Earlier this month, Microsoft announced the availability of Office 365 for Education and the end of the Live@edu service. While Redmond Channel Partner reported that schools will have 12 to 18 months to migrate, the migration will pose problems for many schools.
From One Account to Two
According to Microsoft, after the migration, students, faculty, and staff will have two accounts. SkyDrive and Instant Messenger services will require a personal Windows Live Account, meaning that these services (and others) will be outside of the security and management domain of the Office 365 account.
Loss of Features
The most significant loss of features in the move is the loss of supervision policies. Supervision policies are the rules used to filter “Bad Words” and to manage “Closed Campus” policies. These feature, critical to how schools manage student accounts and adhere to school policies and regulations, can be recreated manually in Office 365 using PowerShell scripting and a range of admin console settings.
Several features and settings will need to be completely rebuilt as part of the migration process, including:
- Mailbox Plans, which are limited by license type in Office 365
- Role Assignment Policies, which cannot be managed at the mailbox level in Office 365, requiring changes to global end user roles and policies that must them be assigned to specific mailboxes
The migration process itself will be problematic for many schools. Microsoft’s best practice documentation recommends going through the upgrade process from Live@edu to Office 365 before fully configuring the Office 365 service. The sequence of actions will result in downtime as well as the loss of existing custom URL addresses.
Additionally, individual end users have “before upgrade” tasks to complete that, if not done properly, will require IT staff to touch every machine as a local administrator.
Finally, Microsoft’s own FAQ site mentions that users and administrators may lose the ability to access certain on-page links, the Exchange Control Panel, and many Exchange Control Panel features “for a few days” after the migration. This could leave users and administrators unable to move forward.
While not as bad as the (almost non-existent) upgrade process from BPOS to Office 365, the migration from Live@edu to Office 365 is demanding technically and with respect to planning, administration, and communication. The effort to migrate is still comparable to moving from Live@edu to cloud solutions from other vendors, such as Google Apps for Education.