Singapore Institute of Technology - SIT takes the fast track with Office 365

Singapore Institute of Technology - SIT takes the fast track with Office 365

Established in 2009, the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) represents the centre of a unique tripartite collaborative model, responsible for planning, managing and implementing degree programmes offered by reputable overseas universities in partnership with the five local polytechnics.

SIT adopts a distributed campus model where an SIT building will be constructed within the grounds of the each of the five Polytechnics. This model allows greater synergy and efficiency by giving SIT students greater access to existing resources within each Polytechnic. Three years into its formation, SIT already offers some 26 degree programmes to about 2,500 students, supported by a teaching faculty of about 40 comprising SIT staff and lecturers from overseas university partners.

"IT'S TRUSTED, it's tested, and it's free or low cost." As far as the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) was concerned, the choice of Office 365 was a no brainer as it set its sights on delivering a unified communications platform for its students and faculty, said Director of Communications and Information Technology Huang Ee Choon.

When it was first established in 2009, SIT adopted the cloud-based Live@Edu service to meet the email needs of its students. "Compared with implementing our own email server, with Life@Edu we didn't have to set up and test the infrastructure, and the sign-on process was managed by the service rather than us having to allocate manpower to handle it. That made quite a huge difference in terms of time and effort," said Huang. Another factor was the assurance of support, scalability and reliability that came with Live@Edu, with an industry giant like Microsoft behind the service.

In April 2012, when SIT wanted to introduce a more holistic communications platform for its students and faculty, the decision to move from Live@Edu to Office 365 was an obvious one.

Towards more holistic communications

With the SIT corporate offices using the on-premise version of Microsoft Exchange, Office 365 allowed for seamless integration between the two systems. "If we were to use another platform for the students, another component may be needed to bridge the two systems," said Huang.

Beyond email, SIT's ultimate goal was to deliver unified communications for its students and staff. In view of this, it evaluated Lync Online, one of the components of Office 365, and also looked at Microsoft Communications Server. However, based on its past experiences with Live@Edu, it saw no reason to go back to an on-premise solution. "From what we have observed, Live@Edu is used extensively by many organisations, and especially by a lot of educational institutions. It appears to be reliable and secure. We hardly see or hear any negative news about it," said Huang.

In terms of data protection, SIT has also been satisfied with the level of security provided by Live@Edu in the two years that it has been using the system. "We will expect Office365 Team to provide equal and better security for our SIT student mailbox," said Lee Kok Sin, Assistant Manager, Communications and Information Technology, SIT.

Cost was another factor that made SIT lean towards Office 365. While Microsoft Communications Server offered similar capabilities, Lync Online was available free to educational institutions as a component of Office 365. "It was a very easy decision for us to move to Office 365 and to implement Lync for staff and students for unified communications, said Huang. "It's there, it's working, and it's free or low cost. We don't have to crack our brain to look for another solution."

The deployment of Office 365 also provided SIT with an opportunity to introduce single login for its students. Previously, SIT was using Active Directory for its internal systems, while Live@Edu made use of separate active Directory accounts managed by Microsoft. This meant that students had to maintain two IDs. Office 365, however, allows federation with Active Directory, which means students can make use of one ID to access both systems.

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