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Kentucky Shifts Education System to [email protected]

Kentucky switched over its PK-12 public education system to [email protected] to meet its e-mail, communications and collaboration needs.

The move affects about 700,000 students, faculty and staff. Microsoft called the switch "one of the largest cloud deployments and fastest migrations of all time," in an announcement issued on Thursday.

According to information released by the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) this week, the move will save $6.3 million over the course of four years in operational costs. The bulk of the savings is being realized from "reducing ongoing operations, maintenance and administration costs, as well as hardware and power costs," according to a Microsoft spokesperson.

KDE previously housed about 180 servers on premises that ran Microsoft Exchange Server 2003.

[email protected] is Microsoft's free hosted portal, communications and collaboration suite for education. The cross-platform service provides a range of hosted solutions for K-12 and higher education institutions. Those solutions at KDE include e-mail (with 10 GB of storage per user), Windows Live SkyDrive storage (25 GB), and various collaborative technologies (video chat, document sharing and instant messaging). [email protected] is now in use by more than 11 million academic users in more than 10,000 schools worldwide, according to Microsoft.

A large chunk of the KDE user base has not yet switched over to the new system. However, the bulk of the conversion -- more than 500,000 users -- has already been carried out. The entire initial rollout occurred over a single weekend in late May, a feat that, according to Chuck Austin from KDE's Office of Education Technology, was made possible through a collaborative effort between the department and Microsoft.

"Historically, it would have required months and potentially years to migrate hundreds of thousands of people to a new solution," Austin said in a statement released Thursday. "With Microsoft's cloud technology and a collaborative focus between Microsoft and the Kentucky Department of Education on the planning aspects, we were able to dramatically reduce the implementation cycle and migrate everyone in a single weekend."

A Microsoft representative told us that the remaining users who have not been switched over yet will be migrated "before the start of the new school year." Priority went to those users who were still in session, the spokesperson said.

In addition to cost savings, the move to [email protected] will allow the Kentucky public education system to provide all of its schools with new and more advanced tools for communications and collaboration, including schools in poorer districts that might not have been able to keep up with those schools in more affluent areas, according to Terry Holliday, Kentucky's commissioner of education.

"With [email protected], all school districts in Kentucky have access to the same powerful Microsoft applications and Web 2.0 technologies," Holliday said in a statement released on Thursday. "That means we can close the technology gap between rich and poor districts and level the playing field for students regardless of where they live. Because they are 'in the cloud,' Kentucky schools will always stay up-to-date with the latest innovations. And the features are far greater than anything we could have afforded to offer to every school in Kentucky."

About the Author

Dave Nagel is the executive editor for 1105 Media's educational technology online publications and electronic newsletters.

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