IT Setup for an Educational Institute/College/School

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It's a challenge to make use of Information Technology tools and resources in an optimal fashion for an Educational Institute/College/School. This can be simplified if we breakdown the requirements and identify the resources required for fulfilling the needs and then devising a project plan for implementing it. Let me explain the same by quoting example of the educational Institute where I had successfully carried out the implementation of the same in two premier educational Institutes in Patna, India.

IIBM & ZHI are 30 years old premier institutions in the field of Management & IT education for the state of Bihar and Jharkhand. Although being a pioneer in setting up the First Computer & IT Lab in Eastern India and boasts of more than 250 computers for roughly 4000 students base was unable to make optimum use of all the resources.

The immediate requirements identified were as follows:
- High Speed Internet connectivity for the center
- Network each and every computer in the lab.
- Setting up Domain based Server-Client Model
- Setting up Internet Proxy Server with Caching and add on facility of Web Filtering.
- Audit and store internet surfing usage information in a database.
- Giving access to Linux server to students.
- A Local Web server hosting web based tutorials for students.
- A Network file server for students and office staffs.
- Remote Software deployment.
- Wireless Network Setup

Let's see how the above requirements were fulfilled:

- High Speed Internet connectivity for the center
We explored various internet connectivity solutions from various Internet Service Providers and selected 1 MBPS Sify Radio Leased Line for IIBM and 2 MBPS BSNL Broadband services for ZHI. The same was connected to Fedora Server having two LAN cards respectively.

- Network each and every computer in the lab
Before making sure that the Ethernet cabling and LAN hubs are replaced with CAT6 cabling and Linksys Switches the PCs were also upgraded to a minimum of 1 GB RAM, 80 GB HDD and Pentium IV processors. To save electricity cost in long run the CRT monitors were replaced by TFT Monitors. For power-backup, individual UPS's were installed.

- Setting up Domain based Server-Client Model
Windows 2003 server was used with Active Directory installed on it. The other windows services which were installed are DHCP, DNS, RIS and Terminal Services.
DHCP service was configured to assign IP addresses to all the client PCs in the network.
DNS service responsible for local dns resolution.
RIS service for publishing softwares remotely from Windows 2003 server to all clients joined to this domain.
Terminal services for controlling Windows server remotely from any client PC.

- Setting up Internet Proxy Server with Caching and add on facility of Web Filtering
It was done on Fedora server by installing and configuring Squid. Since it's not an easy task to administer and configure Fedora server, Webmin was installed on the same. Webmin makes it easy to configure each and every applications on Fedora/Linux.
To facilitate web filtering, we opened an account in www.opendns.com and customized filtering was setup on the opendns.com and Fedora was configured to use the DNS server address of opendns for any dns resolution for any Internet website.

Webmin : http://www.webmin.com/
Squid: http://www.squid-cache.org/

- Audit and store internet surfing usage information in a database
It was difficult to track each and every student's web usage so we started using MYSAR is a reporting system for user web traffic activity, as logged from a squid proxy.

MYSAR : http://giannis.stoilis.gr/software/mysar/ 

- Giving access to Linux server to students
Telnet was enabled on Fedora so that students can try out C/C++ programming on Linux environment and every student user id was also given a website on Fedora server.

Configuring Website for each user : http://www.experts-exchange.com/Software/Server_Software/Web_Servers/Apache/Q_24063717.html
Linux how to : http://www.linuxhomenetworking.com

- A Local Web server hosting web based tutorials for students
IIS was configured and installed on Windows 2003 server for hosting web based tutorials for students in the local area network.

- A Network file server for students and office staffs
While creating user accounts in Windows 2003 server, home folder were automatically creating using the below knowledge base article and mapped as a Network drive.

- Remote Software deployment
Apart from RIS feature of Windows 2003 server, we explored and used Acronis True Image software. We did a fresh installation of Operating Systems along with all the required softwares on various PCs of different make. The Acronis True Image was installed on all of them and image was taken which was copied to FTP server on Windows 2003 server and an Acronis True Image bootable CDs were created through the software.
The client PCs which were connected to the same network was booted with the Acronis True Image CD and the FTP details of the Windows 2003 server was provided and image was selected and it used to take 5-7 minutes for remote installation. This saved hundred of man hours in installing fresh image to 250 odd PCs.

Acronis True Image : http://www.acronis.com/homecomputing/products/trueimage/

- Wireless Network Setup
We used Linksys Access Points connected to Network switch and other access points were connected using repeater mode to avoid connecting all Wireless Access Points with network cables and WEP was used for security.


Hope this helps you in setting up a similar or better IT Automation for your School/College/Institute.
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