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Network and Classroom Management Thread, From CC3 to......something else in Technical; We've a single form entry school for primary aged children. We've got a computer in every classroom, a scattering of ...
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    jstuttard's Avatar
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    From CC3 to......something else

    We've a single form entry school for primary aged children. We've got a computer in every classroom, a scattering of IWBs, a small bank of laptops in our foundation stage, oh and an ICT Suite. The server needs to be replaced this year - its 4 and starting to creak a little.

    RM suggested we buy a new one, add in lots of licences and make a glorious and very expensive move to CC4 (14K was their opening quote!!!).

    But I'm due to make my budget proposal for the Governors, and I'm thinking that we need to go down a different route. I'm thinking still replace the server (we need more storage space) and then move to buying a stack of wireless tablets / Q1s or net books with the intension of having at least a set in each key stage or class and making ICT more portable.

    If I go down this wireless route, we need a way of controlling the network and devices, giving people access to a network drive and printers, imaging the machines, all that sort of thing.

    So any suggestions for the server / network control? Are there solutions like CC4 that do the whole easy domain management thing, but are lightweight, cheap and aimed at wireless networks of mobile devices? I've heard about Ranger, but I don't know much. Or should I look into getting an IT company in to cook us up a Vanilla solution using our existing server 2003 etc licences?

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    Try CSE

    CSE have an alternative to Ranger and CC3/4 called Network Toolkit - it's got all the tools the RM one has and more (e.g. it's got an asset booking thing, a networked presentation screen package built in, and it works within the Active Directory as opposed to locking it all down like the RM one.

    It's basically like having a company sort out your active directory and support your network without taking over.

    As you'd expect it comes with software assurance, upgrades/updates and the first year's support and maintenance is free.

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    mb2k01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by randall View Post
    CSE have an alternative to Ranger and CC3/4 called Network Toolkit
    I'd second this too - I went with CSE from an RM 2.4 network instead of heading in the CC3 direction.

    The CSE option saved me loads of money, gave me support when I needed it and sold me comparative tools to RM, but the freedom to operate outside of them (i.e. in AD itself). Their new product look great, and well priced too.

    SteveCSE on this forum is who I dealt with back in the day - He'll put you in touch with the right person.

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    jstuttard (1st January 2010)

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    morganw's Avatar
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    Depending on the number of wireless devices you are planning to buy it might be worth budgeting for a managed wireless system from the start. If you are starting from scratch isn't probably wise to go for server virtualisation from the off as well, so i'd check with anyone selling you a system that they will support it running in vm environment, if not right now, then at least have the option to migrate to virtualisation in the future.

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    Steven_Cleaver's Avatar
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    I have used both RM & CSE I found both these systems OK & CSE much better than RM for support & their systems more stable but over the last couple of years, I have had found their support to not be quite as good as it was & both these providers can be a bit pricey as in past experience they charge a License cost per machine & per extra piece of Software Tool you want

    They both also provide a software solution that can be a little inflexible, try these guys Burconix Ltd Burconix - Professional ICT Solutions for Education and SME they have their own set of Network Management tools but also are very flexible in providing solutions that fit your organisation.

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    @jstuttard:
    Unless you are going to commision the new server yourself and build all the other services needed to accompany this server then it is always going to cost. Don't forget you already have the CC3 licenses and will just have to upgrade your desktop licenses, all this as well as a brand new server and all the trimmings too, plus 1 years support is not bad for 14k as the commisioning itself costs around 4-6k with the server purchase.

    Add in the time factor for doing it yourself and the costs soon mount along with purchasing brand new licenses phew the costs have crept up and beyond the 14k mark Hmmm not looking quite as bad a proposal from RM as first thought eh!

    This is just my view on the case in hand but if I was you I would ask them to see if they can knock anything off or even do a lease over 3 years may save you loads of grief and money in the long run.

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    webman (3rd January 2010)

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    mb2k01's Avatar
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    @bossman,
    I personally disagree with a large amount of what you've written, but as always it's a matter of personal choice, and what really works best for the school. If RM does work for them and they have had a good history with them then fair enough.

    The facts are that RM come out towards the top of the list when it comes to comparing prices of alternatives, yet consistently come quite low down when it comes to quality of service, products and support. I've worked with 3 schools who have left RM and gone to alternative soluations (one of those being my decision, and the other two theirs).

    My personal preference will always be in-house vanilla. You have a whole world of support options, many of them free in forums like this, and the person in charge begins to really understand their network instead of clicking on front-end interfaces. It's also a good time to secure some CPD (probably financed from the savings you've made by choosing an alternative!)..... Do you reply on other management interfaces to hold your hand, or do you actually learn transferable skills which help improve your own prospects as well as the quality of the network.

    My personal preference won't suit everyone, but most people will want flexibility in whatever system they implement. In my experience sadly this doesn't come in the RM CCx solution.

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    webman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mb2k01 View Post
    My personal preference will always be in-house vanilla. You have a whole world of support options, many of them free in forums like this, and the person in charge begins to really understand their network instead of clicking on front-end interfaces. It's also a good time to secure some CPD (probably financed from the savings you've made by choosing an alternative!)..... Do you reply on other management interfaces to hold your hand, or do you actually learn transferable skills which help improve your own prospects as well as the quality of the network.

    My personal preference won't suit everyone, but most people will want flexibility in whatever system they implement. In my experience sadly this doesn't come in the RM CCx solution.
    CC3 gives us benefits of both - we have the free support with EduGeek and RM Communities for the RM side of things. But the great thing about it is that it gives us more time to understand and develop new things instead of just having to make things work. For example, not having to write GPOs, batch scripts, ADMs and get a workstation imaging solution working (which we would have to do on a vanilla network), has given us the time and freedom to research, develop and implement open source solutions and come up with other ideas to make things better.

    If there's something CC3 doesn't do, we find another way to do it. Their interface doesn't stop us from learning new things Once people stop thinking of RM like a strait jacket, the better!

    Our team has a broad range of skills for networking, Microsoft, Linux, hardware, software packaging/deployment, and programming. CC3 allows us the flexibility to do all of this, and I'm confident we could probably manage a vanilla network - it just wouldn't give us the benefits we currently have

    We're looking forward to the CC4 upgrade this year so we can carry on running a great network which does everything we want, and more
    Last edited by webman; 3rd January 2010 at 01:27 PM.

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    I agree with webman. These isn't anything on CC3 that holds you back. I was on a CC3 network but moved to CC4, again, there isn't anything that holds you back.

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    webman (3rd January 2010)

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    mb2k01's Avatar
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    The OP wanted a discussion on alternatives, not reasons that he was wrong to consider moving from RM. The "RM vs Vanilla/Other" scenario is almost as pointless as the "Mac vs PC" argument.

    One will work fantastically well for one group of people who see no need to change, and the other will work just as well for another group of people. It doesn't mean there is a right and a wrong choice, just that both options exist for new users to consider and make an informed choice on.

    As I said above, RM are generally more expensive than most alternatives. If the premium costs represent services or support contracts that you are happy with and value, then RM are the one for you.
    If a 1000 Mac is more appropriate (for whatever reason) to buy than a similar spec PC at 500, then that's fine too.

    My personal preference is PC all the way - yet I'll be putting an order in for Macs some point this year to support our Media and Diploma links. My personal choice isn't important as our vision for IT is to, where possible, present learners with real-world experience of IT.
    Media students will no doubt leave us post 16 and use Macs. The chance of any learners leaving us post 16 and using an RM connect network in FE or a workplace are very slim, which links with our choice for implementing an non-RM network.

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    webman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mb2k01 View Post
    The "RM vs Vanilla/Other" scenario is almost as pointless as the "Mac vs PC" argument.
    Exactly; so why bring it up in response to bossman's post?

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    jstuttard's Avatar
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    Thanks for all your replies guys, some interesting ideas!

    I do like RM, but I get the feeling that because CC4 adds a *lot* of overhead to the client machines, if we go down the wireless devices route, trying to get 24 machines logged in at the same time wirelessly might be a problem!

    I'll investigate some of the other companies suggested, see if their products will do the job.

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    webman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jstuttard View Post
    if we go down the wireless devices route, trying to get 24 machines logged in at the same time wirelessly might be a problem!
    A lot of this will depend on your wireless infrastructure. Do you have or are planning to use a managed system such as Ruckus?

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    mb2k01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by webman View Post
    A lot of this will depend on your wireless infrastructure. Do you have or are planning to use a managed system such as Ruckus?
    To continue the theme of balancing the discussion...
    I evaluated Rukus a few months back and was less than impressed. Very highly priced / licensed and not as flexible as some other managed solutions around. I know a lot of people (especially here) love it, but it's a bit like the topic above and comes down to choice and circumstance - have a look around at the other options etc.

    I'm continuing to look down the managed wireless route for the additional functionality like visitor access etc, but for the minute, we have 2 x class sets of 32 laptops logging on fine to our (Vanilla) network without issue - using off the shelf Linksys access points located throughout the school, and an internal IAS server using RADIUS.

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    jstuttard's Avatar
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    I was thinking managed wireless, I once had a leaflet from DLink about a Power-over-Ethernet solution which looked pretty clever, I was planning on taking a look at BETT to see what might be on offer

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