BETT 2016 Guest Blog: Groupcall – building IDaaS in tandem with Azure


Another Microsoft in Education partner exhibiting at BETT 2016 is Group Call (stand B188), one of the education sector market leaders in communication and data extraction tools since launching in 2002.

Its product portfolio comprises of Messenger, Emerge and Xporter. Messenger, enables schools to send personalised SMS, voice and email messages instantly to parents/staff/students/contacts in multiple languages. Now includes the Xpressons app, allowing push notifications on their child’s activity to the parent’s mobile phone.

The following guest post from Groupcall looks at the IDaaS, and the role Microsoft Azure plays in enabling schools to meaningfully move to the cloud.

Groupcall

It’s been an amazing year for Groupcall since BETT 2015. The growing popularity and excitement surrounding IDaaS, our Identity Management platform has been phenomenal. Large numbers of Schools, Multi Academy Trusts and Local Authorities appear to be very engaged by the notion of one learner identity to access many educational services. Who would have thought that identity management in education could be met with such enthusiasm and interest? Groupcall IDaaS has been developed from the ground up to leverage the power, security and scalability of the Microsoft Azure cloud environment. In 2016, Groupcall and Microsoft will continue to work even closer in partnership, which promises to deliver even more impressive and unique extensions to the well-established IDaaS toolkit.

Groupcall IDaaS, in tandem with Microsoft Azure is proven to be the enabler for schools wanting to transition from the traditional classroom to the cloud.

Many schools, Local Authorities and 3rd party organisations have already implemented Groupcall IDaaS as their Identity Management platform. Many others continue to engage with Groupcall to understand the potential for IDaaS and to realise the true benefits of a cloud-based teaching and learning environment. Alongside being the only true educationally focused IDM in the UK, IDaaS also provides key benefits around saving management time, improving child safety, realising the value of available resources and enabling learner collaboration, together with anytime & anywhere access.

So what are Groupcall IDaaS customers enthused by?

Groupcall has long maintained the notion that ‘school data should only be entered once and reused many times’. This approach has been saving schools valuable time and money for many years, whilst also providing the foundation for a classroom that views ICT as a background utility service and thus enabling the key focus to be on teaching and learning. Groupcall IDaaS provisions and manages users and groups from the school Management Information System (MIS) and is automatically updated with any changes to the schools MIS entered at source.

Groupcall IDaaS automatically reads students, staff and groups from your MIS to keep your cloud identities and permissions up to date. If a new teacher starts at your school, or a student moves teaching groups, then IDaaS will automatically and seamlessly keep this information up to date in whichever platforms you choose to share your school data with.

IDaaS provides students, staff, governors and parents with true Single Sign-on access across a range of cloud applications and services. In addition, Groupcall IDaaS is a UK Access Management Federation (UKAMF) authorised Shibboleth Identity Provider, which further extends the resources that are accessible to IDaaS users.

Back in 2007, a study of web users by Microsoft Research found that the average user has six to seven web passwords, each of which is shared across almost four different websites. In addition, each user has about 25 accounts that require passwords, and types an average of 8 passwords per day.

According to a 2014 UK Government commissioned study by Cyber Streetwise, the average user now has 19 passwords to remember!

Groupcall IDaaS is trusted by thousands of teachers and learners across the UK every day to securely access their key resources. IDaaS SSO provides users with access to essential resources and learning tools, removing the burden of remembering numerous different usernames and passwords. When combined with Microsoft Enterprise Mobility suite it is possible for users to securely and safely access services with no password entry at all!

The simplicity and effectiveness of IDaaS empowers schools to automatically manage and provision Microsoft Office 365 from single tenancies to large-scale multi-tenanted implementations. The school MIS is the authoritative data source for people and their appropriate groups, and IDaaS provides the ‘glue’ for automating the provision of ‘who goes where’. Richer information, such as timetables and teaching groups can be automatically be provisioned into the Office 365 environment using Microsoft Graph, which gives each group OneNote and OneDrive spaces right from day one.

Groupcall IDaaS provides a ‘utility’ identity management platform, a Single Sign-on environment, an application provisioning service, improves security, reduces ICT management resource overheads and ultimately increases access to valuable educational resources and educational time. Importantly, Groupcall IDaaS is built on an architecture that enables schools to transition into the cloud at their own pace and on their own terms, simply and efficiently.

Microsoft and Groupcall – Key reasons for partnership

Cloud based teaching and learning is well established and the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approach is complimentary to the Groupcall product ethos. Groupcall IDaaS is very well placed to further enable this strategic advance by leveraging Microsoft Azure technologies to extend into identity management, Single Sign-on and automated user and group provisioning in both the Azure Active Directory and the Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS).

Schools, Academy Groups, Local Authorities and 3rd Party Partners are already using Groupcall IDaaS to provision Active Directory. Now schools can extend this to the Microsoft Azure Active Directory. This, combined with IDaaS integration with Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) presents an exciting opportunity for the journey to a cloud-based school. Switching to the Groupcall integrated IDaaS Azure Active Directory along with EMS, empowers schools to enrol and manage devices in their cloud teaching and learning infrastructure. EMS is effectively device agnostic and supports iOS, Android, OSX and Windows. ‘EMS Intune’ provides mobile device management, mobile application management, and PC management capabilities all from the cloud. Using EMS Intune, schools can provide access to applications, data, and resources from virtually anywhere on almost any device, whilst ensuring that all school information is kept highly secure.

IDaaS has been developed to readily facilitate the migration to Azure Active Directory and EMS with many clear benefits to a school, Local Authority or Academy Group. This ensures that schools, on their own terms, can use IDaaS to authenticate and manage their desktops, laptops and now mobile devices on and off premise.

Furthermore, Groupcall’s applications and services, including Emerge for Web, Messenger and Xpressions, fully support the use of an IDaaS Azure Active Directory account.

IDaaS customers using Groupcall’s fully automated and seamless Azure Active Directory and Enterprise Mobility Suite integration can now benefit from the additional access to a free limited Emerge for Web license. This means that you can securely access your MIS data from any web browser enabled device, anytime, anywhere. In addition, it is also possible to access Groupcall partner and UKAMF resources from your IDaaS Azure Active Directory Single Sign-on.

IDaaS is perfectly positioned to unlock the door to a true cloud-based teaching and learning environment that can also help to overcome the anxieties and complexities of BYOD in education.

Groupcall and Microsoft are both ISO/IEC 27001:2013 accredited and all services can be procured via the UK Crown Commercial Service.

Summary of Groupcall IDaaS Key Benefits:

  • Cost effective education cloud Identity Management Platform
  • Connects directly to school MIS data, independent of the MIS platform used in school
  • Automated provisioning of numerous schools services, including Office 365, Google, Shibboleth and many others.
  • One identity made easy for learners and teachers to access various resources under one login credential
  • Supports any BYOD strategy implemented across schools, Academy Groups and Local Authorities
  • Removes the burden of managing different identity databases by provisioning AD and web services all from the MIS via IDaaS
  • IDaaS is native to Microsoft Azure, providing a core strategic foundation for an Office365 rollout

If you would like to understand how Groupcall IDaaS or other Groupcall services can benefit your school, Local Authority or Academy Group, you can meet the team at BETT on stand B188 from the 20th to 23rd January or email sales@groupcall.com


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