WAN Eases Tasks And Supplies Fast Internet Access

Here's the scenario: a school district with 11,600 students, 15 elementary schools, four middle schools, two high schools, a Career Enrichment Center, an Educational Services Center and Auxiliary Services center needs to be connected to the Internet. Most of the schools have their own LAN (Local Area Network), but can only access the Internet through limited dial-up modem accounts.

What is the most cost-effective way to give these students, instructors and staff fast, reliable Internet connectivity, along with a network infrastructure that can be built upon in the future for upgraded communications abilities?

About a year ago, Adams County School District 50 in Westminster, Colorado, fit this scenario. They needed Internet access, along with a Wide Area Network (WAN) that would give administrators and staff increased efficiency and productivity, without busting the budget. After checking out many options, they decided to give Application Consultants (Westminster, Colo.) a call.

Dr. Dana Jeffrey, director of executive services for District 50, says that Application Consultants was definitely the right choice. ìWe chose Application Consultants because of their level of expertise in networking and Internet connectivity,î she says. After discussions, they felt they had made the right choice because of their shared ìvision,î says Jeffrey. ìThey seem to share our philosophy of how this technology can be utilized in education,î she relates. ìBecause of their commitment and expertise, and our shared focus, it was a ëgood fití with what we wanted to do with the network.î

State-of-the-Art WAN

After given the go-ahead, Application Consultants went to work, planning and designing a network that connects all 24 sites in an integrated data, voice and video wide area network that includes T-1 connections to the Internet. Application Consultants took care of planning, design, procurement, construction management, user manual preparation and even user training. They provided network management and training, and installation of all network circuits, PBX and key systems, the voice mail system, data equipment, video conferencing facilities and Internet gateway.

Network protocols include TCP/IP, IPX, NETbeui, HP NS3000, PPP and SNMP. It features Novell, Windows NT Advanced Server and Windows for Workgroups operating systems, remote printing services, remote system administration, remote access service for home access to the network, Microsoft Mail and Schedule+, and connectivity to the HP NS3000 system including HP mail and other HP network services. Point to point video conferencing facilities are also provided in certain areas.

And, to avoid getting locked into technology that will be obsolete in a few years, the entire design is open system compliant, eliminating sole source contracting and forced system upgrades.

Quick Communications

Well, all this technology is nice, but now that itís in place, what is the district doing with it? According to Jeffrey, both teachers and staff are impressed with how useful the network has become. Teachers use it for anything from staff development purposes to communicating among themselves to supporting specific curriculum in the classroom.

ìWhen youíve got 24 different sites all needing Internet access, dial-up hourly rate is not cost effective,î says Jeffrey. ìKnowing that the network and Internet will be used as a primary instructional resource in the classroom, as well as a research tool, information tool and more, this kind of WAN is the only way to go.î

On the administration side, ìIt really seems to have cut paperwork and streamlined many of our operations,î says Jeffrey. ìJust as a simple example, if we need to get a memo out to all district teachers, with one mouse click we can e-mail it to all of them and theyíll have it in minutes,î she relates. This convenience takes the place of snail-mailing or hand-carrying all communications to the schools.

Before this network was installed, District 50 schools had to make do with modem-based Internet access. Imagine 11,600 students and their associated staff all vying for Internet access time through a few slow, dial-up accounts. Sound familiar? Now District 50 students, teachers and staff get seamless, fast access with no expensive phone line retrofitting or slow dial-up accounts.

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.