We were confident that the benefits of Office 365 would sell the product to our senior management team.”

Eliminated Manual Backups

Previously, the ICT team at Kilmarnock College had to perform manual backups every night to protect against data loss in the case of disaster. Simply by switching to Office 365, team members have eliminated a time-consuming portion of their day. “We had backups everywhere, and some users were saving multiple copies of emails just to make sure they didn’t lose anything,” Johnstone notes. “Supporting the user was difficult for ICT as staff couldn’t always remember where they stored their emails. Now, staff don’t have to save in multiple places as it’s all backed up for us and replicated to ensure redundancy”

Office 365 maintains a regional datacenter strategy in which four copies of the user’s data exists—two in the primary datacenter, and two in the backup datacenter. For Kilmarnock College, they can rest assured that their data is being safely stored and backed up in Microsoft’s data center environment.

Dramatically Reduced Help Desk Calls

Before migrating its staff to the cloud, the IT team was receiving four or five help desk calls every day for issues that ranged from finding files located across multiple drives to resolving performance challenges. After implementing Office 365 however, help desk calls have been virtually eliminated. For a small team, the benefits are clear: they can spend less time being reactionary and more time on strategic initiatives.

* I am really excited about SharePoint Online. The product is so good, it grows legs and takes off. Once you start using it, it can manage itself. *

Brad Johnstone
ICT Service Leader, Kilmarnock College

Gave users greater flexibility

Students at Kilmarnock were already familiar with a cloud-based solution, but staff were tied to their desktop PCs at work. Now, with Office 365, they have far greater flexibility because they can also access their email and files from PCs at home, and with mobile devices. Because Office 365 is supported on all major devices, browsers, and platforms, staff have the flexibility to use a wide range of devices.

Eventually, students and staff will all be on the same system. As a result, they’ll be able to collaborate more effectively, boosting the effectiveness of college courses. Johnstone is quick to see the possibilities, whether it’s the ability to have a face-to-face conference and share applications or having a student who wants to chat with a lecturer and using presence awareness to see if there’s a mutually convenient time to meet.

Set the Stage for a New Content Management System

Currently, Kilmarnock College uses Moodle, an open-source PHP web application for producing modular internet-based courses as its content management system for staff. Although this approach has worked so far, the ability to use the industry standard will enhance the skills of the staff. Johnstone intends for SharePoint Online, included in Office 365, to complement this solution. “I am really excited about SharePoint Online,” he says. “The product is so good—its flexibility and integration possibilities mean the product could take off. Once you start using it, users begin to develop and expand the solution—it can almost manage itself.”

Furthermore, choosing a cloud-based solution has opened up possibilities that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. With its small ICT staff and limited budget, Johnstone knows that he may not have been able to deploy SharePoint on-premises as easily as deploying the cloud based solution.xxx

Rethinking the future

Office 365 is changing how Kilmarnock College is thinking about technology—and the team is extremely excited about it. For instance, The ICT team is excited about the possibilities that Lync Online can offer. “We’re now telling our users that the emphasis on phones is no longer there because you have this whole communication tool built into Office 365. It’s a million miles away from where we would be without it,” says Johnstone.

Microsoft Office 365 for Education

Microsoft Office 365 for education brings together cloud versions of our most trusted communications and collaboration products—Microsoft SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Lync Online—with the latest version of our Office desktop suite and companion web applications for educational institutions.

Office 365 for education helps save time and money, and it frees up valued resources. Simple to use and easy to administer, it is financially backed by a service level agreement guaranteeing 99 percent reliability. Office 365 for education features robust security, IT-level phone support, geo-redundancy, disaster recovery, and the privacy controls and standards that you expect from a world-class service provider.

For more information about Microsoft Office 365 for education, go to: http://education.office365.com

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:www.microsoft.com

For more information about Oxford Computer Group products and services, call +44 (0) 8456 584425 or visit the website at:www.oxfordcomputergroup.com  

For more information about Kilmarnock College visit the website at: www.kilmarnock.ac.uk

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview

Organization Size: 400 employees

Organization Profile

Kilmarnock College offers career training and vocational certification to approximately 5,500 students in East Ayrshire, a council area of Scotland in the United Kingdom.

Business Situation

The on-premises email solution used by the college’s staff was frustrating for users due to mailbox limitations, and difficult for the five-person ICT staff to manage.


Kilmarnock College opted to move staff email to Office 365. With students already using Live@edu, this move is part of a longer strategic initiative to migrate all operations to the cloud.


  • Reduced server costs
  • Eliminated manual backups
  • Dramatically reduced help desk calls
  • Gave users greater flexibility
  • Set the stage for a new content management system if required

Software and Services
Microsoft Office 365

Vertical Industries
Higher Education

United Kingdom


Oxford Computer Group