Apologies if this is in the wrong forum, wasn't sure where to post. I've just moved to a tiny little primary school and I've been confronted with a complete mess. I was wondering if you guys would please give me your opinions and ideas. At present the network consists of a Windows 2000 server, an IT suite of 25 machines (fairly old XP), digital whiteboard machines in each of the classrooms and the odd staff laptop (various). The school has been using Ranger for the last few years but it seems to be setup quite badly. Software seems to be all over the place and staff laptops aren't connected to the domain, they just use the internet connection. Certain classes use a single login (eg, Year 4 will all login with the username Y4) and the so called "Head" of ICT doesn't seem to have a clue.
Could anyone give me some pointers on where to start? Do we really need Ranger or would a vanilla network do the job? Is the group login thing ok and if so, how should it be setup? (never properly experienced it before). I know there seem to be a million and one questions here but any help would be greatly appreciated.
Do we really need Ranger or would a vanilla network do the job?
Just plain Windows will be fine. Do you have any money to help sort this out? I'd say make sure your PCs have 512MB of RAM each (they probably have 256MB, another 256MB is around £10 each on eBay). Wipe each machine, reinstall Windows on it and make sure you get a disk image before you reinstall any software. Set up your software to run as silent installs from a network share. That way it's the work of about 20 minutes to get a machine reimaged and installing software in the future. Windows Server 2008 is £100 at education prices, so upgrading your server is perfectly feasible as long as it meets minimumj hardware requirements. You'll probably want some more RAM and maybe another harddrive or two, again eBay is nice and cheap.
Is the group login thing ok and if so, how should it be setup?
Yes, that can be a good idea for smaller children. By Y4 they might be better off having their own login, though. Try giving them a fixed non-changeable 3-letter password each - easy to remember for both you and them.
As dhicks says... the vanilla option is fine and extremely workable in small primary school... I'm in one now (albeit private ) and have moved from here from another. Do as he says.
I'd disagree with him about the logons. We have individual logons for all children from Reception up. Only the youngest children here (we take them from 3 months, but they don't generally go near the computers until they're 3 1/2!) use a group logon.
Our Reception classes are told their 'top secret' three letter password... and it's emphasised how secret it is. They all have the same one and they can't change it They seem to get the hang of logging on within a few weeks and they are starting to save their own documents in their own areas.
By the time they get to year 5, they can change their passwords, but forget it 3 times and you're back on a fixed one!
From our point of view having separate home drives for each child is more or less essential. Without it we would be struggling to identify an individual's work. At the start of each academic year, I zip the folders containing the previous academic year's work and they're off again. (Advantage of a very small school - it doen't take long to do it for each class!)
You can still have individual folders with group logins. We have redirected 'My Documents' and have a sub folder with Pupils and each pupils has their own folder in there. Works quite well. At another of my schools we go another way of having a separate mapped drive with Year group foldewrs and each child has a folder in the year group to store their work, and that seems to work quite well.
When I arrived at my school it was in a similar set-up.
If you have any money invest in a new server, it doesn't have to be powerful, but it means that your network will become adapted to your ideas, not the technology. If your computers are 256 MB get the RAM upgraded. Re-install them as well. Get rid of Ranger, you don't need it, we run on vanilla and it works fine!
Group logons will be ok, just make sure that the home folders all have a named folder for each person in the class, we have also found that a "shared drive" for each year group works well, if a maths group from all different classes are doing work, they can save in their and all access it.
Get your staff laptops connected as well, with their my documents re-directed, this means you have less work in the long run if laptops loose data or "disappear"!
Also check the backup routine of the server, the one here was non-existent!
The school has been using Ranger for the last few years but it seems to be setup quite badly. Software seems to be all over the place and staff laptops aren't connected to the domain, they just use the internet connection.
I've worked on a similar network. The procedure was to uninstall Ranger on the server, then create new OUs and Security Groups within Active Directory. Ranger like RM, still runs/relies on Active Directory.
I then re-imaged all workstations completely, as removing Ranger tools/software is far too time consuming. Starting again from new does work out better.
As for usernames, I always encourage every school to have a logon per child from Y1 to Y2 and upwards. This gets them in the routine of logging on and creating a portfolio of their work. It's then easy for a teacher to obtain lower, middle and higher ability pieces of work for evaluation purposes or indeed when inspectors come into school. It also demonstrates good use of ICT too.
I'd also recommend you upgrade to Windows Server 2003. It does provide some useful enhancements over Windows 2000 Server and is more up-to-date. It's also Windows XP's native Server counterpart too.