As the state of Florida’s leading university, the University of Florida (UF) offers state-of-the-art facilities and comprehensive academic programs. The university focuses on continuously enhancing its technology tools to benefit staff and students. Environmental sustainability and “green IT” are major goals for the university, so when UF recently qualified for federal stimulus funds, it decided to use some of the funds to deploy a video conferencing solution based on Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2. The solution will enhance employee collaboration, reduce meeting-related travel, and is projected to decrease fuel consumption and reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by several metric tons annually. Acquiring software licensing through the Microsoft Enterprise Client Access License suite provides the university with several additional capabilities at no extra charge.
The University of Florida (UF), located in Gainesville, focuses on excellence in research, teaching, technology, and athletics. Spread over a 2,000-acre campus with more than 900 buildings, UF is home to more than 50,000 students, 16 colleges, and more than 150 research centers and institutes, including the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS). IFAS alone manages 12 world-class research and education centers and has Cooperative Extension Offices in all 67 Florida counties.
UF has led the way in many areas of biomedical and environmental research and established an Office of Sustainability in 2006 that focuses on ecology, economy, and equity (or social justice). The University’s sustainability initiatives address all aspects of university operations from recycling and sustainable purchasing policies to “green” building design and alternative forms of transportation. UF strives to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025.
Among the many factors UF is addressing to reduce its carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions is reducing car travel by faculty and staff both throughout the main campus and between the main campus and satellite locations. University faculty and staff spend a significant amount of time in meetings and training sessions. Often, these sessions require travel to East Campus—approximately four miles from the main campus—or to the Human Resources building, which is more than a mile away. Other employees frequently travel between the administration building, the Health Sciences Center, and the Human Resources building. While these are short distances, the time required to walk or to drive to the location and find parking could add up to more than an hour round trip. The travel time distracted faculty and staff from their work and reduced productivity, and the frequent driving increased CO2 emissions.
||Dedicating the sustainability funds to make Communications Server video conferencing available campuswide will pay big dividends … in saved time and energy [and] reduced CO2 emissions
Microsoft Applications Group Manager, University of Florida
The challenge was even greater for IFAS with county extension offices and 18 research and education locations spread across the state. Some of those offices were several hundred miles away from campus, so it was not practical for staff in the most distant offices to travel to campus to attend meetings and training sessions.
Since 2000, IFAS had been using a Polycom H.323 video conferencing system to conduct virtual meetings with its research centers and county extension offices. The Health Sciences Center and Academic Technology department also used video conferencing technology to communicate with clinics, hospitals, and peer institutions internationally. However, the Polycom VSX desktop video conferencing client software was complicated to use, so faculty rarely used the technology.
The university wanted an integrated conference room and desktop video conference system that would meet its security requirements and work with existing systems. The solution needed to support privacy compliance standards and be affordable, easy to deploy, and easy to use with minimal training. Solution
The University of Florida runs its technology infrastructure on the Windows Server 2008 operating system and uses many other Microsoft products on both a departmental and universitywide basis. In early 2009, the university’s Exchange Support Group started looking at deploying Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 and Office Communicator 2007 R2 for an encrypted instant messaging (IM) solution that would replace the use of unencrypted, public IM systems. Office Communications Server is a unified communications server platform that provides presence, IM, conferencing, and enterprise voice functionality. Office Communicator is a unified communications desktop application included in Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007 that supports those same communication and collaboration capabilities, including presence features that allow faculty and staff to see when their colleagues are available for communication.
Information that is exchanged through Office Communications Server is encrypted, so it meets the privacy requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that protects the privacy of student education records.
UF licenses most of its Microsoft software under a Campus Agreement, which, in addition to price advantages for volume purchases, provides a wealth of Software Assurance benefits. The university takes advantage of several of these benefits, including:
The Home Use Program, which allows employees who are licensed to use Microsoft Office on campus to use a copy at home.
E-Learning, which provides flexible, self-paced online training on Microsoft Office programs.
New Version Rights, which allow UF to upgrade to the newest version of covered Microsoft programs, at no extra charge.
Product Evaluation Rights, which allow UF to download and evaluate Microsoft products in a small group for up to 60-days before acquiring licenses.
“Our Microsoft volume licensing agreement is a key component of our strategy to provide consolidated, low-cost, high-value services to the faculty, staff, and students of the University of Florida,” says Mike Conlon, Ph.D, Associate CIO, IT Architecture for the University of Florida. “It simplifies administration, lowers costs, and improves security and compliance.”
||Our Microsoft volume licensing agreement is a key component of our strategy to provide consolidated, low cost, high value services to the faculty, staff, and students…. It simplifies administration, lowers costs, and improves security and compliance.
||Mike Conlon, Ph.D.
Associate CIO, IT Architecture, University of Florida
The University’s Exchange Support Group used the product evaluation rights benefit to evaluate Office Communications Server 2007 R2 and Office Communicator 2007 R2. After the evaluation, the group determined that, in addition to IM and presence features, Office Communications Server and Office Communicator could meet the university’s video conferencing challenges.
“The fully integrated, low-cost, one-button start for chat, voice, and video opens up the use of communication services to support teaching, research, and service,” says Dr. Conlon. “Our large campus often makes face-to-face meetings a burden. With Communications Server, travel time and effort are replaced with instant communication.”
The Exchange Support Group decided to run a proof of concept (POC) of Office Communications Server 2007 R2 and installed it on four IBM HS21 blade servers. However, before the group could make it available to users, each department had to acquire client access licenses (CALs) for the solution. An Economical Upgrade to the Enterprise CAL Suite
Under the Microsoft Campus Agreement, UF already had the Core CAL suite, which includes CALs for Windows Server, Microsoft Exchange Server Standard Edition, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server Standard, and Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager. The university also had the option to obtain the Microsoft Enterprise CAL Step Up license, which adds CALs for Office Communications Server and several other Microsoft Server product Enterprise CALs, for less than U.S.$10 per user. The Enterprise CAL Suite licenses access to many additional enterprise-level capabilities—including security services, unified messaging, compliance functionality, business intelligence, enterprise search, centralized desktop monitoring, management and reporting, automated IT management, data protection and recovery, and firewall protection—all under one license.
“The price difference between acquiring just the Communications Server CAL or an Enterprise CAL, which included all those other products, was about $0.75 per user, so it made sense to go ahead and recommend that departments get the Enterprise CAL,” says Erik Schmidt, Microsoft Applications Group Manager for the University of Florida.
Even that small cost per user was difficult for some departments to handle in such a tight budgetary environment. However 11 departments, including IFAS and Academic Technology, acquired Enterprise CALs for approximately 3,200 faculty and staff members to test the value of Office Communications Server 2007 R2.
IFAS was one of the largest initial groups to test the video conferencing capabilities of Office Communications Server and Office Communicator because the group had used video conferencing for nearly a decade. “It became clear that Office Communicator would be a very valuable tool for us because it allows people to set up a video conference right from their desks with just a few mouse clicks,” says Dan Cromer, Associate Director of Information and Communication Services for IFAS at the University of Florida. Expanding the Scope of the POC
As the POC progressed, the UF Help Desk learned of the new solution and began to look at the value of using the desktop sharing features in Office Communications Server 2007 R2 for campuswide support. By September 2009, it was clear that Office Communications Server offered great potential for support, video conferencing, and real-time communications across all departments. Before that could happen, UF had to acquire Enterprise CALs campuswide for all 14,000 faculty and staff in an environment of budget cutbacks and layoffs.
In November 2009, a solution appeared from an unexpected source. The President of the University of Florida, J. Bernard Machen, D.D.S., Ph.D., a strong supporter of sustainability practices, presented the university’s budget issues and cost-saving efforts to the Academic & Professional Assembly. During his presentation, Dr. Machen mentioned that the university had federal stimulus funds and that he would like to use that money for sustainability-related projects.
One of the attendees at that meeting, Dan Cromer, immediately saw a connection between the university’s sustainability initiatives and using video conferencing to reduce meeting travel and CO2 emissions. To support that assumption, Cromer surveyed 16 employees who regularly traveled from the main campus to East Campus for meetings and discovered that their meeting travel produced an estimated .8 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually. The value of their time amounted to approximately $50,000 a year. And that represented just part of one department.
Using those numbers as a basis, Fedro Zazueta, Ph.D, Director of Academic Technology for the University of Florida, worked with Cromer to create a proposal requesting stimulus funds for a one-year sustainability pilot project. The project would focus on using integrated conference room and desktop video conferencing to reduce time and expenses related to travel, reduce the university’s CO2 emissions related to transportation, and provide the necessary data to scale the system to the campuswide level.Stimulus Funds Awarded for Green IT
The proposal was moved up through the Green IT Committee and the UF Office of Sustainability until it was ultimately presented to Dr. Machen. After seeing the support for sustainability objectives, the president endorsed the funding request for approximately $323,000 for the project.
The university is using the funding for:
Taking Full Advantage of Volume Licensing
A Tandberg video bridge system to replace the current aging system and to provide connectivity between Office Communications Server and existing video conferencing systems.
Enterprise CAL suite licenses for all 14,000 full-time employees.
Edge servers to connect the system to external clients and peers.
Equipping six video conferencing rooms with Polycom CX5000 360-degree video conferencing cameras, Dell computers, and projectors and screens.
A half-time position for support and training.
Although Office Communications Server 2007 R2 was the initial reason for acquiring the Enterprise CAL suite, that acquisition offered many additional benefits. For example, the University plans to move its student course management system to Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and implement Microsoft Forefront Protection 2010 for SharePoint. It also plans to deploy Microsoft Forefront Protection 2010 for Exchange Server when it upgrades to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 by early July 2010. In addition, the University is considering implementing Windows Rights Management Services to safeguard confidential and sensitive information from unauthorized use. The CALs for those additional products are already included in the Enterprise CAL Suite and the upgrade to Exchange Server 2010 is already paid for through the Software Assurance coverage within the Campus Agreement, so no additional licensing expenditures will be required for those projects.
Using federal stimulus funds to deploy a video conferencing solution based on Office Communications Server 2007 R2 helped the University of Florida further support its sustainability initiatives and enhance collaboration. Acquiring software licenses through the Microsoft Enterprise CAL Suite provides access to multiple applications at a reduced cost and simplifies license tracking.
Eliminates More than 12 Metric Tons of Carbon-Dioxide Emissions
Expanding desktop video conferencing to faculty and staff members at UF has helped reduce the need for employees to drive across campus and between campuses to attend meetings. The university projects that it will reduce CO2 emissions by more than 12 metric tons annually and save more than $50,000 worth of employee travel time when Office Communications Server 2007 R2 is adopted by a large percentage of the university’s faculty and staff. The new solution is expected to save thousands of employees from having to travel to at least a few meetings each year.
“Out of my staff of more than 200 people there are about 30 who go to meetings one-to-five times a week, either out to East Campus or to remote locations on campus. Now they can use video conferencing software in lieu of going to meetings,” says Mike McKee, Assistant Vice President and University Controller for the University of Florida. “That’s just one division on campus, which gives some sense of the potential impact that Office Communications Server video conferencing will have.” Broadens Meeting Participation
People who didn’t have time to drive to meetings or found the previous video conferencing system too complicated can now use Office Communicator to attend meetings from locations all over the campus and all over the state. As a result, IFAS has already experienced higher meeting attendance. “We have people 800 miles away that have no chance to get here for a meeting,” says Cromer. “Since our IFAS computer coordinator group started using Office Communicator, we’ve increased our attendance at meetings by approximately 25 percent because people can easily connect to the video conference from their desks and multitask while they’re attending the meeting.”
That experience is being repeated across university departments, including the Health Sciences Center and Academic Technology. “Office Communications Server also addresses the equity side of sustainability by providing the opportunity for more people to participate in meetings that they may not have been able to attend otherwise, in addition to the traditional aspects of reducing CO2 and saving travel time and fuel,” says Anna Prizzia, Director of the Office of Sustainability for the University of Florida.Enhances Small-Group Collaboration
The collaborative benefits of communicating face-to-face in a video conference go beyond just large live meetings and campus-to-campus conferences. Using the IM and presence functionalities in Office Communications Server, faculty and staff can see when a colleague is available and quickly schedule a video conference to exchange ideas and collaborate on projects. “With Office Communicator, you don’t even have to look up a phone number. You just go to your contacts, right click on a name, and if that person is shown as available, you choose video conference and connect with them face-to-face,” says Cromer. “It makes it much more efficient to schedule impromptu meetings, and saves a lot of back-and-forth email and voice-mail messages. Our Health Sciences Center has certified the use of Office Communicator for HIPAA compliance so they use it a lot for their conversations.”
Adds Access for Several Server Applications for Less than $10 Per User
In addition to providing access to Office Communications Server, the university’s upgrade to the Enterprise CAL included several additional capabilities, for less than $10 per user. Various departments were already planning to implement SharePoint Server 2010, the Microsoft Forefront Protection Suite, and the Microsoft System Center Client Management Suite. Because CALs for those products are included with the Enterprise CAL suite, all departments at UF receive user licenses for that software at no extra charge.
The upgrade to the Enterprise CAL Suite was covered by the sustainability initiative, so UF was able to make Office Communications Server and the other products available to all faculty and staff, which would not otherwise have been possible in the current economic climate.
“A lot of departments on campus were interested in using Office Communications Server but did not have the budget to pay for it,” says Schmidt. “Dedicating the sustainability funds to make Communications Server video conferencing available campuswide will pay big dividends for a long time to come in saved time and energy, reduced CO2 emissions, and more productive meetings.”
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