Frequently asked questions

Find answers to your questions about moving from local to cloud.

Migration

Will my site be available during the migration?

There is no need for complete downtime. One of the first steps in the actual migration operation (which usually takes 3-5 working days) is to take a backup of the database. From that point, it is vital that no changes are made to the local site - such as submitting and marking work or creating and editing pages - as these changes won't be carried through to the new cloud site.

Each school is responsible for communicating this necessary pause to their users. Use of the local site for activities such as viewing pages or watching videos shouldn't cause issues. Some schools might prefer to address the required pause by simply cutting off access to Firefly completely during the cloud migration, a decision which can be made by the school.

Are there any prerequisites before migrating to the cloud?

Email addresses need to be populated in your MIS for all current staff, students and parents. There are dedicated pages explaining how this needs to be done for each MIS.

What if I have multiple Firefly sites running on my single local hosted Firefly database?

These sites will be migrated simultaneously. Please make sure our team is aware of your other sites when you book the migration and we’ll provide you with more information.

Integration

Does Firefly Cloud integrate with Active Directory?

This summer Firefly will release a new AD Link tool which will allow schools with a full deployment of Azure AD to seamlessly synchronise their Active Directory groups within Firefly, removing the need to worry about finding replacements for these when you move to the cloud. With this option, our team can ensure your existing permissions based on AD groups will continue to work as before, minimising the effort and potential challenges associated with your move to the cloud. For more information about AD Link, please contact your Customer Success Manager.

Currently, Firefly Cloud sites don’t interact directly with Active Directory (AD). This means that instead of using AD to control all user access, Firefly Cloud sites are populated with a list of users from the MIS. If SSO (Single Sign On) with either Office 365 or Google G-Suite isn’t available, users will need to activate their account the first time they log into the site - which they can do by entering their email address and setting a password using the link they should subsequently receive by email.

As there is currently no direct link between cloud sites and AD, AD groups won’t automatically appear in Firefly Cloud. With some MISs, Firefly Cloud will pull custom groups from the MIS, which can be an effective replacement for many cases. Alternatively, schools can create internal groups in Firefly which need to be maintained separately. If you have concerns about AD groups, we recommend arranging a phone call to discuss this further.

Can school users still authenticate automatically their Firefly accounts when it’s hosted in the cloud?

Yes! If you deployed Office 365 or G-Suite on your network and already configured either to use single sign-on with your AD, this can effectively remove the need for account activation on Firefly Cloud sites. It also allows schools to retain the seamless authentication they currently have with their local setup.

This works by allowing Firefly to leverage the existing deployed SSO functionality between AD and Office 365 or G-Suite. When these services are configured correctly, users authenticate with either service, which passes an email address to Firefly that we match with one of the accounts we’ve pulled from your MIS. Whilst the underlying process is somewhat different than it is for local schools, the seamless end user experience is very similar.

Does your Office 365 SSO integration support ADFS or only Azure AD Connect?

Both are supported. Please speak to our team for further information.

How does the integration with my MIS work? Does it still offer the same functionality?

Since our cloud servers have no direct access to your MIS server, we offer integration by installing a small application onto your server. This application queries your MIS on Firefly’s behalf and uploads batches of data to our cloud over a secure, encrypted connection at regular intervals (every night by default). If your MIS is hosted remotely by the supplier, we should be able to arrange with the supplier directly.

We pull all the same groups, entities and relationships from your MIS which are already available in your current local setup.

Will I still benefit from seamless authentication when I open Microsoft Office documents for editing from a link within Firefly?

Mostly, yes. Because of a change in the way the authentication is handled, Microsoft Office opens the Firefly login page in a separate window when you open a document for editing. In this window, choose whichever SSO option (e.g. Office 365 or Google) you normally use when logging into Firefly. The window will close shortly after selecting your SSO provider, and you won't need to manually enter your credentials.

Note that you need to use the same SSO provider to log into Firefly as when you began your session on the site. The default login method for your site must be set to Firefly Cloud, otherwise the integration won't work. If you’re a Firefly administrator, you can set this using the Modify Site option in the Control Panel.

Functionality differences

Our teachers are worried that Firefly Cloud will be very different for them to use and will require extensive training – is this true?

Certainly not. Ultimately, we’re running very similar software to your local installation, but in an environment which is optimised from the ground up to provide you with the best possible user experience.

It is worth remembering that your Firefly Cloud site will be based at a different URL from your current site. You can forward DNS for your old URL to the new site, which will end with *.fireflycloud.net - however, this might result in security warnings in some instances as Amazon Web Services restrictions currently make it impossible for us to host a copy of your SSL certificate. We recommend discussing this with our Customer Success team for more information.

There are some new features that are available only in the cloud, but teachers can use the Firefly for Teachers section to help them learn how to use these features.

What about access for parents and other users who are neither teachers or students, such as governors – will these all work the same?

Yes, though for technical and security reasons, parents and users with internal Firefly accounts will need to reset their passwords to restore access to their account.

Can we keep our existing Firefly theme and branding?

Yes, though many schools choose to take advantage of the change to refresh their branding, in most cases you are also able to keep it exactly as it is.

Is there anything which doesn’t work on Firefly Cloud which was previously available on my local setup?

In the vast majority of cases, no. However, if you have installed Firefly plugins which you built yourself, or you if have been using the structured data feature to display live data from a third-party database, then these features won’t work in the cloud.

We recommend in either of these cases that you move this functionality onto a completely separate web application of your own choice. If you subscribe to our Unlimited plan, you have the option of implementing our SSO API (contact us for more information) to enable seamless switching between Firefly and your third-party web app.

It's currently not possible for us to support Exchange calendar integration on Firefly Cloud. If this is a feature you currently use in Firefly, we recommend considering alternative solutions for calendar hosting, such as Office 365. We also support the built-in school calendar functionality on certain MISs, including iSAMS and WCBS. You can also insert public calendars into Firefly from any service which uses the iCal standard, such as Google.

At this time, our legacy SSO functionality with iSAMS Parent Portal will not work on Firefly Cloud. Both Firefly and iSAMS are aware of the matter and are committed to finding a new SSO solution for the two products shortly.

If you have Deny permissions which were set at the time your school was running Firefly 4 or earlier, these permissions will not work on the cloud. Please work with our support team to find a solution for this issue.

Hard coded absolute links to pages within Firefly (instead of the default relative links) won't be converted to include your new cloud site URL.


Upcoming dates

Which changes will occur in May 2020 and beyond?

As of May 2020, we will stop releasing any new features in Firefly to existing local hosted clients. Until September 2020, we will continue to issue certain essential updates as needed, either for security reasons or to ensure continued functionality of key parts of the product (such as to ensure the apps continue functioning following a mobile OS update). As of September 2020, you may continue to use your local hosted Firefly site but it will be unsupported and no updates will be published.

Costs and pricing

Is there a one-off cost for the actual migration?

Yes, depending on how early you schedule your migration and for what time of year. Please contact your Customer Success Manager to discuss this further.

How does the annual pricing work?

The annual charges for Firefly Cloud work a little differently to the legacy pricing we’ve traditionally offered for local hosted installations. We now offer three straightforward plans, designed to provide a simpler and more transparent cost structure. For more information about these, please get in touch with your Customer Success Manager.

Do I have to change pricing at renewal or is it possible to do this earlier?

You can move to our new cloud pricing at any time in your annual subscription cycle. Your next Firefly invoice will include a pro-rata reimbursement (in the form of credit) for the unused months on your previous plan and subsequent annual invoices will be due on the same date that your pricing change occurred.