Thursday, 19 March 2020

Keep Calm and Get SaaS.

The recent announcement of school closures in the UK and across Europe has thrown up a raft of new challenges, one of which is  - “how can we teach without a school”.

For those establishments who have made the move to Software as a Service (SaaS) and reduced the role of local servers and infrastructure this may not be too much of a problem. If implemented correctly and protected by a cloud user directory such as Azure AD or Google it’s quite possible that learning could continue remotely so long as students and teachers have access to the internet and some form of mobile device.

But what can be done for those schools whose data and systems are locked behind the school firewall for the next few months.

First, it’s never too late to stand up an educational account in either Microsoft Office 365 or Google G Suite for Education and start moving services to the cloud. In response to the crisis Google are fast tracking school requests and it’s possible to be up and running with a tenancy within a few days. Both platforms have the ability to quickly import accounts, set up shared storage accounts and move data across. It may not be perfect but your school now has a fully functional collaborative workspace that can operate from any location.

If you are going Google, Classroom is going to be the answer to remote teaching for the next few months. This is now a fully featured, mature service and since it’s entirely web based and free from any licensing you can have a remote learning platform up and running in days.

Both Office 365 and G Suite have integrated video conferencing and messaging platforms that can be used for teaching. Google has made the premium features of Google Meet free to all G Suite for Education customers until July 1, 2020. This includes the ability to record meetings, livestream up to 100k people and add 250 people to a Hangout.

Consider getting hold of some Chromebooks for remote working. These devices are dead easy to set up and manage and work just as well with the Office 365 web apps as with G Suite. If you already have a remote access solution based on Citrix, VMware or MS Terminal services, Chromebooks are the dream client platform. If you can’t afford any hardware and only have a stock of underpowered laptops that aren't up to the mobile challenge, you can easily re-purpose them with Neverware and plug them back into your new cloud services.

Last of all,  if this all seems a bit overwhelming, you can make the transition as easy as possible by contacting a partner or supplier who can help you with the setup process and training.

Keep calm - contact a platform partner or just roll up your sleeves and get started with SaaS.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Provisioning OneDrive for new users.

Although you can create a student account in Office 365 and allocate OneDrive as a resource, behind the scenes the storage location is not actually assigned to the user account.

This normally occurs the first time the users tries to access or browse to their OneDrive which sometimes causes a noticeable delay before the site opens. For one off accounts this not too much of an issue but for a class groups in the first day of term it's not something you want to be dealing with.

In this situation it's a good idea to pre-provisioned OneDrive to improve the user experience and reduce the number of hands in the air.

First create a list of student accounts and save it as a file. For example a text file named users.txt that contains:

Next run the PowerShell command Request-SPOPersonalSite  referencing the file you created.

$users = Get-Content -path "C:\users.txt" Request-SPOPersonalSite -UserEmails $users

That will kick off a background task to create the site for all accounts. If you are pre-provisioning OneDrive for a whole year group it might take up to 24 hours for the OneDrive locations to be created, so be patient or plan ahead,

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Getting the Hardware ID for AutoPilot Enrolment.

If you have a new device its very easy to get the hardware information you need to enrol with Autopilot without going through the whole OOBE setup.

Start the device and wait a few second until the region selection page appears.

Press the following key combination SHIFT + F10

A CMD prompt will appear, type in PowerShell and hit Enter

The next step involves creating a local directory to store the information.

md scripts
cd scripts

You then need to set the execution level.

Set-ExecutionPolicy -ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned

At the command prompt run the following commands.

Save-Script -Name Get-WindowsAutoPilotInfo -Path c:\scripts

The NuGet provider is required for this action. Press Y and Enter. NuGet will be downloaded and installed.

If you run a listing on the directory again you'll see the script downloaded to the scripts folder.

Run the following command;

Get-WindowsAutoPilotInfo.ps1 -outputfile c:\scripts\intunehwid.csv

This writes the required data into the intunehwid.csv file. This file needs to be uploaded to InTune either using either the Windows Store or the Device Management portal.

If you are enrolling a number of devices it's probably a good idea to script the whole process and run it directly from the USB key, appending the output data to a file on the drive rather then saving locally.

After that run; shutdown /p

.. to turn off the device.