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Wired Networks Thread, How Would You Design A New School's Network in Technical; I am working with a small group that is considering the possibility of opening a new private school. It would ...
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    How Would You Design A New School's Network

    I am working with a small group that is considering the possibility of opening a new private school. It would have around 300 students and would be grades 5 through 8.

    I would love your input on how you would design a school's network infrastructure if you were starting from scratch. I realize this is a very open ended question but I'm looking for you to get as specific as you would like.

    I'm looking for things like: I would recommend having one Mac lab and one Windows based lab so students can get experience with both systems.

    I'm looking for things from the back end server setup all the way to what hardware should be attached to each teacher's pc such as a smart board.

    The budget isn't part of the picture yet. So, assume there is funding for implementing a good solution with a reasonable price. This shouldn't be considered a project where money is no object but one where technology will be a big part of the children's education like it would be at most modern schools.

    Thanks in advance.

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    nicholab's Avatar
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    Cloud vs onsite services
    Single computing stack provider you go straight Dell/HP
    Wireless
    IT suite for Technology/Art/Media the rest one to one devices?

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    elsiegee40's Avatar
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    The problem with a private school is the small size. You won't be able to benefit from the bulk buying capabilities of your District schools.

    What you need depends on what your teachers want to a large extent. Do they want access to laptops/netbooks for every student in the classroom? Do you want a fixed IT Suite... not all schools have them?

    I'll kick you off with:

    1. Get the best internet connection you can afford. The faster the better. There is no such thing as too fast.
    2. Get a really good filtering system such as Smoothwall.

    You'll never regret either.

    How many staff do you envisage managing this network? As a small school, you probably won't want too many to keep the costs down.

    And what is 'small'? How many students?

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    AngryTechnician's Avatar
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    I'll try and chip in with more later, but I just want to say you've exactly described my dream job right now. If you'd like someone to do it all for you and run it once it's done, I'm available.

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    Hi

    Put a full fiber backbone in with gig switches and leyer 3 switches as the controlling switches in each cabinet.

    Place the server room in the middle of the network and make sure its got suitable air con in the server room and ups on switches and servers.

    I would go with the following servers

    Printer server with papercut
    Userserver to hold useerdata and be a secondry domain controller and secondry dns
    Main domain controller with dhcp and dns
    Smoothwall server to filter the internet
    Tera station backup servers
    Admin server for sims or management equivalent

    Think carefully how much space you need and times it by 2 to 3

    Plan your licensing and make sure you are legal.

    Set the computer rooms up properly with all the airing and network trunking in and the air con to keep them cool. Try and make the ict rooms the same size as the maximum class size.

    Make sure you have policies and procedure for staff and students and the correct aup for all. This will protect the school when things go wrong

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    A few suggestions I have:

    1) Wireless - reliable sitewide wireless will be very important if the students will be using personal devices or school owned laptops. If you get a managed system like Ruckus, overprovision the number of APs to ensure really solid coverage. Looking back, if I had to do our wifi implementation over, I would have at least 1 AP in every classroom, and 2-3 APs in the larger rooms. This will reduce the load on the APs and provide redundancy in case an AP fails.

    2) Servers - unless you can get very fast (at least 100mb, ideally 1000mb) internet, on-site servers are probably a better solution than cloud servers. If you go with on-site servers, look into virtualizing as much as possible, using either VMware or Hyper-V. When you get your new servers, Dell (and probably HP as well) will help you spec the equipment and licenses for this. For any on-campus servers/SANs, get the premium support coverage from Dell (ProSupport) or HP, as this is invaluable when something goes wrong.

    3) Desktops - standardize as much as possible on one model and configuration, and have at least 5-10% spare desktops and monitors in a closet for failure and future expansion. If you standardize, then replacing a failed system is simply a matter of swapping out the physical system with no major impact on the user.

    4) VDI - starting fresh, it may be worthwhile to investigate Virtual Desktops. This could not only reduce maintenance time on desktops, but also provide anytime, anywhere access from student personal devices to a virtual lab computer. It may be difficult to use VDI for applications like the Adobe suite due to memory requirements.

    5) Phone system - I suggest you look into a hosted VOIP phone system, like Onsip (as long as you have a reliable internet connection).

    6) Classrooms - I recommend having a desktop (or VDI thin client) in each classroom rather than laptop. For us at least, this has been much simpler for the teachers. You should also look into an AV control system like Extron to make controlling the projector/monitor, speaker system, screen, etc much simpler for the teacher. Wireless mics for the teachers may also be beneficial in the larger rooms. Smartboards would be very useful, as long as the school makes investments in properly training the teachers on how to use them.

    7) PA system - For the classrooms that will have a projector, you should look into integrating the projector speaker system with the schoolwide PA system. Not only does this reduce the number of speakers on the ceiling (making it look nicer), but then you can program it so that the projector audio mutes when a page comes though, ensuring that staff can always hear the announcements. We upgrades some of our classrooms to have this functionality recently and it was a fairly simple (and fairly economical) setup process.

    8) Computer Labs - If you use VDI, rather than having a computer lab, you might look into having multiple carts of laptops running the VDI client. Otherwise, if I was setting up a new school, I would design a PC-based computer lab to be in a large room, with the room dividers like hotel convention centers have. This way, the room could be one really large lab, two medium sized ones, or four small labs. It provides a lot of flexibility for the future. It would also be ideal to have an IDF closet nearby and homerun a network port from each computer station in the lab to a switch that is connected to the core by fiber.

    As for Macs, I would suggest having a small graphics art lab setup with Mac computers to give students experience on both platforms. Ideally, each station would be setup with Wacom tablets and video editing hardware.

    You might also want to have a small lab for music composition, with MIDI keyboards.

    9) CCTV - A reliable CCTV system is important, and IP is best for most new installations. Night vision dome cameras placed around the exterior of the campus buildings (especially focused on each exterior door) is a great start. Interior mini cameras (like iQEye Alliance Mini) are quite small and unobtrusive, and would be great for monitoring all the hallways (and classrooms, if your school is on-board with that).

    10) Access Control - Since you are starting from scratch, an IP-Based access control system (like HID Edge) would be something beneficial to consider placing on exterior campus doors, and certain interior doors (like computer labs, IDF closets, server room, maybe even offices if there was enough budget).

  7. 2 Thanks to netadmin:

    jammmie999 (22nd February 2012), Nick_Parker (23rd February 2012)

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    elsiegee40's Avatar
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    And one on @Soulfish 's behalf... please don't install sprinklers in the server room!

  9. 2 Thanks to elsiegee40:

    john (21st February 2012), Soulfish (23rd February 2012)

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    I'm very lucky in that I've had the opportunity to do something very similar recently. I think the biggest thing for me is to ensure you have the physical capacity (networking, power, rack space etc) to move and change as future needs may dictate. This includes making sure that you've got extra network sockets/power available for digital signage, wireless, IP CCTV, IP speakers, access control, cashless catering/vending etc. One of our biggest bugbears is that we don't have this, which even though we're a brand new school we find limiting.
    It's a lot easier to do it at the start (although it may cost a bit extra) then trying to retro fit it in a couple of years time

    Other than that I'd repeat what others are saying. Site wide wireless is a must - just make sure you've specced the system with 1-1 future provision in mind, it'll make things easier again. Cat6 runs throughout and gig speeds to the desktop, with multiple fibre runs between all remote cabinets and the network core. If possible also put in somewhere you can use as a DR/Backup location even if its only making sure one of the comms rooms/cabinets can take a couple of servers/nas devices to backup on to. Juniper or HP switching throughout perferably with 10gig links between cabinets. I'd also be looking to run a fully virtualised system using Hyper-V or Citrix XenServer, together with some sort of SAN. We run VMWare here but to be honest it's too expensive for what it gives you, and you can get the same features for a lot less with Hyper-V or XenServer.

    I like the idea of running both Macs and Windows based PCs (we do it here), but I know it's not for everyone and does have extra expense. We use our macs for music and for video production (we have a video post-production edit lab). With the PCs standardise as much as possible - it just makes it easier .

    For each classroom I'd be looking at interactive plasma TVs and a fixed desktop together with a VOIP phone. For the phone system I'd likely go with a MS Lync system tying into a full Exchange deployment.

    I'm sure I've forgotten lots, but we are actually a new build school where technology is a integral part of what we do so if you have any questions feel free to PM me

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    cpjitservices's Avatar
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    The first decision is to get a good internet connection..and then secure it with the likes of maybe Smoothwall or Squid/Dansguardian that's your personal preference I think. Once you have that then decide the best location of your server room and where you are going to put your cabinets for your core routing and switching, you'll need at least one cabinet in your server room any other cabs try and locate them in as secure place as possible, you may need one or 2 edge/access switches in your main cabinet that will go to Wireless AP's or other switches in the building instead of going directly to your core but again thats preference, once you've got a fairly clear idea on where your going to locate things then I'd get some cabling in the building cat6 everywhere throughout then some quotes from the likes of HP and cost up a routing/switch infrastructure - preferably Layer 3 Switching with POE, Gigabit etc - if your not comfortable with completely layer 3 switching then i'd recommend temporarily using something like routerOS or Pfsense for your routing and at this point you'll need to work out your ranges for IP and your subnetting and how your going to use VLANS if you plan to or not I recommend that you do, then get your servers, again I'd go with HP!!! But shop around you have the likes of Dell & IBM also. I'd suggest looking at virtualization and if your on a tight budget then I'd look at using CentOS as a base operating system for your virtual servers and use the KVM/Xen package to run your VM's. You'll need to look at your licensing for Server 2008 and Windows 7 if thats what you want, then look at your desktops, Stone are good as they offer cashback when leases are up and again HP. Then once you have your licensing sorted grab your copy of server 2008 stick it in a VM and build your AD etc and your imaging and get a couple of machines imaged and start testing once your happy roll your image out to all of your machines.
    You'll need storage, the way we have it setup is we have a HP Server with 2 3TB drives in on RAID1 which is enough for us with Samba running on the server (still trying to get single sign on working though), once we can get iSCSI working that will be even better.

    So to point out what I'd do:

    - Connectivity - Internet & Security- The best you can get
    - Locations - Server Room:Cabinets for Core Infrastructure:Cat6 Cabling:Wireless Access Points (if any)
    - Design - Work out roughly your IP Ranges and Subnetting
    - Hardware - Switching: HP ProCurves, Routing: I'd use RouterOS or PfSense for now / Servers
    - Structure - Decide on your software for virtualization: if budget persists try KVM/Xen for virtualization instead of VMWare, Design how your going to build your AD,DNS,Imaging etc etc and buy your licenses for MS Products Servers/Desktops
    - Licensing - For any MS products and other software you may use such as Anti-Virus (Sophos & the likes)

    Off hand thats all I can think of but if I think of anything else I'll add it.

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    soveryapt's Avatar
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    With less teaching staff ...

    Other than that, I think most of my own thoughts have been mentioned above .. lol .. so ...

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    Thanks for all the input so far.

    What would you recommend for a virtual desktop environment? I like the idea as it would require less wireless traffic to have a mobile lab connect over wireless for the sole purpose of connecting to a virtual desktop.

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    For a virtual desktop environment, I'd recommend VMware View. The nice thing about VMware View is that if you use VMware for your other servers as well, management and licensing can be a bit simpler. While traditional VMware pricing is expensive, some great academic discounts can be negotiated for schools.

    I've seen a VMware implementation at another school and used it for a bit while I was there. It took this school several months to get all the bugs worked out, but now it works quite well. A few points:

    -Blade servers can work well for VMware View, because it makes adding capacity much simpler. That being said, traditional rackmount servers could also work. Either way, try to minimize the number of virtual machines on each server as much as possible to improve performance.
    -A high speed SAN (ideally 10GB iSCSI) connecting all the servers together is important and if the SAN is powerful enough, you could also run all your virtual servers on it as well. If you get the same brand SAN as servers (ie Dell for everything or HP for everything), then you have a single support contact, which is great if something goes very wrong.
    -While virtual desktops can use less bandwidth, a constant and reliable connection from clients to the VDI server is essential. You should try to plan for a 10GB backbone from each IDF closet switch back to your core switch, over fiber, for the best possible performance and future expansion possibilities.
    -If you are going to be using VMware View over wireless, a highly reliably wireless network is critical. If the signal drops out for more than a few seconds, the virtual desktops disconnect, which is very frustrating to users (and may cause them to lose data if they are using a non-persistent desktop pool). Ruckus or Xirrus wireless may be a great choice for this environment, but whatever vendor you choose, include plenty of access points. The school I know of that uses VMware View tried to run a classroom of about 200 laptops with the View client over wifi and did not have enough access points nearby (causing the few that they did have to get overloaded, which ended up crashing their Aruba wireless network). They are now having to go back and double the number of access points across their campus.
    -For laptops, pretty much any laptop could be used for thin clients (or even Android tablets/iPads). A small laptop would probably be more practical for most student use than tablets, though.
    -If you want to run thin client desktops from VMware, take a look at Samsung's PC over IP monitors, which integrate a VMware View client inside the monitor (NC240 - OVERVIEW | SAMSUNG). These are great for an internet kiosk and light classroom use.

    If you do implement VDI, you need to decide how much virtualization you want to do. Do you want to virtualize just the student lab machines to allow for mobile carts? Do you also want to virtualize the classroom and office computers? The great thing about VMware is that you can setup multiple desktop pools (ie Non-Persistent Lab pool for students that resets on each logoff; a Persistent Faculty pool that gives each faculty member a desktop that never resets; or special Pools for users like the Finance Office that might need special accounting software) and users can access any desktop pool they are entitled to use from any VMware client. Obviously, if you offer a lot of users Persistent desktops, your VM storage needs will increase.
    Last edited by netadmin; 28th February 2012 at 05:49 AM.

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    What about getting a requirements baseline....I thought it would be important to find out what people need..then want...then work out a proposal with costs.....

    no use getting a Mack Truck when all you need to do is tow a caravan.....

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