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General Chat Thread, Starting from scratch in General; I think you are running the risk of selecting a product and finding solutions to make it work for you. ...
  1. #16
    truebluesteve's Avatar
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    I think you are running the risk of selecting a product and finding solutions to make it work for you. As others have said do you really want to be tied in to one vendor - not me.

    Apple don't discount hardware for education in the way other suppliers do and even the ones they do offer are tiny. The hardware itself is no more reliable than PC hardware and in my experience less so and far more expensive to repair. If the logic board fails on a 2 year old iMac you might as well throw the whole thing away.

    I'm not against Apple kit - I have an iMac at home and 60 iPads at school but I do have choices and I have been asked to trial some Windows tablets which I'm looking forward to!

  2. #17

    synaesthesia's Avatar
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    I hope both you and the related staff are fully aware of what you *don't* see at that Essa academy. It's not all song and dance, and their "paperless" solutions are far less rosy than many would like to believe.
    I would strongly recommend against a mass consumer grade device deployment in an education setting just because it looks shiny or because someone has seen someone else do it and go "ooh, shiny". There are other solutions, better solutions, better ideas and what works for one school (not using the above example as such an example) won't necessarily work for another.

  3. #18

    m25man's Avatar
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    Infrastructure is key, none of what you "Dream" is going to be possible if you don't have the underlying delivery mechanisms.

    Horizontal and Verticals, Passive and Active infrastructure is all key to your end point delivery.

    With Gigabit desktops you now need 10GBe to the edge, with potentially hundreds of wireless devices per uplink 10GBe to your wireless APs is highly likely to be a requirement in the next few years.

    Maybe there will be fewer copper desktop outlets as we will actively move to wireless for even more purposes.
    The vendors are all making 10GBe copper distribution switches now and the prices are dropping fast.
    10GBe server adapters are approaching 200 each there will be a revolution in the core switch departments of most SMBs in the not too distant future.

    Video over wireless will be commonplace with machines being able to select TV's as secondary output devices using Apple Airplay and Windows "Play to" and don't forget Intels WiDI is still to make its mark, this wireless video feature is likely to be standard on most Wintel platforms.

    Touch screen IPS panels will fall in price to levels we pay now for monitors, (imagine an LG 24" LED with multitouch for less than 100).

    Keep a good focus on the delivery infrastructure and less on the end users devices, users will change devices much faster than the foundations you put in, and it won't be easy to change the infrastructure to keep up once its installed.
    Too much emphasis is put on the word iPad, its just another end user device that will become obsolete as quickly as it arrived only to be replaced by something else that needs more bandwidth and faster wifi.

    As speeds go past 10GBe cable and optical distances achieved shorten, so we need to consider Single Mode Fibre and Screened Cat6e and beyond.
    As the carrier networks focus on delivering 100GBe bearers we will all be focusing on 10GBe in house.
    The cycle starts all over again driven by consumer demand and the evolution of technology.

    I remember telling clients that Gigabit was all they are likely to need in our lifetime.... Now we have no idea what's just around the corner.
    Keep an open mind and realise anything is possible you just haven't thought of it yet!

  4. #19

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    Rather than the "I hate iPads/Apple" stance taken by some of the other regulars above, I'd like to say that I *love* Apple gear for home use and I think the iPad is a fantastic bit of kit. But that doesn't mean it's automatically the best solution for lesson delivery.

    The superb post by m25man makes some good points - before you get too far bogged down in the client end of things you need to ensure the infrastructure can support whatever you choose. Equally you have to make sure there's enough money in the budget to buy the clients if you buy top of the line infrastructure...

    And without wishing to sound offensive, if your organisation was previously spending so much time on managing antivirus issues then it's likely that you either had the wrong product or it wasn't deployed optimally. This is an infrastrucure problem of a sort, and is the kindof bad practice needs to be resolved wherever you go next.

    For example If you issue one device to a student then making sure they all have the apps they need for their classes is far from trivial, and if you choose a poor MDM platform or no MDM platform at all then you'll find managing classroom sets of iPads equally as frustrating.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mouse77e View Post
    The focus on iPads has been shaped by two factors - dependant on one device per child - one of the schools we have talked to has made 60,000+ digit savings on photocopying alone by sending corse work and letters to parents etc as emails.
    I don't see how tablet provision has anything to do with sending emails home to parents rather than paper letters. Give me the email addresses of all the students and I could do that perfectly easily from my desktop computer without even having to remember where I left 'my' work iPad.

    Course work should already be on your VLE, rendering that a moot point whatever choice you make (oh, does the VLE work with mobile safari?).

    As for "one device per child", keep in mind that you'll need spares, etc. and you'll need to ensure that classroom sets remain working all day and don't run out of battery halfway through the last lesson - that's an issue with issuing any mobile device, laptop, tablet, whatever to classes of course, but it still needs to be addressed; those claims for long battery life made by all high end tablet manufactures aren't reached by testing the devices in the typical classroom free-for-all.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mouse77e View Post
    Add to that the savings in text books by teachers making or buying in iBooks.
    Someone has presumably verified that your curriculum requirements can fully be met by iBooks then?

    We are in the position where we have funding and support to open the school and use IT to influence and shape the teaching within the school - what we don't have is the experience of opening a secondary free school.

    Many thanks for all input - it is greatly appreciated.
    I know my reply probably seems quite harsh and to the point, and that's somewhat intentional. Not to give offence but to try and get sharper thinking around what sounds like a rather wooly and vague idea right now.
    Last edited by Roberto; 20th July 2013 at 10:47 PM.

  5. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by teejay View Post
    Apple devices do have serious security holes, don't believe the rubbish that comes out of Apple and their fans on this.
    Anyway, I would say the ideal is to make your core network client device neutral, so anything from Windows PC's to Blackberry phones can connect and use your network in a safe, secure manner. Bring Your Own Device seems to be taking off in schools, so you need to support that, plus the ability to provide devices that are correct for the task in hand which is why saying 'lets go all Apple' is very limiting.
    First, let me say that I have a long history with UNIX (and Linux), Windows, And Mac systems. I use them all for both servers and end-point clients. Each has their strengths and weaknesses. I agree with trying to be device agnostic to a point, but if you go too far with this strategy then nothing runs very well or is well integrated.

    However, your statement about serious security holes in Apple devices needs comment. There are FAR fewer security issues in Macs or iOS devices than any Windows or Android device. To state otherwise is to mislead. The only true widely exploitable weaknesses in OSX are related to either Java or Flash, or other 3rd-party applications. iOS is still almost untouched malware wise, especially compared to Android. Now, Solaris and most Linux distros have even fewer security issues than Apple OS's and if you're truly building a secure, malware free system you'd choose those. But, OSX or iOS being in the same boat as Windows or Android? Not a chance. Maybe one day, but not anytime soon.

  6. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mouse77e View Post
    To answer a couple of points, and to help you to advise me -

    The school will indeed be a secondary school, starting from 2014 there will be an intake of 200 or so students per year.

    The focus on iPads has been shaped by two factors - dependant on one device per child - one of the schools we have talked to has made 60,000+ digit savings on photocopying alone by sending corse work and letters to parents etc as emails. Add to that the savings in text books by teachers making or buying in iBooks.

    We are in the position where we have funding and support to open the school and use IT to influence and shape the teaching within the school - what we don't have is the experience of opening a secondary free school.

    Many thanks for all input - it is greatly appreciated.
    Now to address your questions.

    As a couple of others have stated, I would first be looking at the base infrastructure as it is the foundation of everything you do. If you have under spec'd servers, a slow network, or inadequate WAN speeds and bandwidth - nothing you do will be without big problems. Here's where I would focus:

    1. Build a fast network with high quality managed Layer 2/3 Cisco or HP Gigabit PoE switches with 10GbE connectivity to the core. You will either need a router or Layer 3 core switch to handle routing for your VLANs (use a lot of VLANS). Buy the very best you can afford and have them configured by someone who knows how to build a fast reliable, modern network.

    2. A virtualised server environment with 2-3 highly spec'd servers with at least 8 cores, 48GB RAM, and 10GbE connectivity to the core switch and a high performance SAN or NAS supporting iSCSI and/or NFS. Flash write caches and lots of RAM recommended on the SAN. Buy the best spec'd servers and SAN you can afford.

    3. A high quality WiFi system such as Ruckus or Aerohive (my favourites) with either 802.11n or 802.11ac.

    4 Well configured and spec'd VM servers, configured on a service basis (don't have two servers do everything from authenticate users to make a cup of coffee for them).

    5. Good backup systems for VMs and end-user data (VEEAM, Zmanda, BackupAssist, NetVault, Symmantec - take your pick)

    6. Buy as much speed and bandwidth as you can for your WAN - 100Mb fibre or faster is ideal. If you can't afford that get a 20-40Mb connection at least.

    Once you have all of that then you can think about the end user requirements. Seriously. For instance, if you decide to go with iPads, Chromebooks, Surface Tablets, etc. then you will find them all to be problematic without the base infrastructure (I'm not in agreement with the generic or multiple vendor Android tablet argument some have proposed on here - they are a nightmare to support and manage if you do that). Now, based on what end-point clients you do go with, then you will have to decide on what specific solutions you will need on the back end to support that. Examples are that you will need Google Apps if you use Chromebooks and it would be good to have an SSO solution for it so users only had one login with AD, etc. or if you go with iPads you might want to use something like MobileEcho for providing access to a Windows file server (or you might just use a Mac server to do MDM and file services). If you go with PCs and Surface tablets, you will want SCCM, with Macs you might want DeployStudio, Casper Suite, etc.

    Get the base infrastructure right and all of the rest will come together with just a bit of thought and work.
    Last edited by seawolf; 21st July 2013 at 04:11 AM.

  7. #22

    teejay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seawolf View Post
    First, let me say that I have a long history with UNIX (and Linux), Windows, And Mac systems. I use them all for both servers and end-point clients. Each has their strengths and weaknesses. I agree with trying to be device agnostic to a point, but if you go too far with this strategy then nothing runs very well or is well integrated.

    However, your statement about serious security holes in Apple devices needs comment. There are FAR fewer security issues in Macs or iOS devices than any Windows or Android device. To state otherwise is to mislead. The only true widely exploitable weaknesses in OSX are related to either Java or Flash, or other 3rd-party applications. iOS is still almost untouched malware wise, especially compared to Android. Now, Solaris and most Linux distros have even fewer security issues than Apple OS's and if you're truly building a secure, malware free system you'd choose those. But, OSX or iOS being in the same boat as Windows or Android? Not a chance. Maybe one day, but not anytime soon.
    Actually Apple had more security vulnerabilities than Microsoft in 2012, but that's not my point and I didn't compare Apple against anyone else, my point being that any OS will have vulnerabilities and you shouldn't go in with rose tinted glasses believing the marketing hype from any vendor about how secure their OS is.

  8. #23

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    So - having read the comments, and I'd like to share with you our starting point for the tender document we're going to put out there soon. Many points have been brought up from this forum - Feel free to poke holes in it (constructively please)

    =======================================
    How the use of ICT will support learning, teaching, management and administration of the new school.

    The school requires a secure, safe, simple and flexible ICT system to enrich pupils and staff. We have the full range of abilities and all must be comfortable with the system we provide.

    Buildings
    The school buildings are envisaged to be either new build or custom refit’s of existing school buildings. It is deemed best to move directly into a section of our property and extend the facilities as needs be.

    Network
    We are planning a wired network infrastructure terminating in wireless access in each education spaces. These hubs will support wireless learning devices for the student and teaching bodies.

    A second secure network will be reserved for the administration of the school.

    The provision of specialist network access may be required for specialised ICT or Music teaching spaces.

    Broadband
    High speed broadband, preferably using future-proofed fibre optic connectivity should be built into the site and throttled to suite the load on the system as the school expands on opening.

    Classrooms
    Each education space should be provided with a large media screen. Either a data projection device or large screen monitor/TV linked with a data connection device such as an Apple TV or other suitable devices.

    We would like to embrace the recent developments in the National Curriculum towards ICT proficiency and stimulate the classroom experience through handheld devices. Whilst Microsoft and Android devices offer a range of choices we feel at this time Apple’s education infrastructure and devices, iBooks, iTunes U, iPads offers a more valuable choice.

    We would also like to use technology to reduce our carbon footprint by limiting the volume of photocopying, printing to paper and the inherent wastage therein. We would prefer to used Apple’s iBook’s or similar to reduce the reliance of text books that are ever more frequently revised or cast aside by new curriculums.

    We however foresee the need for a limited number of networked printers for those times when printing to paper is a necessary resource. Perhaps one per group of classes.

    NB. We may have to research items such as the TabCabby 32 if we go for the class by class option.

    Pupils
    We would like to examine the options for distributing devices to the student body either on a class by class (devices to remain in the education space) or to issue a device to each student on an extended basis

    Teachers
    We would also expect our staff to be equipped with a laptop to create the textbooks and interact with the school.

    Administration
    We expect to equip our administrators with Apple desktop machines which will be updated and refreshed regularly on a three year lease cycle. We believe having reliable infrastructure for the administration of the school is vital. We would like to examine the possibilities of using cloud services such as Google Docs, Zoho, Dropbox or Shareware/freeware solutions such as NeoOffice or OpenOffice to limit licensing costs.


  9. #24
    mrbios's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mouse77e View Post
    A second secure network will be reserved for the administration of the school.
    I haven't read further than this yet but, can you explain this bit? because that sentence reaks of "curric network + admin network" which is a very very out dated way of setting up a network. I'm hoping I've just read into it wrong though

    EDIT: with regards to end user devices you've mentioned iPads but nothing else? What desktops will you be using? If you're not planning on any how are you going to deliver art (photoshop?) and computing (visual studio, scratch, kudo etc?) and further software that specifically benefits from a fixed desktop + MS OS? I've not read the rest of the thread to see your replies on this aspect though so i apologies if I'm repeating something, or is this document just an "outline" without specifics? (albeit the ipads are in there)
    Last edited by mrbios; 21st July 2013 at 07:04 PM.

  10. #25

    synaesthesia's Avatar
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    I've already zoned out. It reads "Oooh, shiny shiny!" with a picture of someone dangling some keys in front of some open jawed administrators.
    Sorry, blunt mode. I'll pay attention if the school isn't in ofsted's naughty corner within 5 years.

    Great example of why it's very much an "Ooh, shiny shiny" case - that very last line.
    iShinypads everywhere and iDesktops, and worried about licensing costs.... I don't believe the students' best interests are being catered for.
    Last edited by synaesthesia; 21st July 2013 at 07:13 PM.

  11. #26

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    We got the TabCabby 32 recently and it's a good bit of kit. Is there a particular reason why the administrative staff would be using Apple computers if the majority of fixed curriculum workstations are not - or are they also?

    You may wish to draw up a guideline specification for all workstation computers to assist the tendering companies.

  12. #27
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    @Mouse77e how is each department going to accomplish their goals? At the moment your document generalises the whole school as having the same requirements, there's no specifics for catering to different departments needs based on the best methods of learning and delivering each subject path?

  13. #28

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    For a start, as this is likely to be a high value tender, please go and read up on how to write specifications for tender documents that meet the EU regulations.
    Secondly, go and learn about the data protection requirements for schools, especially when dealing with sensitive pupil data in schools and look at EU and UK legislation in this area and compare it to your idea of using online storage.
    I still can't understand your insistence on vendor lock in. If you want to write in house text books, why not deploy them as PDF so any device can use them? You could also develop your courses as SCORM compliant so they can be delivered to any VLE.
    If you evaluate various tablet solutions and do feel that the iPad is your best option, great, but don't put massive barriers in place for future development by allowing vendor look in rather than developing to open standards that can be used on any device.
    You also don't mention any locally based server infrastructure for storage, security, application and device management, backup, school management information system.
    Again, using Apple for admin is fine, but I then can't understand you wanting to limit licensing costs by using open source/freeware, when you could buy PC's plus the relevant licensing for a lot less than you would be paying just for the App,e desktops. I would also make some decisions on what MIS system you are going to use as some don't support Apple and do require Microsoft Office for outputting reports.

    Can I suggest you go and visit some schools, go in with open unblinkered eyes and also look at what curriculum you're going to deliver as for instance if you are going to be heavy in the technology subjects, then you really will need to diversify away from Apple. Please don't think I have a thing against Apple, I don't, I'm sat here typing this on my iPad. What I have a massive problem with is schools naively walking down a path of vendor lockin, it limits teaching as you're stuck with specific devices and it gets expensive to reverse out of if things don't work out. I also feel it's important for students to experience as broad a range of technology as possible, so yes that includes Apple kit, but also things like Raspberry Pi's, Arduino and yes PC's.
    Last edited by teejay; 21st July 2013 at 08:22 PM.

  14. #29

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    I think what the OP has posted there is intended as a draft summary - I'm sure the final tender would be much longer and, if necessary, written in a different style.

    I'm obviously not a mod but can I also point out that there does seem to be a bit of lambasting going on here. Writing a tender for a complete network from scratch is a mammoth task. Clearly we do all want to help but the OP is a new user to the forum and has asked us to be constructive. EduGeek has a good reputation as a professional place to go for technical queries in education.

    The point about MIS systems is a good one as e.g. SIMS tends not to play well with anything except Microsoft Office, and then only particular versions depending on what Capita is officially supporting at the moment. As far as 1:1 schemes go, there are options out there for leasing equipment (accidental damage insurance may or may not be covered) directly to parents for their pupils with zero cost to the school - Stone Computers operates one of these - depending on whether or not passing such costs onto parents is an option. As a free school I must admit I have no idea how tight the regulations are around this.

    Ricoh printers are pretty good for managed print schemes and there's also an app (called HotSpot) for mobile printing for many different types of devices. The Aficio MP 305SP is the model we're considering going with around the school as it supports integration with PaperCut MF plus the HotSpot app for printing from Apple or Android tablets. It may take a bit of setting up but it's worth it as printing is something often not considered when going for mobile devices.

    On the subject of mobile device provision, Meraki is a good MDM for Apple devices, though it's very limited in its support for managing / locking down Android tablets. If you can afford it, I'd get another server with a couple of quad-cores and somewhere in excess of 48GB RAM to use as a terminal server. That can be used for tablet access to the school network during the day and a fast remote access server for the staff (and pupils?) after school hours. We're doing that here by means of our DR virtual host as - assuming there's no disaster - those 12 cores and 64GB RAM are sitting around doing not very much during the day. I've also set up a shell for accessing documents and programmes without running a full desktop session, which vastly reduces user footprint on the terminal server.

    I'd agree that a second administrative network isn't the way most schools are going; could you VLAN it instead? Can you also expand a little more on "specialist network access" for individual departments? Before you know it these general terms can balloon out into HoDs dictating a vast amount of different ways of doing things that just don't play well together overall.

  15. Thanks to Ephelyon from:

    Mouse77e (22nd July 2013)

  16. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ephelyon View Post
    I'm obviously not a mod but can I also point out that there does seem to be a bit of lambasting going on here.
    I don't want to make things worse but I suspect some of the tension here is that the OP keeps saying thank you for the feedback to people then proceeding as if the feedback was never given. This looks less and less a genuine search for knowledge and help and more of someone wanting blessings for their already solidified plans to buy shiny stuff because it's shiny.

    Take the comment about sending letters to parents home as emails being used as a justification to buy ipads. That's evidence right there of either an agenda that's already been decided upon that is in search of a justification or of some very wooly-headed thinking.

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