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Hardware Thread, What should I buy in Technical; As you are reasonably new to the school I would suggest noting down what is actually used within the school ...
  1. #16
    apoth0r's Avatar
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    As you are reasonably new to the school I would suggest noting down what is actually used within the school and base your purchases around that, with slightly more extreme scenarios.
    Find out what the ICT action plan is for your school, what has been purchased before, what they wanted to purchase before you arrived and negotiate accordingly. It's far too easy to go into a school with your own agenda, but it really is about compromising with the head (and the budget) to come up with a solution that benefits everyone, especially the children.
    I don't believe in buying expensive SAN solutions for a primary school, even if it is fairly large, a standard backup would be fine to tape and would save money for exciting technology implemented elsewhere in the school. You have to remember primaries aren't like secondary's and cannot justify buying rackmounts and amazing 'behind the scenes technology'.
    The teachers and kids want something in front of them, to see the real benefits of using the technology rather than being an end user. (as do the parents from past experience)

    Perhaps go through the Becta self evaluation stuff before buying anything, come up with an agreed 2/3 year action plan and go from there.
    Just don't dive in!

  2. Thanks to apoth0r from:

    Tricky_Dicky (9th June 2009)

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    apoth0r,

    You have raised some excellent and very valid points.

    It wasn't a SAN in particular I was looking for, it was just one of the options I came across. The main things are large volume storage as more and more of our children are creating photos, videos and music. I have a teacher who is very keen on setting up podcasting and the school as a whole is being led by a head teacher who is very forward looking. The last thing I want to do is spend X amount now and find out in 12 months time that I've got to spend X again. I would rather spend X+X.5 now and have the system to support the school for the next 3 years.

    Please keep the ideas coming, especially personnel examples as they are really helping.

    Rich

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    Hi TD,

    I suppose you need a clear idea of your requirements and an even better handle on your budget. Then approach a few companies and discuss whether they can provide what you need, for what you can spend.

    I'm guessing you won't have the recurring budget for VMware so perhaps would be best looking at open-source virtualization (sic) solutions. It is possible to make a large difference to your systems capability without spending a massive amount.

    If you can live without flashy front end software to handle most things (and believe me, you can ), you can find a lot of your IT budget dripping back to you, as you won't need to pay the flashy yearly license fees either.

    Same goes for SANs. Sure, they can be expensive but a workable SAN solution needn't cost an unfeasible amount of money - even for a small primary school.

    Talk a lot with people who know, maybe discuss with those who build (and not simply resell) the types of systems you require.

    The main thing though is to be very clear on what you need right now and for your forseeable future requirements. Get a clear idea of what is on offer against those requirements and budget and then sit down and make an informed choice.

    Best regards,
    Chris

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tricky_Dicky View Post
    It wasn't a SAN in particular I was looking for
    I'd agree with apoth0r in that a SAN would probably be overkill in your situation.

    The main things are large volume storage
    You can get single disks up to around 2TB now, although those cost a bit of a premium. Also, I know the cheap Dell servers (T105) will take four harddrives if you can do without a CD drive. You could fit four disks per server - one for the OS and three in a RADI-5 array. You could also add some more harddisks and re-use your old server as a plain file/backup server. For backup I'd get a self-contained eSATA-connected hardware RAID-1 enclosure (I have one at home, around £100 each with no disks in) to connect to your backup server, that way to backup you simply take one harddrive out and swap a new one in.

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    As an official Sponsor of Edugeek I would be more than happy for you to give me a call/email to discuss your requirements.

    We are partnered with all major manufacturers and have specialist in every area - networking, servers, AV, BECTA installtions, IWB etc...

    Give me a call or email if you would like me to compile a quote and/or technical information/alternatives!

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    Quote Originally Posted by dhicks View Post
    I'd agree with apoth0r in that a SAN would probably be overkill in your situation.



    You can get single disks up to around 2TB now, although those cost a bit of a premium. Also, I know the cheap Dell servers (T105) will take four harddrives if you can do without a CD drive. You could fit four disks per server - one for the OS and three in a RADI-5 array. You could also add some more harddisks and re-use your old server as a plain file/backup server. For backup I'd get a self-contained eSATA-connected hardware RAID-1 enclosure (I have one at home, around £100 each with no disks in) to connect to your backup server, that way to backup you simply take one harddrive out and swap a new one in.

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    David Hicks
    Having spent the last week looking long and hard at just what we have and what we need I'm getting more inclined to follow your advice David.
    The quote for the SAN came in and I'm sure if you fully utilize the speed and capabilities then it's an amazing piece of kit but after spending some time with the teachers and kids and seeing what is actually used I just don't think it is necessary.
    I think spending a few pounds on a decent large simple file storage server, a new AD and then Exchange is going to be the way to go.
    Quick one on hard drives: Everyone seems to go for crazy fast and relatively small SAS drives now, for what I need should I just buy normal large SATA drives on a RAID6 configuration?

    Cheers for all your input guys, nice to know there is support before I start crying.
    Rich

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tricky_Dicky View Post
    I think spending a few pounds on a decent large simple file storage server, a new AD and then Exchange is going to be the way to go.
    Why bother paying for an email server? I've never seen what people see in Exchange. What does it do?

    Everyone seems to go for crazy fast and relatively small SAS drives now, for what I need should I just buy normal large SATA drives on a RAID6 configuration?
    You could use Western Digital VelociRaptors - SATA interface but 10,000RPM (normal SATA drives generally run at 7,200RPM, SAS drives generally run at 15,000RPM) and larger capacity for less money than your average SAS drive.

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    David Hicks

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    Quote Originally Posted by dhicks View Post
    Why bother paying for an email server? I've never seen what people see in Exchange. What does it do?
    David Hicks
    Have you used Exchange before? The main reason for going for it is the use of shared calenders and resources. It also allows excellent mailing lists and controls. There are loads more reasons, but I'm just not that happy with the current POP email setup, it doesn't provide any functionality.

    I'll have a look at the Raptors, would you recommend anywhere in particular for them?

    Rich

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    apoth0r's Avatar
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    Have you thought about using the LEA email based system considering you have already paid for it in your broadband fee's?
    Might be worth looking into, saving even more money? Not sure on what Birmingham uses as a provider but EMBC certainly do provide that service.

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    We already use the BGFL service. Would it be possible that there are different levels of service available do you think instead of just basic POP?

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    Would be well worth looking into, I mean you've already paid for it if it does exist, why reinvent the wheel?

    (sorry I'm not up with the current BGFL stuff)

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    We're an EduGeek sponsor, specialising in servers and networking.

    If you're pretty sure of what you're looking for now, or if you'd like someone to come out and do a free on-site survey to identify your needs and propose an ideal solution, we'd be happy to send one of our engineers out to you.

    If you're interested, drop me an email or a PM.

    Thanks

  14. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tricky_Dicky View Post
    Have you used Exchange before? The main reason for going for it is the use of shared calenders and resources. It also allows excellent mailing lists and controls.
    +1 If you haven't used it then Exchange really is a great product. I'm no Microsoft fanboy, but if you're in a Windows environment and have a lot of users and you want everything to 'just work' then Exchange is a really excellent email server. Under the educational pricing it's extremely cheap as well. I know schools who use third-party hosted email services (LEA or otherwise) and we hear about a lot of problems. In a school that relies on email like ours, there's no way I'd consider outsourcing it.

    As far as the storage server goes, SATA drives are probably fine (bear in mind most SANs will use SATA) for a small- to medium-sized site. If you're planning on having a lot of simultaneous users then by all means consider SAS.

    We're a secondary school with 1600 users / 800 PCs and this is the spec of our 'resources' file server (will be migrating to a SAN in coming months), bearing in mind it's a a year and half-odd old:

    Dell PowerEdge 2950
    5x Seagate 15k 146GB SAS
    2x Quad Xeons @ 1.86GHz
    8GB RAM
    2x 1Gb Network (Trunk)

    The CPU and RAM are overkill for a file server (they were originally specced for a different purpose), but they rest of it should fairly solid. Take a look on the Dell site and use their configuration tool to find something that matches your price. I'm sure if you post up a spec people here will be happy to look over it. I'd personally much rather go for a Dell server with a 3yr warranty than start building my own stuff with Raptors (David's right, they're awesome drives - but I'm not sure I'd put them in a server).

    Cheers,
    Chris

  15. Thanks to Duke from:

    Tricky_Dicky (12th June 2009)

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