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Microsoft Office System Customer Solution Case Study

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Microsoft Office System

Customer Solution Case Study

Kingston University Offers Students Enterprise-Class Tools Through New Portal Solution


Country or Region: United Kingdom

Industry: Education
Customer Profile

Kingston University is spread over several campuses in southwest London. It gained full university status in 1992. The student population, many of whom live at home, is just over 17,700.

Business Situation

Until 2004, the university was reliant on an ageing e-mail messaging system and disparate solutions for handling and storing documents. It wanted a new solution to reduce administration costs and enhance collaboration.


Microsoft® Gold Certified Partner Silversands worked with Kingston to deliver a complete collaboration environment for staff and students with Microsoft Office SharePoint® Portal Server 2003 and Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005.


  • Operating costs kept to a minimum.

  • Authoring and version control for a single source of key documentation.

  • Complete collaboration environment.

  • Students can work and communicate from home.

  • Committee management and administration through team sites.

“We have taken a huge leap forward by standardising on Microsoft solutions throughout the university for e-mail and instant messaging, operating systems, document management, and collaboration.”

Ian McNeice, Head of Technical Services, Kingston University

Kingston University, located in southwest London in the United Kingdom, needed student and staff portals, including personalised workspaces for 22,000 users. It had already migrated its e-mail messaging system to Microsoft® Exchange Server 2003 communication and collaboration server. Working with Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Silversands, the university implemented the complete Microsoft collaboration environment. It used Microsoft Office SharePoint® Portal Server 2003, Microsoft Windows® SharePoint Services, and Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005 for the core functionality. Students benefit from enterprise-class applications and from access to their e-mail messages and documents any time, anywhere.


Kingston University, located in southwest London gained full university status in 1992. There are four campuses in Kingston upon Thames, close to Hampton Court Park and Richmond Park. The student population is just over 17,700 with many of them living at home or in halls of residence. Applications to study at the university in 2005-06 were up by 33.2 per cent, a rise bettered only by Bolton, the United Kingdom's newest university.
In common with many academic communities, Kingston University faces the challenge of dispersal over several different campuses. Lecturers work for seven faculties, with hundreds of different teaching rooms. It has a highly mobile staff of academics and ancillary staff. To cope with the huge pressure on schedules and timetables, the university needed a staff and student portal solution that included a modern, user-friendly document management system to encourage better collaboration.
Kingston also wanted to offer its students the same enterprise-class business tools for their studies that they will use later on the in the workplace, including personalised workspaces. The problem was that until 2004, the university was reliant on an ageing e-mail messaging system and disparate solutions for handling and storing documents and research. The whole community was storing documents and data on individual desktops, departmental and faculty servers, or as paper files.
Ian McNeice, Head of Technical Services, Kingston University, says: “We had to consider the needs of 22,000 users including staff as well as students. The first requirement was that any new portal solution integrated with our existing systems. We also wanted to make administration easier and create an environment for better collaboration.”

For Kingston, return on investment (ROI) was something to judge in both the medium and longer term. The university’s senior management wanted to create new ways of working with the new messaging, document management, and collaboration infrastructure, and enhance partnerships with other institutions and its 1,500 partner staff worldwide. It also wanted to make savings in operating costs.


Kingston first decided to migrate to Microsoft® Exchange Server 2003 communication and collaboration server and to standardise on the Microsoft Windows® XP operating system and Microsoft Office 2003 for the desktops. Previously, the university had been using a range of different versions of Microsoft Windows on its desktop estate.

It then evaluated rival portal and workspace solutions from three different vendors: IBM; SX3, a Novell service provider; and Silversands. Silversands, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner with extensive experience in delivering large-scale Microsoft Office SharePoint® Portal Server 2003 deployments, worked with the university in implementation.
Andrew Walmsley, Project Manager at Silversands says: “The aim was to disseminate information for staff and students much more efficiently than previously and to create personal workspaces called My Sites for every user.”
The Microsoft solution offered used SharePoint Portal Server 2003, the Microsoft .NET Framework, Microsoft ASP.NET, and Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services. It won the day, because these leading-edge Microsoft technologies could easily integrate with the university’s existing IT assets including Blackboard.
Critically, Microsoft was also the environment of choice, because of its capacity to manage the large amount of information (terabytes of data) used by academics and students.
The other main consideration in the early stages was low total cost of ownership and ease of implementation over a tight time scale, thanks to the specialist expertise from Silversands. Advised by Silversands, Kingston is also planning to use 2003, an enterprise workflow solution based on the Microsoft .NET Framework for easy integration with SharePoint Portal Server.
McNeice says: “The solution based on Microsoft technologies was half the price of any other offer, but as important it was also the best solution for our teaching and student community.”
The university also wanted to improve the reliability and security of access to e-mail messaging inboxes for remote users including students and staff working from home. The portal can also be accessed by Kingston’s 1,500 partner staff working in far-flung locations, such as Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, and Moscow.
Finally, the university has completed the deployment of the entire Microsoft collaboration environment by implementing Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005. The latest real-time communications client from Microsoft is Microsoft Office Communicator 2005, which, when used with Live Communications Server, provides enterprise-grade presence and instant messaging, a rich user-interface, and a secure, manageable environment.
McNeice says: “It makes conversations by instant messaging possible in real-time so we can use a more dynamic approach to team working. It will give us the ability to do audio and video conferencing and ensure that students or staff working in remote locations are part of the learning community.”

Students Gain Enterprise-Class Business Tools

Kingston University operates in a competitive marketplace for students and academic staff and needs to maintain the highest standards, so as to match its aspirations for growth. But, only by keeping overheads low will Kingston have the resources it needs to invest more in research and innovation.

McNeice says: “We have taken a huge leap forward by standardising on Microsoft solutions throughout the university for e-mail and instant messaging, operating systems, document management, and collaboration. The real business of a university is education and research, but first we need the right tools for the job.”
Instant Messaging Creates a Greater Sense of Community

Increasingly, universities regard real-time presence and communication, such as instant messaging (IM), audio/video conferencing, data collaboration, whiteboarding, application sharing, remote assistance, and file transfer, as key services for connecting students and staff and improving their learning outcomes. Live Communications Server helps students to take advantage of real-time communications and presence to increase productivity without compromising security and manageability.

A survey of students in the autumn of 2005 showed high satisfaction levels with the new student collaboration solution. Users especially liked the option to access e-mail messages and documents through SharePoint Portal Server from home, without having to travel to the university campus and log on to a desktop.
Students now fully appreciate the value of the rich set of tools available in Windows SharePoint Services for publishing information to internal and external sources.
McNeice says: “As a result, we are now making much better use of the University website with an improved search engine. We are fostering a greater sense of community, with each university club or society able to have its own discrete Website accessible from the portal.”
Portal Encourages More Collaboration in Teaching and Research

SharePoint Portal Server gives university staff a single environment in which to collaborate upon academic resources, data, and other university-related information. The following features are especially valuable.

  • The environment helps administrators to apply unique branding across each of the main areas of both staff and student portals with minimal effort.

  • Teaching staff collaborate easily with other line-of-business applications including the VLE.

  • It provides a repository for all unstructured content.

  • Supports external documents capturing and internal and external documents production.

McNeice says: “In the past, staff found it very difficult to work in cross-departmental/faculty teams and to achieve a single version of a document or piece of research. The portal has been a great help for our associate staff in remote locations, for example Sri Lanka, where we work with partners on offering a course. Our partner staff are now much more integrated with our teaching and learning community.”

Faster Time to Market for New Educational Offerings

New educational offerings can be launched more quickly now that staff can create their own working groups within the SharePoint Portal Server document management system.

Teaching and research staff can now collaborate easily and quickly and avoid duplicating work, as well as benefiting from the know how of colleagues in other faculties.
McNeice says: “SharePoint [Portal Server] is the key to responding more sensitively to the needs of students and the university as a whole. It opens up a new range of possibilities, which is all about driving up standards and learning outcomes.”
User-Friendly System Keeps Operating Costs to a Minimum

The interlocking nature of Microsoft technologies and the ease of integration with Office 2003 applications and the university’s VLE, means the system uses a familiar user-friendly interface. Consequently, staff need little training to manage the system and it imposes little strain on the training budget.

The accessibility and flexibility of the portal solution is encouraging more and more staff to use it in their daily work and forward planning. By accessing both SharePoint Portal Server and Microsoft Office Outlook® Web Access, staff can operate any time, anywhere, and even avoid unnecessary travel.
McNeice says: “At the same time as our users are gaining more tools to do their jobs, centralised management of our infrastructure is giving us much more control. The environment is scalable, licensing costs are more reasonable, and we can scale up easily in line with the available budgets.”

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234 in the United States or (905) 568-9641 in Canada. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:

For more information about Silversands products and services, visit the Web site at:
For more information about Kingston University products and services, visit the Web site at:

©2006 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY. Microsoft, the Office logo, Outlook, SharePoint, Windows, and Windows Server are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners.
Document published February 2006

Software and Services

  • Products

  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2003

  • Microsoft Office 2003

  • Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003

  • Microsoft Office Communicator 2005

  • Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005

  • Microsoft Windows Server™ 2003

  • Microsoft Windows XP

  • Technologies


  • Silversands

Microsoft Office System

Microsoft Office is the business world's chosen environment for information work that provides the software, servers, and services that help you succeed by transforming information into impact.

For more information about Microsoft Office System, go to:

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