A robust and sustainable network requires continuous monitoring and maintenance to provide the users with a reliable service.
A Network Operations Center (NOC) and a Network Information Center (NIC) are essential components to the support of a network. A NOC ensures that the tools of the network are in place and working and that the network elements are functioning well. The NOC typically responds to problems from users including why they can’t get to the network, what is wrong with a server on the network, and why the network response seems slow. The support should be as close to the end user as possible, starting with school staff, then district level staff, followed by the Internet Provider.
A NIC typically helps users use the tools of the network. The NIC provides consulting and training to users to help them take full advantage of the network resources and tools. The NIC will respond to questions such as how to use e-mail, how to use a bulletin board, and where to find information on the network. The support should be as close to the end user as possible, starting with school staff, then district level staff, followed by the Internet Provider.
The network must be monitored on a continuous basis to ensure that the network is working, track network traffic, and monitor network failures. A serious problem affecting multiple users should be identified before a user needs to call for assistance. This can be accomplished with a number of automated tools which include remote dialing of on-call specialists to alert them to problems instantaneously.
Traffic measurements of packet retransmissions, peak and average loads, and traffic across each network link will help to identify congestion as well as potential problems. Thresholds will be used to ascertain when it is time to expand the bandwidth of a link in the network or to identify a network abuser.
A primary point of contact for the handling of accounts for each server and service offered to teachers and staff must be established. Standards need to be established for the time to respond to such requests. For example, a user should be told that a new account will be installed within 3 working days, and that password changes will occur within 4 hours. All procedures and policies must be posted on-line.
Account handling should be the responsibility of the organization closest to the user that is able to provide the support. The point of contact must be defined for each site and posted on-line.
Security is often overlooked until an incident occurs in which people decide that certain machines or portions of a network need increased protection.
The requirements may include any of the following:
- Secure printers where student records or personnel information is produced
- Separation of administrative communications from student network traffic
- Encryption of messages or information between buildings or districts
- Limited access to databases or files of information
Blocking access to specified Internet addresses either to external sites or from external sites
It is generally cheaper and less disruptive to daily operations to plan security requirements into the design of a building infrastructure from the beginning.
A major component to every security program is education. All users must be trained on methods and procedures to protect their own data, acceptable use policies and the ethics of using computing and networking equipment. The most common security breach has to do with people accessing other people’s accounts because passwords are not treated with secrecy and basic rules of selecting passwords are not followed.
Preparing the school building for technology will require investments in more than just networking. Many schools are providing a computer in each classroom in order to provide access for each teacher. With a single machine in a classroom, projection equipment will also be necessary to enable the teacher to demonstrate uses of the equipment to the entire class, as well as letting students demonstrate uses to the rest of the class. Supporting equipment ranging from CD-ROM towers, to color printers, and video equipment to capture images and produce on-line movies. As resources become available, multiple machines per classroom and laboratories will be needed to allow access by multiple students.
“A quarterly review process should be instituted with a panel of external members to provide a routine evaluation of problems, progress, growth and services offered to all users of the network. This panel would review reports from the Internet Provider. The panel should also survey the end users to ascertain their issues and concerns relative to access and support.
The panel is necessary to review the development, support and growth of the statewide network because this is a new endeavor which needs careful monitoring to ensure that the goals and objectives are met. The results of this effort will also serve as a model to the rest of the nation; thus documenting the process is an essential tool for learning and evaluation.