Shropshire Council upgrades from iPads and BlackBerrys to Microsoft technology

Shropshire Council reworks desktop IT strategy, using its Microsoft enterprise agreement to support devices running Office 365

Shropshire Council has reworked its desktop IT strategy, making use of its Microsoft enterprise agreement to support multiple devices running Office 365.

So far, the council has replaced Windows XP with Windows 7 and swapped BlackBerry devices for Nokia Lumia handsets. It is now replacing Apple iPads with Lenovo devices and Microsoft Surface Pro hybrid tablets. 

The organisation has also deployed Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite, which is helping IT to meet its £500,000 cost savings target for 2015-2016.

"We had an Orange Mobile contract which came with the Blackberrys. At the end of the contract we wanted to move away from Blackberrys," said ICT manager Barry Wilkinson, who joined Shropshire Council in July 2013.

The council switched telco providers, opting for a £5 per user, per month contract with Vodafone. This contract included Nokia Lumia smartphones, to replace the council's Blackberry handsets, which Wilkinson said were limited compared with more modern devices.

The council turned to the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite to support user identity and access management (IAM), mobile device management (MDM), and file and data protection capabilities.

When asked how mobile workers were supported on the public services network (PSN), Wilkinson described PSN as "an absolute nightmare for IT". 

"You can’t get on PSN from a mobile device. We need to have a separate email system that sits outside PSN. Users connect via Direct Access on a laptop or Citrix," he said.

Shropshire Council has deployed Microsoft InTune to replicate the device management capabilities of its previous BlackBerry Enterprise Server that secured its BlackBerry phones. 

One of the challenges the council faced when swapping from BlackBerry to Microsoft was the auto-enrolment. 

"InTune used to take 24 hours to apply PSN controls, so we couldn’t deploy a new phone until it had been enrolled," said Wilkinson. And if a Lumia phone was lost the new one would need to go through the same 24-hour enrolment process.

But by working with Microsoft, Wilkinson reduced the enrolment process for new phones on InTune to a more acceptable time of one hour.

Users of the Microsoft Lumia smartphones include staff in social care, traffic, car parks, leisure services and finance. The smartphones support unified communication using the Microsoft Lync app.

Deploying in the cloud

Shropshire already had the rights to deploy Office 365 under its Microsoft enterprise agreement. Wilkinson said it was very cost-effective because the package provides 100GB of personal storage and email for £50 per month. 

"We had a situation where Exchange was getting full and we needed to invest in additional hardware and storage. It made more sense to make the jump to the cloud than invest £200,000 in new storage drives," Wilkinson said.

Office 365 also meets CESG IL2 accreditation, which means it can be used within government as the tool of choice for email and SharePoint.

The council is also considering OneDrive as primary storage, which Wilkinson said would take pressure away from Shopshire’s datacentre.

Wilkinson said the council moving in a cloud direction and is investigating what Azure Active Directory will look like and how to integrate different providers' cloud services, such as integrating Azure with AWS.

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