Network Engineers/ IT Managers/General IT or Networks people of ZiiP!


#1

I’ve come with my cap in hand.

Tl;dr: Some people are pulling some stuff but when they’re challenged they’re pissing in my pocket and trying to tell me its raining and I need some more knowledgable people to help me fight it for the sake of the kids, the staff and the wider school.

We’ve got mountains of IT issues at my place that have always flabbergasted me and I’ve tried to fight against them in the past with varying results but a recent one has come up and I need to find myself some dooms day weapons to fight this doozie.

I know of a few of you that work in positions where you’d know enough to possibly advise me - I wanted to ask if any of you would be willing to help me out by answering or confirming/denying a few claims?

The up and down is, two members of staff in positions of power over the IT infrastructure want us migrated from Google to Office 365, with one of the two members of staff actually having some kind of personal vendetta against Google.

By ‘from google’ I mean we’re a Google school so we have managed google emails connected to our staff/pupil/data management system and Active Directory and access to all free google apps and all single sign on services. Everything is setup around the school’s domain name which was originally acquired via a package deal with another company for a school website, a VLE and a customised Google email address and wider managed Google environment.

To give you some idea of the level of either incompetence or malice we’re dealing with in this setting, in September the head of the IT team told a member of the Senior Leadership that a license issue with VMWare (we don’t pay for enough seats, that is the issue.) was actually the result of a different issue the fix for which was: A VLAN cable.

Potentially opening myself up to ridicule, so far as I am aware, aside from the physical cables used to build the machine you run the VLAN on, there are no cables involved outside of the physical ethernet cables connecting the machine to the wider network and there certainly isn’t such thing as a VLAN ‘cable’…?

A few of the recent relevant ones that some of you may be able to confirm/deny/wtf for me:

  • Transitioning our domain name and associated email addresses to Microsoft as part of Office 365 still makes those email address Google addresses (even in spite of the fact that that they don’t even have @gmail.com in the addresses) and because of this all Google apps (Docs/Calendar/etc) and single sign on will still work - Tasty tasty truth or Fake News?
  • Office 365 does not cost the school anything because we’re under an education license, the transition will not cost the school anything and ongoing support will not cost anything - Tasty tasty truth or Fake News?
  • Our Google environment costs the school even though we’ve ditched the services of our previous provider and retain only the managed Google environment (managed internally) and the domain name - there are apparently still some costs involved with Google that isn’t the general domain name cost - Tasty tasty truth or Fake News?
  • Migrating from VMWare to HyperV incurs no costs - the migration is totally free and there are no ongoing operating or license costs with HyperV, HyperV is essentially totally free - Tasty tasty truth or Fake News?
  • We pay through the nose for the hardware to run VMware, the VMware licenses AND we pay through the nose for support we can’t use because the VMware support is based entirely in the US and work totally outside of our time zone so we can never contact them - The hardware and licensing costs I totally buy, but the claims about the support sound totally spurious to me - Tasty tasty truth or Fake News?

There are a bunch of others, but these ones are the mains ones that had alarm bells ringing for me.

Any help would be much appreciated by not just me, but kids and staff across the school.


#2

Will give a better reply later but o365 has a monthly subscription fee regards of level. And moving from VMware to hypervisor will cost. Have you ever know Microsoft to do anything for free.


#3

I can’t confirm anything for your actual questions, but in so far as “VLAN cables”’ go, yeah, the guy’s a ditz. I look forward to the days when we have twisted pair cabling intelligent enough to interpret voltage levels and give a shit how virtual or not the network architecture is


#4

Without knowing a bit more I would not be able to answer most of the questions. As Hammy said already, there is cost to using office 365, might be cheaper to what you are using now as it could go under an umbrella with the education sector in the country.
I have my doubts on the single sign on working afterwards.
VLAN cable is a new term for me. I know what a VLAN is and that is not cable dependant. Perhaps they moved the cable to a port that has a different VLAN.Now that should not help with a lisencing issue.


#5

For me, it was such an odd thing for them to claim that I actually doubted myself if a VLAN cable even existed…I wondered if they meant they need to move some ports around but I was told directly that wasn’t the case and they literally meant they needed an item called a VLAN cable.

Cheers for the feedback so far everyone, I’ve been on to other schools as well gathering up as much information as I can before I march in and start tackling the rubbish they’re spouting.


#6

There is deffo no such thing as a VLAN cable :rofl: they were probably trying to “blind you with science” but if it was VLAN related then they wouldn’t even necessarily need to move cables around providing they know what they are doing!

What is the reason to swap hypervisor? Is it licencing costs? There are limitations with Hyper-V vs VMWare but it depends on what your current setup looks like in terms of redundancy etc.

I can’t offer much advice around the googly to O365 stuff but I’m aware of MS letting charities/schools etc. have free stuff or crazy discounts on stuff.


#7

VLAN cables. That’s a new one. Can you give me his details? I bet i can provide VLAN cables for less than he’s paying whoever’s charging him the markup on generic cat5/6. You should probably just replace all your existing cabling with this stuff i’ve got/will get.

migrating infrastructure incurs the cost in time, troubleshooting etc, and depending on the level of support you want both for whatever migration and ongoing in the future. I work with vmware stuff, and our support contract gives us access to guys working UK hours based in Ireland. we also have 24/7 support to some extent, but then we’re bigger than a school so it’s probably a cost thing.

If the guy is claiming sticking with google is costing money, then he needs to detail those costs so you can effectively compare with alternatives; whatever you do now will impact your cost going forward and that’s all that should really matter; the one-off cost of doing anything now would be capex/investing in yourself.

VMware licensing has been a mess for a long time.

The google -> o365 stuff I’m not familiar enough with to comment; we have to run old versions of everything for ‘stability’, so i’m currently using office professional plus 2010…

This might be an odd question if you don’t, but do you have change controls and a change management policy?


#8

Quickly looked into o365 pricing for schools and it’s not overly bad. There is a free version but it only offers online versions of office. Not great. Next level up is a few quid per user. Gives each user a full copy of office. Now this can get expensive when you take in all you’re students. Top level seems to be about 6/8 quid per user. Offers slightly more control by the looks of things. Slight price difference between student and teacher/staff accounts.

Also as adrock has said, we have a UK/Ireland number for VMware support so phoning America is bollocks


#9

They could be calling the US because they have the kit located somewere else with someone else managing the server and these someone elses have a contract via the US.
I believe the VMware guys are in Cork(one of my old work mates was working for them in sales for a while).


#10

Thanks for all the replies everyone - when I’m home I’ll sit down and write up some proper replies answering some of the questions you guys have come back with.


#11

Online version of Office software is poor, frankly. Low functionality and slooooooooooooooow compared to the full versions. Yes, can help reduce storage load, but the “cost” to users, to me, doesn’t make it worthwhile. I never use it even though we have it available at work.

That’s all I got :smiley:


#12

Interesting. Open Uni have just migrated away from Google Ed as well over the last year. Switching off completely very soon. All gone to MS now. Their domains changed for sure. I lost my OU GMail account. Gets switched off soon. Went from @open.ac.uk to MS domains on @ou.ac.uk

And shit!! I just done some CISCO assignements which featured cabling stuff. I must have missed the VLAN Cable subject. Maybe thats in the advanced section of secret cables still to come. I look forward to it.


#13

I know some form of deal is plausible, but totally free forever not just for each member of staff and pupil in work but also for them to take home for free forever just sounds too fishy to be true.

I’m convinced it won’t work from what Kate has told me from her time managing our Google environment a few years ago and I’m convinced that the people pulling all this know it too.

Cost and reliability, but the latter reason is rubbish because the issue we have is not having enough licenses, not stability issues. From what I know of the school’s redundancy setup, it is just barely appropriate - I once found the backup tapes from the first two years the school was open in a random Technician cupboard in a roses tin under some text books on a top shelf.

You might be joking there, but this guy seems to be talked in to anything. We’ve had so many ‘game changer’ software packages or services bought in to the school that have totally and utterly failed that I just don’t know how he still has a job.

They say that they get free support but in a way that implies the only support available is free and because of that it is timezone restricted, so it seems it is just a blatant lie on their part.

This is where it gets interesting: The guy claims that staying with Google is costing the school money because…of server storage space.

Yep. Using Google means that the school has to pay a fortune for storage space. Why, I hear you ask? Well, because we have Google AND we have the Office suite, staff are creating their documents in Office and then uploading them to Google Drive but then not deleting the originals from the network.

And that cost/issue is a result of the school using Google.

If I understand what you mean, then no. They don’t have any formal project or change tracking system of any kind outside of the help desk which is literally only to track logged call status.

I’ve rang around to a handful of schools and the online only package you mention seems to be the one everyone has but because the online versions are not 100% fully featured, most of these schools have gone back to an older cheaper version of office to use locally on each machine along side Office 365 - defeating the purpose of going to Office 365 in the first place.

Our kit is based on-site. We have our own VM server, we just pay the license for the software.

This is what I’m hearing across the board, and even funnier I’m hearing it isn’t much better than the Google docs Apps and actually worse in some cases since the collaborative elements of 365 aren’t a scratch on Google’s.

The common theme I’m pinning down from the talks I’ve had with other schools is that the support teams in these schools just don’t seem to be able to work out how to manage a Google environment properly. I know through Kate that the management tools are a bit janky and can be convoluted, but if you go on the training courses that Google recommends, a lot of which are completely free, then you’ll be equipped to manage it just like Kate was.

I’m on a crusade with this now. I’m going to the demo on Monday, I’ve already spoken with my Line Manager and several other staff with leadership roles in other departments that use Google heavily, I’ve done my best to get a few people that have the principal’s ear to get him to take a closer look at what is happening. It is just insane that someone like me who is several layers down in the Leadership hierarchy is the one getting involved and trying to put the breaks on something with such dramatic implications for the way that our kids learn and the way staff are able to do their jobs without it crushing them completely. #rant

Thanks for all the responses guys.


#14

Since cost appears to be one of the main issues there will be some challenges moving from VMware to hyper-v if you dont have new hosts and storage to migrate over to but that might be part of a budget to refresh the hardware if its old?

How many hosts and VM’s are we talking?

Ideally you’d need some new hyper-v hosts and shared storage setting up to migrate the VM’s over to since you can get tools for converting vmware to hyper-v and vice versa and should be fairly easy as long as there are no hiccups.

What sort of backup solution do you run? Depending on what it is and whether it backs up at the VM level you might even be able to use that to convert the VM’s for you by doing an out of place restore into hyper-v.


#15

So in my work we have office 365 + all the associated things such as email and onedrive. Works well. I generally edit my documents on the PC as we have the full office package installed as well. I’m not sure how much it costs, but considering that we are a part of a very large company it must not have been much. We used to have VMs for certain things, but these were moved over to the MS cloud services as it was cheaper. Now I can’t give you any figures as I was not involved with these projects. I do know the people involved and they would not have done it if it was not saving money. These do tend to be case dependant so the school might loose money instead of saving it.
It is good that you are going to the demo, the one MS did for us had been very informative.


#16

As usual, very late to the party, however I can provide a little clarity on some stuff courtesy of my previous role:

(yes this has already been covered) VLAN’s are set up within software, so that is flat out BS (“Virtual” Local Area Network being the critical distinction).

There is no way to get proper 365 completely free, even University of Cambridge is spending what amounts to about £1.50 per user per year on obscene discounts (365 Enterprise though, rather than Education).

The SSO can be maintained, provided you have a SaaS like Auth0 in place, or get someone who is very good with C, Azure and SAML to produce an in-house solution one for you (what University of Cambridge does). But I suspect that unless you have in excess of 10,000 users, the former would be more cost effective.

Working on the assumption by Google, you are meaning G Suite for Education, that is entirely free and Google have a vested interest in keeping it that way. However, if you are using G Suite Enterprise for Education, that does have price - $4 per month per user.

HyperV is completely free provided the host machine is using a correctly licensed copy of Windows Server insert year here appropriate to the number of physical cores on the actual machine, it’s always been that way, and I’ve never understood why anyone would willingly navigate the VMWare licensing minefield if they have MSFT deals in place.