Universiti Sains Malaysia Microsoft Office
Universiti Sains Malaysia Microsoft Office,
Leading Malaysian University transforms IT environment to become a global university
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) has come a long way since its initial intake of 57 students in 1969. Nearly half a century later, it now has over 31,000 enrolled students and has earned Research University (RU) and Accelerated Programme for Excellence (APEX) status. However, for USM to achieve its goal of becoming a globally ranked university, it needed to overcome key IT challenges such as improving email, efficiency, and productivity.
Recognizing the digital challenges of institutional growth
Malaysia has endeavored to improve the performance of its education system over the last several decades. The nation’s efforts are reflected in the quality of its educational institutions and USM is a shining example of education excellence. As Malaysia’s second established university in 1969, USM has grown from an initial enrollment of 57 students to over 31,000. USM has also earned several key academic distinctions including Research University (RU) and Apex Accelerated Programme for Excellence (APEX) status.
USM was well on its way to achieving its goal of becoming a globally recognized education institution. However, the limitations of its on-premises IT infrastructure made it increasingly difficult for the university to manage email for staff and students. “Running multiple email platforms for our staff and students created major challenges for our IT department, as managing the maintenance and operation of several server systems strained our IT resources,” relates Zulham Bin Hamdan, Director/Chief Information Officer (CIO), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).
To remedy this growing technological challenge, USM began to evaluate its IT environment, identifying three key areas for improvement. First, the university needed an email solution that was secure and that provided more storage. Second, it needed a secure productivity solution to help improve collaboration both internally and between staff and students. Third, all solutions needed to be efficient and cost-effective to implement.
Modernizing the IT environment to meet today’s challenges
The university began evaluating several possible IT solutions. After careful consideration, USM chose Microsoft to address its digital needs. “When Office 365 came out, cloud computing was still very new, so it wasn’t fully embraced by some of the faculty,” says Zulham. “But we saw the benefits of managing our email on a unified platform and compromised by initially implementing it in a hybrid configuration.”
The email challenge was a major concern. USM was using on-premises servers and multiple commercial and open-source collaborative suites to provide email for staff and students. This created a situation where it became difficult to manage the access rights for different applications systems and devices. To overcome this challenge, the university decided to manage its email on a single platform using the Microsoft Exchange cloud.
Collaboration was another key challenge that needed resolution. Due to the previous IT environment, it was difficult to provide a secure way for staff and students to collaborate. However, this issue was resolved by implementing Microsoft Active Directory (AD) to connect the university’s information system with its databases and manage its service portals with the security of Single Sign-on (SSO). The addition of Microsoft Office 365 with One Drive also provided the communication tools and storage needed to improve collaboration and productivity.
Finally, the university needed an IT infrastructure solution that was efficient and cost-effective. By adopting a single cloud-based platform for email and using secure SSO, USM could reduce its capital expenses (CAPEX) on on-premises servers and operating expenses (OPEX) by reducing maintenance costs and by eliminating the need to expand its IT headcount.
Measuring the impact of digital transformation
For USM, choosing Microsoft as its digital transformation partner achieved measurable results that helped improve the way it operates as an institution of higher learning.
Improved email security and storage
At first, the move to a single, cloud-based platform for email service was embraced by 80% of staff, with the remaining 20% opting to remain with the on-premises system, due to security concerns and lack of familiarity. However, within a year, 100% of staff were onboarded — gaining the benefits of improved email storage and security with email quarantine services and wireless authentication. “Before Office 365, we could only provide staff with 500 MB of storage for their email accounts, but now we can provide them with 50 GB of email storage, 1 TB of OneDrive storage and the security of cloud,” relates Zulham.
Enhanced internal and external collaboration
Through the adoption of cloud-based email service, USM was able to take full advantage of Office 365 and OneDrive for greater mobility and storage space. And staff and students can now collaborate on many devices and operating systems including iOS and Android. This makes it easier to share, store, and collaborate on documents anytime, anywhere. “Office 365 and OneDrive have the right tools and storage space to improve collaboration between professors and students on documents like Word or PowerPoint,” says Zulham.
Reduced OPEX and CAPEX
The implementation of Active Directory not only helped improve USM’s email infrastructure, it also reduced OPEX and CAPEX. By consolidating all email accounts under the Exchange cloud-based platform with SSO, USM was able to save about RM 400,000 annually through licensing, the elimination of on-premises server purchases, and a 95% decrease in IT service tickets. “We were able to reduce expenses by eliminating the need to purchase new servers and dedicate the IT resources to manage them, reducing our OPEX and CAPEX tremendously,” states Zulham.