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How to setup a Network Server for Computers in a Small School

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  • Computers
  • Servers
  • Networking
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July 6, 2008 10:19:31 AM

Hi all,

My Uncle just opened a small school in our area (100 students only). He INSISTED that I should work for him as an IT Head Guy. I'm a hardware kind of guy (OCing, Installing from scratch, repair and troubleshooting etc.) Ok, I'll be honest ... I'm not a Network Guru, but I know the basics.
I've setup a basic home Network just using a router and a switch/hub using Auto DHCP/Static - 14 Computers to be exact and It was easy.

*Warning*

I'm new at this so please bear with me. This is where I need your help
I also took the job because I want to learn how to do this. If I have to read dozens of books or web links, I'll do it.


Now, here is the school setup:

My Uncle just purchased 45 new bare computers for the Students and Teachers. I've finished assembling all 45 computers two days ago (Whew, at last .. it took me (alone) 3 days). Now I've already installed Windows XP Pro on 40 and all are running ok. I left 5 of these computers to be blank (no OS) at the moment for your instructions.

There are 2 computers labs (one for Elementary, one for High School)

Here is the breakdown:

15 Computers will be for High School Students
15 Computers will be for Elementary
10 Computers are for Faculty
the other 5 could be the server or anything else ..

The web and email servers are already outsourced by a different company.
My focus should be on
- File Sharing
- Networking
- Internet Sharing
- Parental Control (for student PCs)
- Restrictions
- Active Directory(???)
- Security - one of the main concerns / What is the best firewall/anti-virus should I deploy
- Domain/Client setup
- other things that I should know
- What router/switch/hub to buy


As I understand, I need a server computer. Since it is not a web server, I could turn it off at the end of the day.

I have some basic/intermediate knowledge in Linux and Mac-irrelevant (but not servers), however, I think I'll just go for Windows 2003 server. I'm not sure, please educate me on what will be the best and easiest server OS. All client computers will be XP Pro Build 2600 (Sp3).

Anyway, where should I start?

Can anyone provide me of the links I need to study? I'm a fast learner and I'm eager to learn. Again, my knowledge in computers are purely hardware/OS installation/troubleshoot/Ocing/repair/etc.

Any Network Admins here that can give me some inputs about this?

The simplest or easiest way would be the best.

Thank you in advance!

*BTW, Sorry for my poor English

More about : setup network server computers small school

July 7, 2008 3:27:46 PM

I've sent you a PM with my email address that you can email me directly at for faster replies and better access to understanding what's going on with this.

I'll sum up what options you have here.

At this point you're better off to forego the Domain route. You'll have a lot to learn and its not something you want trial and error on in an active environment.

What you're doing here is setting up a giant home network. From there, you can build up.

Windows 2003 Server will work for what you want to do and you get a big discount on the price for being educational.

I'll start with the basic tips:

Get your high school and elementary PCs setup exactly as you like them and make an image of the PCs via Ghost or another 3rd party image software. This will help when the PC gets hosed up, you can reimage it and be back up to speed within 10-15 minutes.
I can offer help on getting that worked out as well. You'll want to research a program [for Windows XP PCs] called SYSPREP available from Microsoft to make images.

Of your 5 spare PCs, 2 will be Servers. Install 2003 server on them and set the password for the Admin account to be the same on both servers which will allow them access back and forth.

*I could go into greater security detail about creating a new admin account with a different name and deleting the actual (or disabling) the admin account, but I'm going to forego the true indepth stuff.

Server is close to being the same layout. Make 2 partitions. C: drive for the Network OS (NOS) about 10-15GB and the rest goes onto the other partition (D if you will).
On the D: drive will go all your information and shares. Create a file structure and folders as required or needed. You can always adjust.

When you create a folder.. "Home" you can share it out. When it asks for the Share name, if you add the "$" (HOME$) on the end of it, this will make the drive hidden from the UNC (Universal Naming Convention) searching.

For example, if you go to Start - Run and type: \\servername and click OK, it will list the server and all the available shares. (Servername is the name or the IP address of your server). If you have the $ after the share, these will not be seen to the public.. which results in some increased security.

You'll want to create accounts for the Students. Generic Logins can work.. Student1, etc. Set passwords.. many places will make passwords the same as the username or all the same but different usernames. This will allow you to know which PC is logged in and at which location it is.

On the PCs, you'll have to make matching identical accounts. PC1 will have a user and password of Student1/Student1 - So on both servers, create an account Student1/Student1. This will grant access to the server.

On each PC you will have to manually map the associated Network drives. You can create Batch files (simplest form) to automate this. An example of a batch file would be:

Net use H: /del
Net use H: \\servername\home /persistent:yes

Copy the above, paste into a TXT document, rename the document "MapHDrive.BAT" Bat meaning Batch file.

When this is double clicked on or put into the Start Menu, the drive will automatically map.

Do this for each PC and life will be good.

**

On the servers, you can setup DHCP or have a Router do this function.

* What is your internet connection to the public? Cable, DSL, or fractional T1, etc?

This will help determine the required Router.

As far as network devices go, I'd run with a standard (dumb) network switch. 12, 16 or 24 port, your choice, depending on the network layout and cabling. 10/100 is still standard today but 10/100/1000 (gigabit) is taking over. This requires Cat5e or Cat6 cabling, Gigabit network cards and the switch will also need to support it. This is beneficial only when transfering large files over the network - minimum, if any improvement for your situation in Internet Surfing.

I wouldn't worry about the Web surfing just yet - that can be added.

Basically, you want to get the functions first, you can always add in later. Taking on too much in the start will result in headaches and making troubleshooting the network a nightmare. Get it work, slowly add to it. Its a work in progress.
July 10, 2008 10:40:36 AM

Wow, talking about details :)  This is the most detailed help I got so far :)  Thank you for your time. Right now, I'll just chew all the things that you are suggesting and as soon as I get the details, I give the answers to some of your questions. I just got home and read your message.

Again, thanks for your help.

I'll keep you posted.
Related resources
July 10, 2008 1:44:09 PM

No prob. I'm at work and its a bit slow. I do this stuff all day so its fairly simple for me to talk about.
July 11, 2008 4:51:24 PM

First of all save yourself some headaches bro. Look into Norton Ghost. I think there is a deal called clonezilla though that is actually free and does the same thing. What these programs are supposed to do is make an image or a snapshot if you will, of whichever system you tell it to. Then store the image on an external drive or cd, what have you, then if you have a problem, you just follow the instructions for that program, and reload that image. Takes about 20 minutes maybe? Depending. We do this with Macs at our district and use a program called net restore, but when your dealing with a lot of systems and same configurations, it makes life a lot easier because you can make an image of a system that already has all your programs and all that on it, and when you load that image onto a system, you should have all those files on that machine when your done. Figure 30 minutes of work for 1 machine vs say 2 hours by the time you install windows and everything else.

Agree on the generic logins. What we do on our machines make a student login that's locked down, say username=school, password=school might be an idea for you. Then make an admin account for each machine, but make each the same that way you gotta configure, you are in and out.

If you need office software, might I suggest open office? It's free at openoffice.org, can do most of what MS office can do, and should save some money. More equipment right?

Also, consider instead of DHCP, maybe use a static IP address system. We use this, and while it's more work, you can link each IP address to each service tag on each machine or what have you for your inventory. The other nice thing we do, get yourself a remote desktop program, then you can have a screen that shows you what each kid is doing on the machines. Like we had one time, they caught by using remote desktop looking at things he was not supposed to, and they were able to lock his computer at that screen, then called the teacher. Poor kid, lol.

Firewalls I'm not an expert on, we use sonicwall here, let's us do webfiltering as well. Of course keep all patches and updates. A trick of the trade, when you go to update something on all of your machines try it on just one first, and see how it works, if it works well, good, if not then you know to test further or whatever.

Also tell you right now, you may want to get a system for having the teachers keep track of which student is at which machine, we've found stuff in our school district, kids ripping cd covers off the fronts of machines, poking holes in speakers, pulling keys off keyboards even sometimes spelling bad words and things, so keep an eye on that, otherwise you can lose money in repairs.
July 14, 2008 2:59:42 PM

Uh... I'd heavily avoid using Open Office in a school environment. The vast majority of work environments will be using Microsoft Office and your students would be better off knowing that program over Open Office. It would be better off having them trained in that and learning Open Office later or at a job that would use it. The Educational cost of Office is cheap.

Ghost is $50ish to use if you go that route. There are other 3rd party imaging softwares out there but I don't have experience working with them. I know that Ghost is easy to use and thus I would recommend it for that reason.

Firewall and such, you might need to do some leg work on that or even contact a place like CDW and talk with a Rep to explain your needs. They'll have firewall, web filtering, and logging all in place.

Desktop monitoring for the size of your location is more likely a waste of money and resources. Try it out, see how it works and if it becomes and issue you can then install it. But you can also log with the Web Filtering what the person is doing at what times.
November 29, 2011 4:20:39 AM

hi i m rizwan i m network administrator of Army apublic School & Coleg peshawr
i will help u if u like my email id is rizwanyounas49@gmail.com and my mobil no # 03219878893
tak 2 me u will make ur problam easy thanks
December 2, 2011 6:37:27 PM

Are you going to be using laptops there?
December 10, 2011 3:19:02 AM

rekta said:
Hi all,

My Uncle just opened a small school in our area (100 students only). He INSISTED that I should work for him as an IT Head Guy. I'm a hardware kind of guy (OCing, Installing from scratch, repair and troubleshooting etc.) Ok, I'll be honest ... I'm not a Network Guru, but I know the basics.
I've setup a basic home Network just using a router and a switch/hub using Auto DHCP/Static - 14 Computers to be exact and It was easy.

*Warning*

I'm new at this so please bear with me. This is where I need your help
I also took the job because I want to learn how to do this. If I have to read dozens of books or web links, I'll do it.


Now, here is the school setup:

My Uncle just purchased 45 new bare computers for the Students and Teachers. I've finished assembling all 45 computers two days ago (Whew, at last .. it took me (alone) 3 days). Now I've already installed Windows XP Pro on 40 and all are running ok. I left 5 of these computers to be blank (no OS) at the moment for your instructions.

There are 2 computers labs (one for Elementary, one for High School)

Here is the breakdown:

15 Computers will be for High School Students
15 Computers will be for Elementary
10 Computers are for Faculty
the other 5 could be the server or anything else ..

The web and email servers are already outsourced by a different company.
My focus should be on
- File Sharing
- Networking
- Internet Sharing
- Parental Control (for student PCs)
- Restrictions
- Active Directory(???)
- Security - one of the main concerns / What is the best firewall/anti-virus should I deploy
- Domain/Client setup
- other things that I should know
- What router/switch/hub to buy


As I understand, I need a server computer. Since it is not a web server, I could turn it off at the end of the day.

I have some basic/intermediate knowledge in Linux and Mac-irrelevant (but not servers), however, I think I'll just go for Windows 2003 server. I'm not sure, please educate me on what will be the best and easiest server OS. All client computers will be XP Pro Build 2600 (Sp3).

Anyway, where should I start?

Can anyone provide me of the links I need to study? I'm a fast learner and I'm eager to learn. Again, my knowledge in computers are purely hardware/OS installation/troubleshoot/Ocing/repair/etc.

Any Network Admins here that can give me some inputs about this?

The simplest or easiest way would be the best.

Thank you in advance!

*BTW, Sorry for my poor English


Can i ask you some questions ? :D 
Can u Message me through my email : oreo_080@yahoo.com

December 25, 2011 1:39:23 AM

rekta said:
Hi all,

My Uncle just opened a small school in our area (100 students only). He INSISTED that I should work for him as an IT Head Guy. I'm a hardware kind of guy (OCing, Installing from scratch, repair and troubleshooting etc.) Ok, I'll be honest ... I'm not a Network Guru, but I know the basics.
I've setup a basic home Network just using a router and a switch/hub using Auto DHCP/Static - 14 Computers to be exact and It was easy.

*Warning*

I'm new at this so please bear with me. This is where I need your help
I also took the job because I want to learn how to do this. If I have to read dozens of books or web links, I'll do it.


Now, here is the school setup:

My Uncle just purchased 45 new bare computers for the Students and Teachers. I've finished assembling all 45 computers two days ago (Whew, at last .. it took me (alone) 3 days). Now I've already installed Windows XP Pro on 40 and all are running ok. I left 5 of these computers to be blank (no OS) at the moment for your instructions.

There are 2 computers labs (one for Elementary, one for High School)

Here is the breakdown:

15 Computers will be for High School Students
15 Computers will be for Elementary
10 Computers are for Faculty
the other 5 could be the server or anything else ..

The web and email servers are already outsourced by a different company.
My focus should be on
- File Sharing
- Networking
- Internet Sharing
- Parental Control (for student PCs)
- Restrictions
- Active Directory(???)
- Security - one of the main concerns / What is the best firewall/anti-virus should I deploy
- Domain/Client setup
- other things that I should know
- What router/switch/hub to buy


As I understand, I need a server computer. Since it is not a web server, I could turn it off at the end of the day.

I have some basic/intermediate knowledge in Linux and Mac-irrelevant (but not servers), however, I think I'll just go for Windows 2003 server. I'm not sure, please educate me on what will be the best and easiest server OS. All client computers will be XP Pro Build 2600 (Sp3).

Anyway, where should I start?

Can anyone provide me of the links I need to study? I'm a fast learner and I'm eager to learn. Again, my knowledge in computers are purely hardware/OS installation/troubleshoot/Ocing/repair/etc.

Any Network Admins here that can give me some inputs about this?

The simplest or easiest way would be the best.

Thank you in advance!

*BTW, Sorry for my poor English

I kindof know how this works but I will get to you by the end for january or sooner is that fine ?
Anonymous
July 5, 2012 7:38:14 PM

I would like to recommend some software which may be useful in your environment.

For Desktop Monitoring and administration, I would choose RM Tutor or SMART Sync.

For a synchronized workflow and easier student management, I would also recommend RM Community Connect 4.

If you need any help concerning domains, shares etc just ask.
December 29, 2012 1:57:15 PM

all the major points seem to be covered really.

one thing I could add is make sure you create a secure password for the admin account, preferably having a separate password for local administrator and domain administrator (or network administrator account as some may call it). quite a few applications can be knocked out of sync with the servers if you need to change the domain password so make sure you pick a password you are happy with before you really start to deploy your network.

also most BIOSs can be password protected to stop unauthorised users getting into the settings. I had a student add a boot password to one of our desktops and I had to fiddle with a metal jumper pin to reset the password. adding a BIOS password for the settings will save you a lot of hassle as any words like "settings" or "setup" is a magnet for students to wreak havoc!

virtualisation is a topic I have not seen covered yet (maybe I'm just blind). if you're not familiar with it I suggest you install server 2003 on one of the spare PCs and get it running/working, with a second or other spare PC that you'll use for a server install hyper-V or ESXI and build up multiple server installs on that. it helps long term because if you need to down a server for reconfiguration or if it crashes you only need to down one aspect of functionality, for instance we have virtual servers specifically for things like printers, sharepoint, shared network drives, domain controllers, so if the print server crashes or needs to be restarted users can still access their network storage and login.

backups is another thing I haven't seen as well. try and keep the backups as far away physically from the main servers, so in the event of a fire/flood/theft ect. the backups still survive. you'll need to keep backups of the servers as well as documents.
!