The administrators at the German European School Singapore (GESS) have a single goal for its communications infrastructure; it is to create a platform that offers effective communication and collaboration among staff and students.
"Our long-term strategy is to create a seamless system for user authentication and communication, and to use it as a basis for other systems incorporating email, calendaring and online directory services," said Dr Matt Harris, head of Learning Resources, GESS. The Singapore-based school has two campuses, 280 staff and 1,500 students.
To achieve the target, the school's administrators have to consolidate its various legacy email systems.
Over the years, GESS had gone through various email platforms - first with an in-house hosted solution, followed by a blended system with two different versions of Gmail and a hosted Exchange system.
Only very basic document sharing was possible among the different groups of users. There was no shared calendaring or resource booking, and the users had different email interfaces, which meant that the IT department had to support them in these different modes.
The school then decided that the answer lies in Microsoft Office 365 productivity suite.
Considerations over data privacy and security were key considerations to GESS's decision to move ahead with Office 365. The Office 365 system aligns with GESS's policies.
"The school spends a lot of effort to ensure that communications are kept private, student data is protected, and curriculum and assessment data are secure," said Dr Harris, head of Learning Resources, GESS. "We believe that the level of security, access, and privacy available on Office 365 clearly aligns with GESS's policies."
Office 365 consolidated the school's email and calendaring systems with Microsoft Exchange Online as its hosted enterprise email service. By having email and calendaring in a unified system, teachers are better able to handle their varied responsibilities outside of the classroom as well as better communicate with students.
With Office 365, GESS has been able to migrate from the use of spreadsheets to keep track of major school activities to a shared online calendaring system. GESS also implemented an online room booking system on Office 365 platform to enable everyone to book facilities across two campuses.
The school implemented an Active Directory on Office 365 so that users would be able to access their emails and other systems with one Active Directory password, as well as made it easier for the IT department to enable or disable user accounts in the background. This has helped to reduce user IT support and back-end administration by up to 20 percent.
In the longer term, the school administrators are keen to use Office 365 to connect into other Microsoft products and services like SharePoint Online and SkyDrive to improve workflow and collaboration processes across GESS.
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