As schools and other education customers move to Office 365 for education in Australia (more info here), it provides another piece in the jigsaw puzzle of your technology infrastructure. Office 365 for education provides email, Lync communications, Office Web Apps and SharePoint in the Cloud, giving your students new ways to communicate, collaborate and support their learning.
It also provides another option for where you put your student home drives – it could be on a local server, or in their SharePoint MySite in the Cloud. One of the benefits of putting student storage in the cloud is that will normally reduce your cost of IT – because Office 365 for education is free, it means that you can offload some of your IT infrastructure costs.
With Office 365 for education, your students each receive a file storage allowance of 500MB free. And now, if you're thinking "Wait? 500MB? These days it seems like that's two multimedia PowerPoints and a couple of videos" then read on!
You have a couple of extra options for expanding your storage space. One way is to add extra storage into your Office 365 for education service - costs and details are here. The other way is to use the SkyDrive storage - which is the equivalent of a disk drive in the cloud. SkyDrive gives every user 7GB of free online storage, larger than most other free cloud-based storage services. And there are apps available for computers and smartphones to make it easily accessible.
SkyDrive was included within the Live@edu email service, and there were a number of ways to link this to your user management (eg with syncing to your Active Directory). Now that we've switched from Live@edu to Office 365 for education you'll no longer be managing your users in SkyDrive – instead each student will create and run their own SkyDrive account. But there are some third parties that have developed utilities to help you manage SkyDrive accounts.
Sky Connector from Xstran
Loryan Strant at Xstran has developed "DirSync for SkyDrive", which basically lets you connect SkyDrive accounts to your Active Directory. It means you can automatically create SkyDrive user accounts and storage space. And it synchronises passwords between your Active Directory and the SkyDrive, so your students only have to remember one password for both your school network and the storage on SkyDrive in the cloud.
If your a network manager in a school, TAFE or university, this could be a useful solution to an IT management issue.