Planning Checklist For School Data Sync

Planning an SDS deployment is not overly complex. There are a few key options and configuration items that need to be considered when deciding how to configure SDS for your environment.

What is your source directory?

If you have PowerSchool or a OneRoster 1.1 capable SIS, you may sync via API. All other sources will require you to upload your data through one of the various CSV formats (SDS format, Clever format, or OneRoster 1.0 format). For more information on the available source directories, see the SDS overview page.

Have you prepped your Source directory for sync (create CSVs or setup for the API config)?

API configurations require you to complete certain steps within the SIS, as detailed on the API based deployment article pages. For more information on configuring your SIS for an API connection, see the PowerSchool API article. CSV deployment requires exporting data from your SIS. You may also have to adjust the export from your SIS for known issues prior to syncing, such as special characters, as defined in the CSV Deployment Article. Any issues remaining within the CSV files should be caught during the initial upload and/or pre-sync validation process when enabling your sync profile.

Are you creating new users or syncing existing users?

If you already have users in Azure Active Directory, and you don’t need to create initial accounts, you may choose the Sync Existing Users option in the SDS setup wizard. If you have a brand new O365 tenant without any users currently present, and you don’t plan to sync user accounts from on-premise AD, you may choose the Create New Users option in the SDS setup wizard. If you have a combination of existing users and the need to create new users, multiple sync profiles may be required to complete the setup.

If creating new users, what licenses will be applied to those users?

If you select the Create New Users option in the SDS setup wizard, you’ll need to assign a license to each student and teacher account created. Review the available licenses within your tenant to assign the appropriate option for students and teachers. If you need to assign different licenses for different sets of users, multiple profiles may be required. Remember, we only recommend creating up to three sync profiles, to avoid performance issues. If you need more information on completing a custom license application across your users, see the License O365 Users via PowerShell article.

If syncing existing users, how will you match identities for students and teachers?

Identity matching is one of the most common issues encountered while deploying SDS. Planning your identity matching strategy is critical to creating and enabling sync with your source directory. For a detailed understanding of how to configure identity see the Identity Matching page

To keep the number of profiles below the recommended three, we recommend adjusting attributes within your source and/or target directories to accommodate the identity matching domain configuration required during SDS enablement. Updating source and target attribute may not always be possible, but is recommended to match all student and teachers within 3 sync profiles.

If syncing existing users, are all student and teacher accounts already created in O365?

If yes, you’re ready to prep your CSV files or API connected source directory and begin syncing. If all users have not yet been synced from your on-premise AD or created as cloud-only identities, you need to first complete those steps, or plan to use SDS for creating cloud-only identities within your tenant. Using the Sync Existing Users option requires that all accounts for users within the scope for the sync profile already be created within the tenant, in AAD.

Which attributes do you want to sync, and when?

When configuring your sync profile within SDS, you will need to choose the attributes for the various object types that you want to sync. There are two types of attributes for each object type: required and optional. You must sync all required attributes, and the optional attributes are strictly optional. If you are syncing a large district, it may be helpful to sync only the minimum required attributes first, and then add in the optional attributes after the initial sync and object creation has occurred. The sync engine will stop processing data if the number of errors gets past a certain threshold, so scaling out the optional attributes slowly after the first sync is often the safest method to reduce the number of potential errors, and thus ensuring your initial sync completes.

Will you allow your teachers to overwrite group’s DisplayName after they are initially synced/created by SDS?

When SDS syncs a section, it creates an O365 Group. One default behavior of an O365 Group is that the Owner may overwrite the DisplayName, as they see fit, after the group is created. While SDS doesn’t change this capability, you can configure SDS to reset the DisplayName to the original and intended value each time sync is run. If you want to allow teachers to manage and maintain the DisplayName after the initial sync, you should leave the option unselected when configuring the sync profile.

Will you allow SDS to create a number of Office 365 Security Groups?

When configuring the global sync settings, you can choose to enable a number of settings that can be used to automatically create and manage a number of Office 365 Security Groups. These SDS Created Security Groups groups can be used in conjuncture with a number of tenant features including Intune and Intune for Education.

Do you want to delay syncing my Student Enrollments?

When enabling a sync profile, SDS creates Office 365 Groups for each section synced. Teachers becomes owners and students become members, based on the SIS rostering data being synced. Once the group and memberships are fully populated, the students will be able to see which groups they are a member of via OWA and OneDrive. They will also be able to see teacher of their sections. If you wish to delay exposing this information to students, you may delay the student enrollment processing to a specific date in the future. Many districts delay student enrollment to a week prior to the new term start date.

Do you need to sync more than one time?

The SDS portal allows you to setup a sync profile. If you are syncing via API, the sync will continue to run. If you are syncing via CSV file, the sync will run once upon the initial upload, and then run again every time new CSV files are manually uploaded. If you need to ensure daily or weekly changes are synced to Azure AD, you should use the SDS toolkit to setup a regular and automated sync schedule for processing changes. This will not require upload of CSV files each time you want to sync changes. Instead, you may automate the export of CSV files to a standardized location within your environment, and allow the toolkit to process the files as a scheduled task automatically for you, on a continuous basis. If you need to setup automation for syncing CSV files, see the CSV File Sync Automation page.