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    How Would You Design A Primary School's Network

    I am working in a 3 form entry school. Recently we got the money to re- do the old staggering network infrastructure.
    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.
    We are going to have three mobile laptop (30) trolleys for each floor instead of our ICT room. And 3 iPads trolleys (30 for each floor)
    And we got the money to replace all the IWB. We also intend to install a surveillance system.

    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’s such as an IWB.

    Funding is from our LA. 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.

    Many thanks in advance.

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    abillybob's Avatar
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    Sounds like the exact same setup we have here but without the Macs and Mac Server. When I first started I made a network from scratch. We have two Generic Accounts 1 for reception and 1 for Year 1, Year 2 and up all have their own logins of which they change their passwords at the start.
    Staff are the same though have a bit more access to certain things in the control panel all done via Group Policy of course. We have roaming profiles for everyone (this was a mistake I should have used mandatory profiles for children & Roaming for staff) we have a second domain controller as a backup with WDS on it to deploy Windows.
    We have a separate File Server only a little HP ProLiant Micro Server which works very well and cost the school around £80, this has 6TB storage. A Backup NAS which all the servers backup to with 12TB storage.
    We also use Smoothwall for filtering and monitoring the children's internet activity.

    Thats about the basics of our network infrastructure obviously there is loads more but you didn't ask about any specific thing so I wouldn't want to bore you! If you have any questions your more than welcome to PM me!

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    Michael's Avatar
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    If you're re-wiring from scratch, you want CAT5e as a minimum - some would say CAT6, but it can be a nightmare to install around corners due to the additional thickness. You also have to question will we ever need more than 1000Mbps per wired client device?

    Going off topic: I think eventually future wireless access points will most likely use fibre, as a much higher density of connection is needed. Wireless AC pushes gigabit to new levels, so I wouldn't be surprised if future wireless technologies rely on OM3 fibre or better, pushing 10Gbps to each.

    In the short term, decent gigabit switches with PoE along with a managed Wireless AC system would be the way to go for a school your size. Also - always put more Ethernet ports in than you need. When an installer pulls cabling through walls, they can easily to 2 - 4 in one go, plus the labour rate is very comparable. Your surveillance system can also run off Ethernet and PoE, as well as the phone system. By colour coding everything in the cabinet, it keeps things straight forward!

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    Do you have to go down the laptop route? I've got 5 trolleys in my school and the maintenance is a nightmare. In my previous school we had 18 trolleys and not one was looked after properly. We had wires frayed on the charging cables and all sorts. I would seriously push for an IT suite. Soooo much more easier to manage! And then you have the issue of software deployments! Getting out a switch, spare AC adaptors, extension blocks - all a right old health & safety nightmare!

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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by boolyn View Post
    I would love your input on how you would design a school's network infrastructure if you were starting from scratch.
    We went through pretty much this exercise last summer (by the sounds of it we're about the same size of school as you, in a similar-sized, multi-floor building). We rewired the school for networking - multiple fiber connections between switch cabinets, at least two Cat5e connections to each classroom (one for phone, one for PC). We bought new switches, PoE-capable HP ones, to power both phone handsets and a Ruckus wireless system. We also set some space aside for a proper server cupboard with air conditioning and upgraded some server hardware, although most server-end stuff we already had. Just as a guidline, this cost in the £100,000 area, which we considered quite good for the amount we got done.

    If doing it again now, I'd put put the physical wiring in just the same, but I'm wondering if an on-site server room cupboard is actually neccesary. I'd be tempted to look at hosting everything offsite in a datacenter at the other end of a fiber connection. We've got a couple of quotes in the region of around £1,000 a month for a fiber connection to a data center and co-location of servers, and that includes a 30 megabit Internet connection from the data center.

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    Thanks for all the advise guys. We'll definitely be looking at your suggestions.

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    I've copied an extract from our network cabling standards below. If you can afford it, I would recommend using similar standards as it will provide the longest lifespan possible for your core network. If you are a small school, then 10Gb may be over the top, but you will want the option of going to 10Gb because it may be needed in the future. Use minimum 1Gb switches (PoE preferably) with fibre uplinks between them. If the switches can be upgraded to 10Gb uplinks in the future even better. Make sure your core switch as redundant power supplies and adequate backplane. Choose a good WiFi system from the start. I suggest Ruckus or AeroHive. Unifi if you are strapped for cash. Use plenty of VLANs. Good network cabinets and UPS are essential as well and good cable management should be made mandatory since you are starting from scratch. Server and storage-wise - it really depends on how much money you have, but virtualisation is strongly suggested. Make sure your servers have lots of CPUs and RAM. Two VM hosts are recommended as a minimum. Storage really depends on sizing requirements and money. Tell me how many clients, etc. in total you'll have connecting and amount of data you need to store (# users x allowed quote, etc.) and I'll give some recommendations. This is how we've transformed our infrastructure in the past 5 years - The evolution of a server room

    Optical fibre cable, connectors, and patch cords


    Optical fibre cable types

    Inter-Campus Links (between campuses)

    • All installations of optical fibre between campuses (or distances over 300 meters from the core distribution point) will be OS1 Single-mode.
    • All installations shall follow the existing Infrastructure pathways if available and must be specified in the planning stages in consultation with the ICT Manager.


    Intra-Campus Links (between buildings)

    • All installations of optical fibre between buildings on the same campus that are no further than 300 meters from the core distribution point will be OM3 Multi-mode.
    • Buildings shall NOT be connected in a daisy chain configuration, but must be directly cabled to the main Network Distribution Rack (network core) for each campus.
    • All installations shall follow the existing Infrastructure pathways if available and must be specified in the planning stages in consultation with the ICT Manager.


    Optical fibre core quantities
    Optical fibre cable shall be installed with a minimum of 12 cores between any two termination points (Racks). Smaller core configurations may be considered for low density buildings after consultation with the ICT Manager.

    Optical fibre connectors
    Optical fibre infrastructure is installed using SC connectors to the fibre trays and LC connectors to the network swtiches.
    The SC connector shall comply with AS/NZS 3080: 2003 or later.

    Optical fibre patch cords
    SC to LC patch cords are to be used for all connections to fibre trays (termination points) and network switches using SFP+ modules (10Gb).
    LC to LC patch cords are to be used for trunking connections between network switches where required. Stacking modules should be used in preference to fibre trunking where possible.
    The shortest fibre patch cord practical for the job must always be used.


    Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) cable and Telecommunications Outlets
    In all cases the use of plastic cable ties are not permitted for securing cables (Fibre or Copper). Where Category 6 is specified in this document, this will include Category 6a (ISO/IEC: 11801:2002 Class EA). Where UTP refers to Category 6a cable this is to be F/UTP (Foiled Twisted Pair).

    UTP cable category requirements
    All UTP cabling other than that used for patch leads must be solid core and not stranded wire cabling. All new buildings or campuses shall be installed using Category 6a solid core cabling. All Category 6a cables installed in any buildings, whether new or old, will use foil shielded cable (F/UTP).
    Note: F/UTP cable is smaller in diameter, is easier to work with, takes up 21% less volume in cabinets, and prevents alien crosstalk to a greater extent than the equivalent CAT6a UTP cable.

    UTP Backbone cabling

    The communications cabling between floors or segments of buildings shall be installed with a minimum of 25% spare capacity above project requirements to allow for future expansion.
    CAT6a Ethernet cables will not be used in cable runs exceeding 90 meters and are NOT to be connected in daisy chain configuration, but directly cabled to the main Network Distribution Rack in the respective building.

    Where cable runs exceeding 90 meters are required, OM3 Multi-mode fibre cables must be used to extend the network using a 10Gb trunk between network switches.

    Horizontal UTP Cabling and Wall or Ceiling Data Points (Outlets)

    Quantity of Wall Outlets

    • In all office spaces, a minimum of 3 per work station (1 x digital phone, 1 x computer, 1 x printer/scanner) + 1 per room entry point for Door Access Controllers


    • In Computer Laboratory spaces, 1 per computer workspace + 2 for printers/scanners + 2 for TV/Projector + 1 for Wireless Access Points (AP), + 1 per room entry point for Door Access Controllers + 1 for IP Intercom Systems.


    • In all General Purpuse Learning Areas (GPLAs), a minimum of 2 for printers/scanners + 2 for TV/Projector + 1 for Wireless AP, + 1 per room entry point for Door Access Controllers + 1 for IP Intercom Systems.


    • In all large foyers, staff rooms, and reception waiting areas, 1 for Digital Signage + 1 per room entry point for Door Access Controllers


    NOTE:
    Consideration must also be given to providing Wall Outlets for IP Secrity Cameras, Wireless Access points (APs), Video Displays (digital signage), additional D
    oor Access Controllers, additional IP Intercome Systems, Building Management Systems, etc.


    Category of Wall Outlets

    In new buildings or for complete rewiring of existing buildings, Category 6a shall always be used.

    UTP Patch Panels

    In new buildings or for complete rewiring of existing buildings, Category 6a patch panels shall be used. All Category 6a patch panels shall be of 24 port capacity.
    The voice ties (telephony integration panel) may use 36 or 48 port patch panels.


    UTP Patch Cables
    Category 6a patch cords must be used for all new buildings or the complete rewireing of existing buildings. Existing buildings using Category 5e patch panels may use Category 5e patch calbes or Category 6a patch cables.

    Patch cords should be stranded wire (not solid core) to enable easier routing and more frequent bending and moving of the patch cords into patch panels and network switches.
    The shortest patch lead practical for the job must always be used.
    Last edited by seawolf; 8th June 2014 at 12:14 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael View Post
    If you're re-wiring from scratch, you want CAT5e as a minimum - some would say CAT6, but it can be a nightmare to install around corners due to the additional thickness. You also have to question will we ever need more than 1000Mbps per wired client device?
    CAT6a is the way to go, but it is best to use foil-shielded rather than UTP as it is thinner and more workable. As you say normal CAT6a UTP can be a pain. I think there will come a time within the next 10-15 years when 10GbE will become more commonplace (and it will definitely be required for uplinks to WiFi APs much sooner). The cost of CAT6a over CAT5e is negligible, so I think it makes sense to use it in any new installations. I wouldn't necessarily go and retrofit existing installs unless the cabling was CAT5 or less.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dhicks View Post
    If doing it again now, I'd put put the physical wiring in just the same, but I'm wondering if an on-site server room cupboard is actually neccesary. I'd be tempted to look at hosting everything offsite in a datacenter at the other end of a fiber connection. We've got a couple of quotes in the region of around £1,000 a month for a fiber connection to a data center and co-location of servers, and that includes a 30 megabit Internet connection from the data center.
    I know the idea sounds nice, but I don't think the time is quite right for co-location of servers off-site, at least not your main infrastructure. The costs for hosting can still be quite high and in this example, you would be limited to a 30Mb connection to the servers and core storage rather than 1Gb+ (or 300Mb for 802.11n WiFi) that you would normally have for locally hosted servers. That's quite a lot slower. Less than 1/3 a 100Mb network. There will come a day when co-location is a preferred option, but I think that day is when we can get closer to 1Gb dedicated connections to data centres for co-located servers.

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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seawolf View Post
    The costs for hosting can still be quite high and in this example, you would be limited to a 30Mb connection to the servers and core storage rather than 1Gb+ (or 300Mb for 802.11n WiFi) that you would normally have for locally hosted servers.
    No, the 30 megabit figure is for the Internet connection from the data centre, the link from the datacentre to the school is over a 100 megabit or gigabit fiber link (the price we were quoted was for the 100 megabit link, and we're in central London with access to fiber, other places / location would probably vary somewhat).

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