I would like to see the costings for Zimbra in Education but Exchange is what £70pa of an EES agreement?
It's not so much the Zimbra product itself, but more the level of service and increasing costs. It was/is a no-brainer to migrate to Live@Edu which is hosted, managed and patched by Microsoft. Their infrastructure is going to dwarf what an LA has.
Have an in-house Exchange Server was an option, but of course there are costs associated with this, as well as the hosting, managing and patching (as I mentioned above) is all done by Microsoft themselves. It also means any new additions are automatically included and it's one less worry for a school :)
You could do worse than look through a copy of this book Beginning SharePoint 2010: Building Business Solutions with SharePoint Wrox Programmer to Programmer: Amazon.co.uk: Amanda Perran, Shane Perran, Jennifer Mason, Laura Rogers: Books. It is a bit of a deep dive and you'll still need google, but it should give you a good understanding on how to begin to customise Sharepoint to meet your needs.
Little-Miss, if they use Outlook 2010 or 2007 at the school they would not even notice the difference, it ties in to outlook and the webmail looks and acts very simmilarly.
Back to sharepoint, I think it can definatly do what you want but to get there will require custimisation. You can also map network drives directly to it so it can look transparent to the users. One thing to be aware of though with the Office365 version is that under the free plan each user only gets 500MB free which could be quite limiting.
It looks like I am going to be pushed into the further development of 365 templates here for a number of schools so eventually I might have some stuff templates that can simplify things down a bit.
Dear god no... PLEASE don't use sharepoint...
We use a "VLE" built on sharepoint and honestly I couldn't tell you what side of that is worse, SP or the VLE...
Sharepoint is pure vile... Anyone, and I mean literally anyone with any snippet knowledge about web design or the web in general could tell that sharepoint is not a solution it is just another problem. It's a non-web technology build on web technologies and accessed through a browser. It is an absolute nightmare to modify (and by modify I mean install mods such as office integration, or email integration, or editors, or templates, or themes. Each time it requires going onto the server itself and using VBS through powershell to install, restart, install, restart, restart again, enable, restart... It's endless. Once installed the theme then doesnt work or what you thought would get rid of the ribbon or modify it to actually work as a website just don't do what you thought owing to the fact that sharepoint cannot and never will be a website (Despite being coded in HTML, JS, CSS and ASP, running on IIS and being used via a browser). It is not suitable for ANYTHING!
Get yourself a LAMP server and then find a FREE php share documents server system. Point that system straight to your drives as they stand and you are done.
There is no need to use sharepoint to host your drives. I know you can but why would you? Why would you trust an IIS server running sharepoint to provide the critical data on which your school relies on 5 days a week, 7 hours a day?! Better to have the drives and the mapping handled by dedicated (or semi-dedicated) AD and file servers. Sharepoint can then look at those to provide seamless access at home. NOT the other way around!
You would be much better to look at either making a system yourself and putting it onto a HTML front end or finding a free PHP system to do it for you (Or if you have to, buying into a cheaper, simpler system for handling documents or even having one coded for you)
Sharepoint is an absolute disaster, it really is.
But what I've seen of schools over the years using SharePoint most only need foundation or 365. Because most only replicate shared drives ( folders ) in sharepoint.
But fundamentally it's doc sharing through a web browser isn't it ?. And other stuff that meant it could be extended, which was just a means for wannabe guru's got to justify adding it as another string to their bow as they became stupefied in administering the thing. Now the rest of the workforce has finally cottoned on that what they were really asking sharepoint to do (if you strip away all the theming and templates) can now be done even simpler, even cheaper, and with even less central IT intervention via stuff dropbox....which is another mess waiting to happen, but at least it's the two things that justify explosive proliferation - simple and free. I never saw the same logical reasoning behind the explosion in share point usage.
And yes VLE's are finding the same problem, are they to course management systems what share point was to a true document management system, if your a teacher who's really only using a VLE as an online lesson planner with some feedback mechanism for communications with pupils then you have to ask whether it's an overly complex solution to a straightforward tasks. Just as share point can be an overly complex solution to in most cases extremely straightforward tasks.
I quite like Sharepoint to be honest. I have been using it since Sharepoint Portal Server 2003. We currently run Sharepoint 2010 in school. We have setup a IT Support site within it using Infopath forms for staff to submit IT support tickets. These are then emailed to us. We then approve them and submit them up to a form library on our IT support website. When we complete/sign off a ticket a workflow is triggered to move the ticket to a completed form library. We have also added an Email Update button to the form so that we can send the creator of the ticket email updates to let them know how we are getting on with solving their issue.
We also have a staff cover request form on there which staff can fill in and when they submit it is sent via email to the appropriate people. Up until the end of this term we had an Infopath form for reporting pupil incidences. It has been decided that this is now done straight into SIMS. One of the main reasons for using infopath for pupil incidences is that we had set up rules so that the incident was emailed to the appropriate people within the school - Head of House, Tutor, SLT, etc.
We have also used it to host our cover diary. When the cover administrator exports the cover for a particular date range it to html, we have set it to automatically put the cover diary onto our sharepoint site for all staff to browse with a click of a link/button on the front page.
The school calendar is also on there with colour coded events representing school holidays, meetings, etc.
Recently, we have added a form for reporting hazards to the site staff again staff can fill this in and submit it which then gets emailed automatically to the site manager to follow up.
Admittedly, it can take a while to set it up and it can sometimes have a funny 5 minutes, but once you have set it up and figured out some of its quirks (not all bad I hastent to add!!) I find that customising it is fairly straightforward especially with the help of Sharepoint Designer 2010!