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Recommend network system please

Discussion in 'Computing and ICT' started by Ucan2, Apr 10, 2012.

  1. Can anyone recommend a network system for a small primary school? We currently use free2teach but this is not compatible with windows 2000 - upgrade is expensive so I wondered if there is something better for us. Any ideas would be appreciated.
  2. What is it that you're trying to do? Is it just file sharing or do you need email on site as well? Is your Internet connection and filtering provided by your LEA of are you buying direct?

    Also, is your Windows 2000, Windows 2000 desktop or a Windows 2000 server. Also, you need to give some idea of your budget as that can have a very real effect on what you can or can't do.

    Let me know. I'm currently in the process of networking another primary at the moment so I can give you fairly realistic costings.
  3. As you can probably tell I am not very good at the technical stuff! As I understand it our free2teach server is not compatible with any new computers that we buy. To upgrade it is going to cost several thousand pounds so this seems a good time to look into other options. We just need to be able to access our files on any computer in the school. Free2teach provides a lot of facilities that we really don't need (but of course are paying for).
  4. Specifying a new network or system is a technical area. Well done for being open and identifying you don't have the correct skillset to do this, and any attempt to make progress based on advice e.g. here is asking for serious trouble. Discuss this problem with your Head. Ask if they have contacts with local secondary school heads and see if you can borrow someone in a school who knows what they are doing and can help you. Don't use local authority contacts. I have never met an lea that wasn't worse than useless, especially kent.
  5. Thanks for the advice. I just wondered what other small primaries used. The problem with small schools is that there is not sufficient staff with expertise in relevant areas - hence people like me end up leading subjects they know little about! I thought ICT co-ordinator meant curriculum subject leader, now I seem to be technical support!!
  6. If all you need is file sharing you can follow one of several options.

    1) Get a local company in to set up a server for you.

    Pros: Easy for you as they just have to set it up. You can delegate basic tasks like adding and removing users to a staff member and get the provider to teach them how to do it (it isn't massively difficult just make coherent notes). Anything more difficult can usually be cured with a reboot, anything persistently difficult will require calling in the experts for however much they charge.

    Cons: Can be expensive. Software licences for schools will be around £1000 and are annually renewable. You are responsible for your own data storage and security so you'll need some kind of backup system in operation. If you need email, Microsoft Exchange can be a pain but has improved over the years, the alternatives are more reliable but you really wouldn't want to have to maintain them.

    2) Go for the cloud.

    Pros: Both Google and Microsoft offer online storage for files as well as access to their office software for free. This also removes the immediate need for you to keep and maintain backups.

    Cons: Most of the arguments against this that I've heard are based on two notions, primarily control of your data followed a hot second by the loss of access to it if the Internet goes down. A mix of these reasons has led to us avoiding this option. Whatever, you have to cut your cloth to match so this is a good budget option.

    3) Chat up a local school to help

    Secondaries have ICT departments. Some are just pushing buttons until RM turn up to fix things, others are all out Computer geeks who dismiss support contracts as the realm of wimps and laugh in the face of proprietary software companies and there exists everything in between. You can chat up a secondary about helping you achieve option 1 and at the moment, we are helping a primary out with a new server and a load of cabling complete with hosted online email, calendering and VLE.

    4) The L word

    There exists, in the wonderful world of software, a land of free things that cost nothing. Out of this land come things like Moodle and Scratch. Also out of this world comes Karoshi which is a full fledged server system for schools that can handle anything you'll need to do. Link here: http://www.linuxgfx.co.uk/ .

    Another package built on the same base system is ClearOS which aims to be a drop in replacement for Microsoft Small Business Server and actually does a pretty good job of it. Link here: http://www.clearfoundation.com/Software/overview.html

    Pros: Both are up to the job you wish to do. Karoshi was developed by a UK school for use in UK schools. Clear OS is built for ease of use and pretty much holds your hand along the way in the same way that Microsoft do. Online support is free if you use the user community groups although there will probably be a paid option somewhere.

    Cons: If you want support locally, you'll rapidly discover that most IT consulting companies are actually Microsoft sales outfits. The last commercial outfit that I worked for claimed to come in, review the business and build a package that exactly matched the requirements. As a result, every company ended up with exactly the same setup (which just happened to match their product line) and I was told that even if a better option existed I wasn't to tell the customer, just push it to sales. You will find, therefore, that one in 15 businesses you find will be able to support it and the rest will send out an "engineer" who will then refer you to sales.

    Seriously, If you want to ask questions and talk through, PM me an email address that I can definitely trace back to a legit school and I'll PM my phone number and details through. Sounds paranoid but I'm sure neither of us wants to get spammed.
  7. Wow thanks so much for taking the time to help. I will investigate all these options. Thank you for making it so much clearer.
  8. No worries, good luck with it
  9. Please make sure that you start with how you want to use IT for Teaching and Learning. This is where your expertise is, and the solution should fit this. So start by drawing up a list of things which the network should do.
    ie All children should be able to log on with their own username and save work to their own area
    All Staff should be able to access children's work
    Children in KS1 should have access to a set of programs including Word, Paint, Dazzle, 2Simple etc
    Children in KS2 should have access to a set of programs including Word, Excel, Photostory, Paint, Dazzle, 2Simple etc
    Do you want mobile computing or fixed suite?
    All users should have internet access
    I should be able to add users in a simple manner
    Once you have all of these decided, then you need to contact a supplier. Make sure that they have a background in IT in schools. Do check with your LA - they will have run detailed procurement exercises to look at Best Value. Your secondary school may be able to advise, but do they have capacity to support - what takes priority a problem at your school or something back at base?
    Also there should be a rolling 3 year plan so that each year you update a part of the system.

  10. BTW, What budget are you working to as this will have as much an effect as anything else. Also a starting point would be to assess your current situation, i.e. server operating system, desktop PC operating system, Office versions etc.

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