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I volunteer computer support at a small special needs school and have been asked to "fix" their network. I am not at all experienced with hardware, networks, or system administration ...
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  1. #1
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    What kind of server/network do I need?


    I volunteer computer support at a small special needs school and have been asked to "fix" their network. I am not at all experienced with hardware, networks, or system administration except where it overlaps with running my own home system, comprised of one Windows desktop, a Windows laptop, and a Linux laptop (my Linux desktop is currently dead).

    The network, which is currently simply WinXp machines accessing the internet through a shared connection and sharing some printers, will consist of about 15 - 20 pc's. 10 of these machines will be set up for student use and will be used to some pretty basics stuff such as learning MS Office (though I have already installed Open Office on one of these as they ran out of licenses), and Adobe Photoshop Elements. The administrative machines will be running MS Office and some personal software that the teachers and administrative staff prefer.

    I was thinking that I need to set up a server with Samba and some basic file serving. I would also envision using this server as a gateway (they have basic virus protection but decent firewall would not go amiss).

    There is also a need to provide some wireless connectivity but I assume that this would be similar to a home setup with a wireless router connecting to the access point (through the network server if necessary).

    Sorry, I know this sounds rather like a total cop out on my own research but I am reading up as much as I can, there's just so much to learn that I'm not sure where I should best direct my focus.

    Thanks for any replies/pointers.

  2. #2
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    Hi ImCrunchy,

    I have worked in a few primary schools around bucks, but these most are RM based. which I would recommend if the school can afford it. it would also take a lot of your hands with the support if it all goes wrong. But there is the option for the open source route...

    Option 1,

    you could setup a Samba server to host the files, you could then map, or redirect the my documents to that path. this would be the easiest option but would leave no security as users would have to share the space.

    Option 2,

    Setting up the Linux server as a Samba PDC (primary Domain Controller), this would give you the option for a per user base login, having drives mapped to their own personal directory (home directory) but this would require more management and having to put all the users onto the PDC. All though this would be the proffered method, you would run the risk if the server goes down, no one would be able to login.

    are you thinking of installing the firewall/NAT onto the same server or having an additional computer for this, Both would have there benefits and disadvantages, you would need to look into the security of you were going to host this onto the same server. have a look into squid, this is the Linux proxy server, would recommend using this as it would accelerate the internet, caching regular used sites.
    also I would recommend looking into either smoothwall, or ip cop. this is an all in one software firewall/nat which you can run on a older computer.


    there are other ways of doing this but these would be the main two options

    hope this helps!


    Aaron

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the advice Aaron.

    The school exists mostly on charitable donations so buying hardware, support, or anything else really, is not high on the list of priorities.

    My boss (at my day job) has offered to donate some old hardware, one or two Pentium 3 boxes and a couple of older, but still decent, switches.

    With this new hardware the plan is now to set up a file and print server on the Linux box I am preparing, and then to set up a real network with two separate domains, one for the students and one for the schools administrative people.

    Dumb question - if I set up the Samba server as a primary domain controller would the windows machines still have local accounts? If yes then a server failure would not necessarily be a big deal, just log into the local machine, save the work and pass it to the server when it is repaired.

    My boss, who is a decent IT Admin, has said he'll give me some pointers when it comes to setting up the network stuff but he's almost exclusively a Windows guy. And as you can tell I am a neophyte when it comes to this stuff. Thanks for the help.

    I'll post back as I start to get better handle on what I'm doing and as I accomplish anything.

    Any advice is always appreciated (even if it's just telling me to be a little less stupid)

    thank you all

  4. #4
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    Hi ImCrunchy,

    If your not going to get the computers to authenticate to the server, you wouldnt need to set up the linux box as a pdc, just the file and printer shares should be enough, you can then have the computers logging in localy, and map a drive for access.



    Aaron

  5. #5
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    if central database isn't a great concern (probably a good idea though), then the very least is to 1)setup a firewall, either with some networking gear, or take one of the machines, add a second nic and turn it into a dedicated firewall.
    2)take another machine and setup a proxy, like squid. this will give you better control over where your users can go and also help protect them from inadvertantly getting malware from random bad sites (since they would be blocked). it will also help to control your bandwidth

    both options all on the cheap

    if you want user drives then a dc will be very helpful. never trust your users to backup their stuff, do what was suggested and redirect my docs to a central server and backup that server.

    if you do setup a domain, what would be the point of a seperate domain for students and for faculty? you should be able to at the very least segment your network with your switches (probably? ). with a domain you also get domain groups and can assign permissions that way and extend it down to the desktops.

  6. #6
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    I probably misspoke when I said separate domains, my grasp of this kind of stuff is shaky at best. My boss mentioned mentioned setting up the network with the switches controlling who does what.

    I have just finished replacing the hard drive in the old box I'm going to use as the Samba server, and it now has two 80gb drives in it. Tonight I'm going to go ahead and install a new operating system, either CentOS, Fedora, or Slackware. I much more familiar with Red Hat based distros so I think I'll probably just go CentOS based on it's stability and my familiarity.

    I'm currently reading Samba-3 by Example so I'll post back later with some more coherent details.

    Thanks

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