Education = Transforming + Informing

Networking Project

Setting the Scene – about this project

Students at the Purley Cross Centre

Students have raised a whopping £5260 for charity (Children in Crisis and Purley Cross Centre) through a tremendous amount of hard work and enterprise.  They organised a celebrity charity “quizzing event of the year” in which the BBC Eggheads, best selling author of the A to Z books (founder of the original British Quizzing Association) and other notable attendees gave their whole-hearted support to this cause.  It was a wonderful evening (despite some of the worst weather conditions in history) and you can read about it on the main site. (scroll down for chronological blogs or click here) Part of these funds will now go towards the design and implementation of a networking suite at the Purley Cross Centre.


BBC Eggheads - Quizzing Event of Year

The suite is part of a very worthy community project that will provide services to those that most need it in the community.  You can follow what the students are doing -step by step – here. (this work is part of the Unit 5 (Managing Technology Solutions) unit in the Level 3 Advanced Diploma in IT course – Edexcel) Click here to see the video (Created by Tevin Matthew) that was played on the evening and sets the scene for the wonderful outcomes the students hope to achieve.









CREATION OF A NETWORKING SUITE FOR THE PURLEY CROSS CENTRE (Part of Unit 5, Level 3 (A Level) Diploma in IT, Edexcel)

#1 Roles & Responsibilities – Initial discussion points

Alistair Wick and Richard Jenkins

All students will have equal role in setting up this network, although at the outset two tech savvy directors (Alistair Wick and Richard Jenkins) have been appointed to oversee the project, particularly in the initial ordering of components and making technical decisions. The things that needed discussing were: laptops vs desktops and custom built vs ready made. The final decision was to get desktops (many good reasons for this!) and also to custom build the server as well as all the desktops. (much cheaper and also a farrrrr better (and pretty amazing!) spec) I should say that I (the teacher) wanted to go with the slightly more expensive but more convenient option of simply ordering ready-made desktops, but assembly (all students – well, most students agree) will be an interesting and worthwhile experience. (We spent many meetings discussing this and students each came up with comprehensive network proposals that were presented to the stakeholders)

Geewai and Rodard

Geewai C and Rodard K will direct the networking side of things from crimping cable to connecting everything up! (this will be huge!) Alice T is wholly in charge of all creative direction, the network plans, further orders and general design.  Omar B and Matthew G will oversee and manage the administration, accounts and ensuring all documentation (manuals, implementation log, maintenance manual etc) are completed and handed over to the Purley Cross Centre.  Tevin M will direct the day-to-day running of things, including allocating people to jobs, coming up with effective ways to ensure time effectiveness and maximum productivity as well as handing over the change request forms to the Purley Cross centre for approval and signing. ALL students will be involved in producing coursework and contributing to every part of all the above different roles. (all will assemble machines, trouble shoot, carry out testing, cabling, creation of network plans, maintenance manuals, implementation logs, etc)

Omar and Alice

Matthew and Tevin


#2 Checking out the premises / network plan

This was the stage were students were required to scout the existing premises and take some exact measurements. They were also charged with coming up with network plans and proposals.  So complete with measuring tapes, students set out to the centre and had a meeting with Wendy Nodding and Pam Bryan. There was the opportunity to listen to the expected specification / requirements and also ask questions.  With measurements taken, students came up with network plans and in some cases rather amazing 3D imaginations of what the new centre could look like (as a network suite) In a very very brief nutshell, the final decision was that the centre could accommodate 7 machines in total (that is 5 machines in the main training room) + 1 server (server room) + 1 receptionist machine. There would need to be internet access (with the capability of wireless access). Shared printer for all machines. (perhaps a separate one for the receptionist desk) Machines would of course be networked (topologies and cabling to be discussed)With either Linux or Windows 7 Home server, typical networking outcomes like setting up access rights – usernames and passwords etc will be set up. Ideally the room would also be equipped with a projector and screen as well. Here’s a before and after proposal (created by Alistair Wick) You’ll notice the movie (link to youtube above shows the entire 3d flyby proposition)

#3 Finalising and Making the Order

Students first looked at MISCO (Misco.co.uk) but then found slightly better spec components for a cheaper price at ARIA (Aria.co.uk) Both are pretty cool sites for buying all things computery, so well worth a browse. The order will be made (once we finally manage to jump the hoops of school finance set-ups) and delivery made directly to the Purley Cross Centre. Here is the order that has been decided upon. (from both Misco and Aria for various bits) Colour coded for SERVER bits, PC Bits and NETWORKING bits. Many thanks to Alistair Wick who did all the hard work on compiling much of this list. (you’ll notice that we’re missing the cabling – that’s because the school’s network manager has promised to provide this or at least source them for us when needed).

ORDER Part #1

Order Part #1 - Client Ms/Server/Peripherals & Software

Order Part #2 (notice we’ve also included some basic network testing tools) We’ll need a couple of screw drivers as well (for assembly) so students will be advised to bring whatever tool kits they have!

Switch / Wireless cards / network testing tools



#4 Tuesday March 1st, Order arrives – Putting a PC together from scratch!

The components we had ordered from ARIA and MISCO arrived at 10AM (delivered directly to the Purley Cross Centre) The student networking team arrived at the premises in time for a working lunch and began unpacking, assembling and figuring things out! Under the expert direction of Alistair Wick, this was very well managed and students worked together well to make the first machine work! To start with it was important to check the order and also verify that all the parts needed for setting up a working PC were there! We had a bit of a scare initially and weren’t sure we had any SATA internal connectors, but turned out they were there all along and didn’t quite look like what we expected. Students got out the different components – the mother boards, hard drives, CPUs, RAM, fans, cases and optical drives. They had to figure out the best and most efficient way to assemble the first machine so that building the rest of the machines would be done in a time-effective manner. They discovered for instance that it was best to start with the case and dislodge the power supply after which the optical drive and hard drive were inserted in the appropriate slots. The power supply unit was then put back in after which the motherboard was put together (slotting in the RAM, the wirless adapter, the CPU/Fan etc) At this point everything needed to be put together (in the case) screwed in and checked for perfection. Getting all the wires in the right place was a little tricky, but they got there in the end.

Putting the first machine together was bound to take the longest but rather amazingly when we turned on the  power it worked perfectly! Quite a proud moment – oddly enough there’s something quite magical about putting things together from SCRATCH and actually seeing it boot up and work! Next Windows 7 was installed, followed by Windows Office. This was just the first machine and the first afternoon. More tomorrow.

#5 Implementation Plan

This is quite a crucial document that will log everything students do as part of this project – every detail, recorded by time and any comments included to indicate what was done, any problems encountered, anything to note for the future etc.  Students are to produce detailed Implementation plans (with actions noted in hindsight) both to give to Wendy Nodding the Director, as well as a log to prove what was done and when.

#6 Initial Letter (outlining the nature of the project) + Change request form[s]

Like the implementation plan, students are each to produce a very detailed Change request form (a series of them) This will outline all the different changes (referencing things like COST, impact on users, etc) that will be made to the centre. The receptionist machine is being changed and all the specs are being increased. There is also a server being implemented and a network -all of this will need to be documented and handed over to the director for signing and approval.  This is so they are aware of all the changes being made, the impact they will have on the centre and users, and approve them as part of a formal contract.

Essential Reading: Networking Fundamentals –  http://www.functionx.com/networking/index.htm

Planning for Change (Network Change Management) http://www.techrepublic.com/article/get-it-done-keep-documentation-updated-with-change-management/1052001

Excerpt from Article above:

Network Change management

As everyone who has ever worked in the IT industry knows, change is inevitable in this business. It is only a matter of time—and usually a short time—before significant changes are made to the network environment. Servers will be upgraded, network segments added and/or removed, procedures modified, new employees and offices may be added, and so on. As a result, the network documentation you worked so hard to create will quickly become obsolete unless you develop a serious plan for keeping it up to date. Here are some ways you can keep your documentation current and prevent your network documentation efforts from going to waste. All these documents will have to be professionally created (by each student, the best one being picked for publication). Example –

Managing change

The key to making sure that your documentation is kept up to date lies in the organization’s change management process. Every IT department should have a formal change management system in place that will allow it to control changes to the network in an organized manner.

Wednesday March 2nd,  Putting together the rest of the machines

#6 Server assembly

Assembling the server (we are undecided as to whether or not we’ll be using Windows 7 Home Server or Linux)

More about Ubuntu (linux OS) http://seogadget.co.uk/the-ubuntu-installation-guide/#install-from-CD

#7 [Tues, 8th March] Cabling, Network Topologies, the networking bit….!

This was the really interesting bit. Geewai and Rodard were directing the cabling and networking side of things and quickly became pros on preparing ethernet cable (which believe me is no simple task!) The Ethernet table had to be cut, the internal wires arranged in order, stuck into the Rj45s, crimped, and then tested. They worked! Students then made a simple peer to peer network with two working machines. That simply involved plugging in the ethernet cable from one machine into the other and creating a shared folder in windows to see if it could be accessed. They followed the steps to set up a “home” network, created a shared folder with a test resource, and both clients had access to it! The next step was to stick both ends of the Ethernet cable (from each PC) into the switch and make sure the connection worked that way too. It did!  This bit of course was just a test as we don’t want a simple peer-to-peer network but a proper server-client network that will span across three rooms…..the next bit will be the really important bit – planning!

#8 Network Diagrams and Topologies

From experience I can tell you that this part of Networking theory can be terrifyingly boring -but not today! When you’re doing something real – a project that requires more than just faking an understanding of these things – the reality and importance of planning becomes obvious. Students really did have quite a lengthy discussion on the different types of topologies, on where the switch would go, on how the cabling would work, trunking, health and safety considerations, logistical and operational factors such as the need for drilling, cabling going across three rooms, etc. The two possible network topologies discussed were the BUS topology and the STAR topology. There were benefits to the BUS topology, but many very obvious disadvantages which students were able to quickly identify. The star topology would involve plugging each individual PC (including the Server) into the 16 port switch and managing the network in that way. This is probably the best way to go and in the end students came to pretty much the same conclusion that our own network manager Mr Kevin Pearce suggested. So Star Network it will be …. The planning wasn’t over yet as then came other questions/considerations such as the position of the machines, the position of the switch for minimum cabling, the trunking. Led by Geewai and Rodard for this particular stage, students came up with individual network plans, discussed them, and finalised their ideas.

a few pointers on network diagrams (for the final maintenance manual we will leave with the PCC)

  • When drawing a network diagram, think about whether it makes sense to draw a logical or a physical diagram. You could of course do both!
  • What’s the difference? A physical diagram shows you the actual devices involved and the cables that connect them to each other. It should have information about which ports are used what color the cables are, etc.
  • A logical diagram will show the types of devices and the subnets in the network. It will not necessarily match up with the physical devices in the network. It should be labeled with the IPs of the subnet and the IP of each device. If virtual technologies are used, it probably makes sense to note that they are virtual networks or devices, but they should be drawn the same as physical devices.
  • Once you decide which type of diagram you are making, stick with it. Don’t try to mix and match drawing types. You need to really fight the temptation to put in too much information especially information from the other network drawing type. For example, switches never belong in a logical network drawing. In place of the switch, draw one or more subnets. Conversely, IP numbering doesn’t belong in a physical network drawing. Label the connections with the port name. (e.g. eth0, fa3/1, etc.)

#9 Server, Drilling, cabling, the NETWORK!

29 March 2011.  Students worked incredibly hard today. Giving up their lunch and working well into the evening! The drilling had been done last week, but as there was trouble with getting the cables through the holes, Mr West very kindly came back to do this for us. Students then got to work on passing through the cables (no easy task!), labelling each end, plugging each individual PC into the switch, etc.  It was also discovered that the Server components are faulty. Alistair and Tevin who were managing the server side of things suspect it is a faulty motherboard – so back to Aria it goes (putting us back a week again!)  All the other machines however, booted up fine, were connected (via the manually prepared ethernet cables) and plugged in to the switch. Amazingly, it all worked perfectly – with all machines (in the main training area) turning on and recieving the internet connection via the router (which was also connected directly to the switch). Then came the problem ….

1. Two receptionist machines had previously been connected directly into the router for internet connectivity.  Students changed this to make both machines connect to the switch. The internet didn’t work!

2. There is another machine in the server room which wasn’t previously considered part of the network.  How do we slot this in?

The main problem however, is that the two receptionist machines don’t seem to be recieving an internet connection, even though the link light on the switch suggests the connection is fine.  See image below to see the possible alternatives students have been looking at. (excuse the terrible network diagrams) You’ll notice the problems below.

In class controlled time, students will also have to start keeping a detailed log of all the problems that are being encountered (and these are mounting, despite the many successes!) An example below.

Setting up the Server – Essential Reading

Windows Home Server (The Role of the Server) Read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Home_Server

Installation of Home Server -> http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/9659/how-to-install-and-setup-windows-home-server/


  1. […] Centre. The process is well under way and you can click on NETWORKING PROJECT (on the right) or here to see more. The individual components were all ordered from Aria.co.uk and each PC is literally […]

    Pingback by “Big Society” – Students networking suite for charity project! « TeachingICT.Net | March 3, 2011 | Reply

  2. Comment by themissbenjamin | March 17, 2011 | Reply

  3. Finding similarities between past and current projects is extremely helpful in planning and activity sequencing. It is appropriate to use network diagraming as a tool for activity sequencing, when there are similarities between overall projects and among subprojects in larger projects.

    Comment by jdcbd007 | June 15, 2012 | Reply

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