Today I received a copy of the ebook “Moodle 2.0 with Microsoft Technologies” by Alex Pearce. The book covers implementing Moodle 2 with Microsoft technologies including Windows Server, IIS, Active Directory, Microsoft SQL and Exchange.
With Moodle, most of the installations I have encountered are on Linux, I would so far as to say nearly all are probably Linux hosted, which is the same for most websites I have worked with over the years. However some organisations due to their internal constraints do insist on doing things on MS technologies.
As you would therefore expect, most of the information and books out there have so far focused on using Moodle with Linux, so this ebook aims to fill that gap.
Alex Pearce specialises in implementing Microsoft technologies in schools and colleges in the UK. He has released a number of white-papers and blog posts over the last few years on using Moodle with Microsoft technologies. The white-papers can be found here on his website.
So what about the book?
The book has 7 chapters, and cover a wide range of linked topics.
The first chapter launches into how to install and configure Windows Server 2008 and Microsoft SQL Server Express 2008. The author brings the reader through the system level steps required to get the server web server and database ready for Moodle installation. It provides clear guidance with well explained steps and some related background (such as what CGI is) to help the user understand the potentially new areas for them.
Chapter 2 jumps into more technical challenges with providing load balancing across two Window servers. This was a well explained introduction to Windows load balancing and how the different options works and how this approach will help out in the event of failure. The chapter focuses on the configuration of the cluster and the different installation requirements and dependencies in this set up.
A lot of organisations may already use MS Exchange, so chapter 3 which takes them through configuring Exchange and Moodle to work together will be welcome to those.
Being able to provide Common Sign On (as opposed to single sign-on) is an important step for most organisations. The most common type of authentication I have seen used in Moodle sites is Manual accounts, however the most popular external to Moodle authentication has been LDAP. This chapter takes the user through configuring Moodle 2 with LDAP/Active Directory. Chapter 4 explains this process in easy to follow steps.
Chapter 5 carries on from Chapter 4 tackling the issue of extra information in Active Directory. Few organisations I have come across have more info in AD, but there have been some who hold extra profile data. This chapter deals with how this can be brought into Moodle and how the data updates can be brought back into AD.
Chapter 6 introduces using Kerberos to enhance the security of authentication.
The last chapter focuses on Single Sign On. Where LDAP by itself provides a Common Sign On of the same username/password for all on a network, Single Sign On can be handy where you can set it up, however not all setups will be able to be configured for it without changes.
Overall the book provides clear guidance on the technical setup for each of the tasks. If you are faced with having to deploy Moodle 2 internally on a Microsoft platform without any external help, then this is a book that will certainly help you in the right direction. And, for the price of a few beers, it is well worth it.