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Hardware Thread, ict suite in Technical; I think this forum is going to be a godsend for me! I am trying to organise installing an IT ...
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    ict suite

    I think this forum is going to be a godsend for me! I am trying to organise installing an IT suite into my primary school. We have to get 3 quotes so I've done that and all the solutions differ greatly! We currently have 10 laptops, the best 5 (which are 256mb toshibas running xp pro) would be upgraded (if you think it's worth it) with ram and included in the suite to save money. I would really like a server, merely to act as a file server really so children can go on any computer in the room and find their work. I don't think we need anything complicated for the server but we have had some sophisticated proposals! My questions to you are:

    1. Do we really need tape back up? It's a primary school not a bank?! Would having a pair of hard drives, with one acting as back up be sufficient?

    2. We have SWgfl provided. There isn't a proper network in the school, all computers run independently with one or two access points in each class. The suite currently has one access point because it used to be a classroom but we're having trunking put in with sockets and, because I want each computer in the suite to have the internet, the trunking will also have 15 access points. Now, do you need a server to enable these 15 machines to run the internet (properly and quickly) or can you just have a router that takes its "signal" from that one socket or perhaps independently from where the internet comes in? (not far from the proposed room, about 10m away)

    If the server went wrong, would you still have the internet for these 15 computers?

    Any other pitfalls to avoid?

    What kind of tables did you use? It's a hexagon shaped room!

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    Re: ict suite

    The big point of having a tape is so that it can be easily stored off site in case of fire for example.

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    mark's Avatar
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    Re: ict suite

    1.) The advantages do seem minimal, but for a £500 server and about £100 tops to cover server and cleint connection licencing, you'd be up and running. An external USB2 drive to backup data on would be less than £100 which to me would be far more preferable to tapes.

    2.) Each PC can access the internet independantly, from every one ofthose 2 connections per room i'd imagine. Trace the cable back to it's source to see what's at the other end. I'd assume it's a 100mb switch with as many sockets as you have rooms, and one conection to the internet feed. Ideally if there are spare sockets run cable from there. It depends on what you want to be doing, and how much you can afford on which way you do it. At worst you could fit a switch on the cable running into your new suite, dividing the 100mb signal.

    2a.) If you logged into the server and had file storage only on the server, if it went down, you'd be unable to log into it yes. If you logged into the PCs independantly you'd still get the internet.

    2b.) Think of the future and any possible expansion if you can, and plan with that in mind.

    2c.) Around the edges! ...is cheaper and more flexible than installing a pole with connections [13A as well] in the middle of the room, and the classroom can be used for other things [depending on size].

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    Ric_'s Avatar
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    Re: ict suite

    Welcome h792... You don't mention what your background is and this may have a bearing on the solution you choose.

    I would recommend buying a branded server if your budget can afford it but it doesn't need to be too fancy. I would also recommend using it as a print server as well as a file server so that you can manage print sharing easier.

    While we are on about printing, make sure you have a couple of NETWORKED printers (i.e. ones with network card in them) cos this will save you lots of hassle when it comes to sharing them - for instance you don't have to have certain computers on.

    As mentioned above, tape backup isn't a necessity but it is recommended to backup your work. If you go for mirrored hard disks in case one fails and maybe do a backup to DVD once a week it should be sufficient. I would check to see if there are any LEA recommendations about backup though.

    As for your Internet query, it sounds like you have some kind of routed setup onto the SWGFL. Although this isn't necessarily the best way to go it is adequate for the number of machines that you have. A simple switch will be fine to allow for more connections.

    Good luck with the desks, I've yet to find someone who will provide me with a suitable solution for a room that I am refitting. To date I have seen interesting desks from Flipscreen (via Oliis) and CSE.

    As for upgrading the laptops... I recommend as much RAM as possible. When you go over 512MB the difference in XP is noticeable.

    BTW... check that none of your quotes are for machines with XP Home. I've seen primary schools cheated in this way before. XP Home doesn't network so you need XP Pro which costs a bit more.

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    Re: ict suite

    I agree with a lot of what Ric_ says but I feel I should elaborate a little on one of his points.

    Mirrored disks are only a failsafe against hardware failure, not against data corruption. If a file gets corrupted on one, it will get corrupted on another. Backing up weekly onto DVD is a short term measure at best because the shelf life of DVDs isn't too impressive and they are somewhat delicate compared to a tape. In addition, loosing anything up to a weeks data could be disasterous.

    If you want to do long term backups, tapes are the only answer imo. As already mentioned, DVD-Rs don't have an especially good shelf life (less than five years according to some reports I've read). Removable hard drives are far too delicate and prone to damage which makes them unsuitable for off-site backups. Tapes however are cheap per gigabyte, quite hardy depending on the technology you use and have excellent shelf life. The only disadvantage of a tape drive is the relatively high outlay to get going (>£500 for a 100/200GB LTO drive + cost of software).

    At the end of the day, I guess it depends on how important the data you want to back up is. Does your school use SIMS or a similar MIS? Do your staff have any important documents which need backup regularly? It is a lot easier to justify the cost when you take that sort of thing into account.

    XP Home can be networked in so much as you can share folders on it, connect to other shares and talk to the internet. However it can't be joined to a domain so in a multiuser context, it is pretty useless.

    As for your desks, what are your requirements? Would standard worktop benching suffice? It doesn't necessarily need to be fancy.

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    Ric_'s Avatar
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    Re: ict suite

    @Norphy: The only reason I mentioned DVD backup on a weekly basis was because of the budget constraints in a primary school. There is also less of a need to keep long term backups IIRC. The way I understood it was that the MIS was separate.

    Even if you don't anticipate having a domain now (although I don't understand why you wouldn't) I would make sure you XP Pro so that you have a choice.

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    Re: ict suite

    I'm in a primary school and we do DVD backup. You can use a program called FireStreamer RM (here ~ £40), that allows Windows Backup to write directly to the DVD as if it were a tape. It also sorts disk spanning and compression. So you get about 8gb (twice that for dual layer DVD-R) on a disk and I have 2 drives. That was fine - I could backup my server over a few nights and rotate the disks. I must admit that DVD backup is not ideal for day-to-day use!

    Since we've got digital cameras, our drive usage has swolen, so I'm going to have to go down the route of external hard drive backup. Have 2 externals. Full backup on monday then incremental for the rest of the week then swap the hard drives.
    Quote Originally Posted by norphy
    The only disadvantage of a tape drive is the relatively high outlay to get going
    I agree tape is king but that's a prohibitively large disadvantage! I can get a 250GB external for £70; so 2 of them for complete disaster recovery and I should be able to fit a few weeks' worth on. I might do a DVD-R backup every 1/2 term as a long-term double backup!
    I found this infomation about DVD shelf life here:
    Among the manufacturers that have done testing, there is consensus that, under recommended storage conditions, CD-R, DVD-R, and DVD+R discs should have a life expectancy of 100 to 200 years or more; CD-RW, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, and DVD-RAM discs should have a life expectancy of 25 years or more.
    Quote Originally Posted by norphy
    In addition, loosing anything up to a weeks data could be disasterous.
    Unlikely! Most of my need for backup restoration has been caused by user error - retrieving a specific file takes a long time on tape, but is much quicker using harddrive. In event of complete disaster (e.g. fire), I'd be greatful for anything - a week's loss might only be a concern for admin and they'll be on a different (probablly badly managed) network of their own, but that's not my problem!

    Whilst on the topic: Anyone know of any good (relatively rugged) external hard drives?!

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    Re: ict suite

    Ric, Robert Hall in cheltenham do ICT furniture. They've given me plans for desks that will fit the edge of the hexagon shaped room. You may find them useful. Thing is, you always need 3 quotes...

    Anyway, I'll be more specific, thanks to everyone for their help so far!

    Quotes are coming in at about 19k (!) and I think some of these are ott. Realistically we've got 12k, perhaps a touch more.

    My original computer spec was 10 machines with:
    512 or 1 gig ram (which shall I get?)
    AMD chips but not sempron or intel celeron (however I've been told that sempron or celeron chips would be fine)
    17 inch flat screen
    optical mouse
    usb's at front
    Windows xp pro with office small business edition
    No anti virus needed, we get sophos
    Desktop machines with the type where the monitor sits on the box, rather than ugly towers but this furniture may allow the towers to be hidden.
    Internet for each computer
    File and (you're right!) print server. Something simple I can understand and is reliable.
    One HP colour laser printer (which one?)

    I'd include the 5 toshiba's too which are about 3 years old..

    What about this windows vista? Should I wait until this comes out? What will be the min spec vista can run on? I don't want redundant computers!

    Regarding the internet, all I know is, it's SWgfl and next to my room there is a box with loads of blue wires coming out of it which then go to each computer in the school. The computers don't talk to each other at the mo and i'll pretty much leave the classroom computers alone.

    I was originally tempted to have a wireless system in the suite so I didn't have to worry about piping the network cables around the room but have been told that this is a bit weird for a permanent suite with desktop machines and it would be very slow for 15 computers. What do you think?

    Just to add, the admin/office side of the school is seperate. The only stuff stored on the server will be childrens work, perhaps the odd bit of staff work but they have their laptops.

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    eean's Avatar
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    Re: ict suite

    Quote Originally Posted by h792
    I was originally tempted to have a wireless system in the suite so I didn't have to worry about piping the network cables around the room.
    Yes, it would be a bit wierd for an ICT suite and probably not much cheeper - by the time you've paid £15/20 x 15 + computers + £70 for an access point +time/hassle installing cards and setting up you've paid for you cabling. With wires you will have absolutely no problems, but cheap access points tend to die eventually. We have 15 wireless laptops, and they run OK but never as good as wires - with wires you could easily run say multimedia cd's, which are installed on the server.

    Quote Originally Posted by h792
    Desktop machines with the type where the monitor sits on the box, rather than ugly towers but this furniture may allow the towers to be hidden.
    You could also look at Dell. We got some from them recently that have a slim tower that piggy backs behind the flat screen monitor - looks quite neat. The only thing is they have a laptop-style cd rom drive (because it is vertically mounted). This may not be as robust as a normal drive but I doubt you'd really want the kids to be using cds anyway as they just get scratched - you can install them on your shiny new server!

    Quote Originally Posted by h792
    i'll pretty much leave the classroom computers alone
    Get your ict suite sorted first but always consider hooking up the classroom computers at a later date. I did this and it means they are used now! If you can get a consistant look and the same software installed across the school, kids and teachers know how to use it and know what is installed. They can also, say, start a piece of work in the suite and finish it in their classroom. I've also positioned the laser printer just outside the ict suite. This means classrooms can print to the laser and I can get rid of those expensive and unreliable inkjet printers.

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    mark's Avatar
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    Re: ict suite

    £19k for 10 PCs including Office??? Did that include cabling and desking then?

    I just paid £13k for 28 machines (@£460 each) http://www.edugeek.net/index.php?nam...highlight=5150
    Office Pro is £30 to schools. We use a local electrical contractor that would charge around £500 to cable mains and network for that many points.

    I'm just buying 38 of these: http://www.misco.co.uk/cntnt/emailar...affiliate=7617 which although slightly lower in spec come in at the same price (£17k all in) - the all in one design tho' fits the need we have for them.

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    Re: ict suite

    If you can afford a gig of ram, get it. You can't have too much RAM.

    Celerons or Semprons would probably be adequate. I'm guessing that in a primary school they're not going to be using particularly processor intensive software?

    Don't get Office Small Business Edition with the PCs, that will be an OEM licence and will add at least £100 to the cost of the PC. See if you can get it on a Microsoft Select or at the very least an Open licence. That way you'll be able to get full Pro for £30-£45. Contact Pugh or Ramesys

    How about small form factor desktops like these?. The picture there shows it on its side but it can be used as either a micro tower or micro desktop. We have about 60 of those in school, they're excellent machines.

    We've got a mixture of HP and home brew servers. Whatever you do, don't buy the server with an OS as it is much cheaper to get Windows Server on an educational licence that it is on an OEM one. Don't forget the CALs either. If it is only going to be used for file sharing, you might want to consider Linux as there would be no licence costs to worry about.

    Don't bother waiting 'til vista comes out. Yes, it's very pretty and does have a few compelling features. However there aren't enough over XP at the moment and it means having to learn a new interface. However, those NECs I linked above ran Beta 2 of Vista with all the bells and whistles turned on very well, albeit with some extra RAM.

    Don't have wireless in an ICT suite. Too unreliable, too slow and too expensive. Stick with Cat5e.

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    Ric_'s Avatar
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    Re: ict suite

    I have to concur that you should go to a MS Education Reseller to get get your software separately... you'll save a bomb! Ramesys are always helpful.

    Since you are on a tight budget you could also consider using OpenOffice or StarOffice which are free to use for education. This would save you over £30 per machine.

    Again, steer clear of wireless since it will be ridiculously slow and it's a pig to set up.

    For your computers get a quote of 1st Technologies (01254 878800). You will be able to get 2nd-user Dell/HP/etc. for £300 a piece with a TFT. I would go for P4s rather than Celerons to eek a little extra life out of them and the more RAM the better

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    Re: ict suite

    I work in a small primary-type school and I think 17in TFTs are too big - 15s are perfectly adequate.

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    Re: ict suite

    “1. Do we really need tape back up? It's a primary school not a bank?! Would having a pair of hard drives, with one acting as back up be sufficient?”
    Should be ok but I would use 3 hard drives and make sure at least 2 are not in the same PC. Best if each drive is as far apart as possible on the opposite ends of the school. One drive each end and 1 in the middle of the school should be enough if you lose all 3 due to fire chance’s are no one is going be bothered about file backup.

    Anything really important should have another backup on CD or to a removable device offsite.

    If money is tight use an old workstation as a fileserver. You shouldn’t need much power just a decent sized hard drive.

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    Re: ict suite

    Pc world are at the moment advertising a 250Gb usb 2 backup solution for around seventy quid this should be more than adequate for your backup needs. Also i would get a reasonable file/printer server around a grand to fifteen hundred with 2003 license this will allow you to manage clients better, nothing worse than having a bunch of standalones. Security will be better and easier to manage. Workstations around £370 - £420 with XP pro and office 2003 student license. Switch well you takes your choice here with either cisco or HP procurve not much in the price but i would go for the cisco 3550 48 port which will cover all your needs and you could get this for around 2k, cabling and electrics would then be down to preferred contractor but i would go for 15 double rj45 conections as it is cost effective £80 per socket all back to the switch and tested for £2400;
    I roughly get this to around 13k without the desktops but i am sure this can be done for around 4k which would be approx 17k job done.
    hope this has been a help and if you need any contacts details feel free to pm me OK

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