Google Apps vs Live@Edu – after the setup

September 20, 2010 § 1 Comment

So I’ve finished setting up both Live@Edu and Google Apps for Education, and we’re running the two side by side.

Creating users is pretty straightforward with both, and I went through a session with Live@Edu about how to provision users using PowerShell, which is pretty cool.  I’m not that interested in doing a manual upload or creating users by hand, however, since if we go with either of these tools, I’d imagine we’d just have it link up to our Active Directory to automatically create accounts.

Maybe I’m just being nitpicky, but I’m finding that the functionality within Live@Edu is inconsistent.  Some menus you hover over to get a drop down, some you have to click on. If you click on a document, you’re only viewing, not editing right away, and for me, that’s a backwards way of doing things.  I’m used to opening a document and being able to edit right away.

I’ve found a little related glitch in Google Docs.  If I sign into docs and immediately click on a spreadsheet, I only get view access.  If I wait for Docs to refresh a few seconds after I sign in, then click on the spreadsheet, I get edit access.  Likewise, if I’m in view only mode, close the document, then re-open it, I have edit access.

Besides that, here are the other things I’ve found in Live@Edu that are quirky or just don’t work at all:

Within the Office Live window, there is a link at the top for Hotmail, even though our organization uses Outlook, but clicking that link will take you to your Outlook inbox.

Some of the menu items just flat out don’t work.  Within Outlook live, if I click on “Recent Documents,” “Your Documents,” or “Your Groups,” nothing happens.  But if I click on any of the “New” buttons (New Word Document, New Excel Workbook, etc.) it takes me NOT to a new document, but to a screen where I have to click AGAIN to create the new document.

I have also found that if I try to get a link to a document that’s in my documents within sky drive, it takes me to a permissions page instead of giving me the link. Evidently this is because the My Documents folder is locked, but if that’s the case “get a link” or “send a link” shouldn’t even be in the menu.

And on that note, trying to edit permissions is an inconsistent task. Clicking “Edit Permissions” in one place takes me to where I can see who the owner is, but cannot actually edit permissions to a folder.  Another click is required…again.

Now, all of that being said, there is one feature of Live that I really love, and that’s Live Mesh.

I’m currently using the beta of Live Mesh, which is actually kind of old.  There is a newer version called Live Sync, but they essentially do the same thing – sync folders between the cloud and your computer(s).

I have Live Mesh installed at home as well as at work, and I have a couple of folders I’ve designated for syncing.  What happens is, as long as I’m logged in to Live Mesh, when I add a document to the folder on my work computer, it is synced to my live desktop in the cloud, and also to the same folder on my home computer.  If I’m not logged into Mesh at home, the next time I log in, it will sync the changes.

This is almost exactly what we need for our teachers, and it’s such a powerful piece that it almost overshadows all of the other glitches within the system.

The thing is, Microsoft is going to end support for XP machines when the 2011 version of Mesh comes out.

Some notable difference between Mesh and Sync are going to be combined. Currently with Mesh you have 5 gigs of storage space on a separate “live desktop” that is unrelated to your sky drive, so if you have something in your sky drive and you want a hard copy of it on every machine you own, you have to either download it to every machine, or download it to the folder you have synced in Mesh and download it again every time you make changes.

Sync only has 2 gigs of synced storage available, but it syncs directly to your sky drive so any changes you make are automatically reflected within your sky drive and any synced folders on all machines.

The 2011 version is going to have 5 gigs of synced storage linked within the sky drive, so it’s the best of both worlds.  The biggest drawback is that it will only be available for machines running Vista, Windows 7, and Mac OSX.  While this won’t be an issue for most home users with newer machines, it will be a huge problem within our district.  It will be at least 5 years before all of our machines are moved from running Windows XP to Windows 7.

The other feature of Sync that I’m not sure about is the ability to do a remote desktop session with any of your synced computers that are turned on and logged in to sync.  I’ve asked our folks at Microsoft if this has the ability to be disabled within Live@Edu because of the potential for people to bypass our content filters by using sync to connect to a home computer that is unfiltered.

Overall, Live@Edu is growing on me, and they have some really killer features that Google doesn’t even come close to.  However, I think the functionality within Google is a lot better, and will take a lot less training and cause a lot less frustration on the part of our teachers.

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Google Apps vs Live@Edu – initial impressions

September 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

As I said earlier, one of my major projects this year will be comparing Google Apps for Education and Live@Edu to see if either will work as a solution for our district.  I’ve started the process of getting both set up so that our department can test them side by side and decide if one, both, or neither, should be pursued as a beta with teachers, and ultimately, students.

I have a contact inside Microsoft – someone I went to high school with, who has gotten me in touch with some of the folks inside Live@Edu.  My own contact actually handles portions of the email systems within Live@Edu.

For Google, I don’t really have any insider info, but I’ve sat through a couple of webinars and have gathered a lot of info from the people I follow on Twitter.

We are not looking to replace our email system right away. Rather, our focus is more on finding a replacement, or at the very least, a supplement to our current in-house storage.

We give our teachers 10 gigs of space on our server, and 500 megs of space in their email inbox. Students don’t currently have email accounts through the district, and I honestly don’t know how much storage space we give them with their network accounts.

In comparing the core of each program, side by side, a couple of things stuck out to me.

It appears that Live@Edu is based more around the email side of things, and less around the online apps, yet their storage limits are much greater than Google Apps.  Live@Edu give everyone 10 gigs of email space and 25 gigs of online storage, while Google gives just over 7 gigs of email space, but only 1 gig of online storage.

So at first glance, it appears that Live@Edu would be a better choice for us, simply because of the storage limits. We don’t want to go backward as far as the space we’re giving teachers, but we could run either of these as a supplement to our in house storage, rather than a complete replacement.

I also started the process today of setting up both so that we could test them out, and the setup process is very different for both.  The Google Apps setup is actually pretty simple – you put a file on your web server, or add a CNAME record to DNS. We’re actually doing both because I’m not sure the html file will work because our website will not work without a www and the URL showing for Google has it without.

The enrollment process for Live@Edu appears to be much more difficult, and it actually scares me a little because it looks like it is completely based around changing where you email is delivered to.  We’re going to set up a testing subdomain to do this, but the directions for setting it up are at least half a page with several links to many other sites with descriptions and instructions.  I’m going to tackle that tomorrow after we get our subdomain set up.

So, to reiterate, my initial impressions – better storage space with Live@Edu, easier setup with Google Apps.

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