Before the end of the last school term, I was tasked with setting up 5 news machines for the ICT suite.
Having provided maintenance for the existing IT lab for nearly 6 months, I was looking forward to giving it a revamp with more of a planned network including higher performance backbone. This was something I felt very comfortable doing, and I knew I was going to spend the first couple of weeks of my summer holiday working on the project.
As with everything, there were a few bumps along the way, mostly involving a tropical thunderstorm that went straight over the site of the school. This has caused a bit of a delay to getting things ready, but these will be fixed at some point before the start of the new school year.
The first thing to do was to purchase the equipment. Finding the right parts and a good supplier for them can be quite a difficult thing in Koh Samui. You only have to read the many forum posts on ThaiVisa.com about customer service in Koh Samui to understand that. So, having tried many of the retailers on the island I thought it would be best to go with my own personal experience.
I did a good amount of shopping around for all of the parts we were interested in and ended up purchasing from 3 main suppliers.
- Acer G195HQV 18.5″ LCD Monitor (x5) – Tesco Lotus
- Logitech M100 USB mouse (x5) – Tesco Lotus
- Logitech K100 keyboard (x5) – Tesco Lotus
- Headsets with microphone (x5) – Tesco Lotus
- D-Link DGS-1008A Gigabit Ethernet 8 port switch (x2) – Banana IT, Chaweng
- Linksys WAG320N Gigabit Ethernet Dual-Band N ADSL Router – Banana IT, Chaweng
- Syndome 300W I-CON UPS (x3) – Banana IT, Chaweng
- Neolution White ATX Ca se with PSU (x5) – J.I.B. Computers, Chaweng
- Asus P8H61-MLE Motherboard (x5) – J.I.B. Computers, Chaweng
- Intel Pentium G620 CPU (x5) – J.I.B. Computers, Chaweng
- Kingston 4GB DDR3/1333MHz RAM (x5) – J.I.B. Computers, Chaweng
- Lite-On DVD burner (x5) – J.I.B. Computers, Chaweng
- Western Digital Caviar Blue 500GB HDD (x5) – J.I.B. Computers, Chaweng
The existing IT lab machines use Windows 7, 32bit edition. As these machines will have more than 3.5GB of RAM, I decided to purchase Windows 7 Ultimate, 64bit edition to make full use of that extra memory for the 5 new machines. I like to keep a log of all components serial numbers, purchase dates and warranty expiration (where applicable) – yes, I’m very OCD about this, but it’s important! At the same time as doing this, I like to label the hardware on the outside and the main cables, so that if anything gets disconnected for whatever reason, it can be easily located and put back in its correct place.
Always prepare for the worst
Unfortunately, I hadn’t set a disc image up for the machines (something I will be doing that in the future – I’ll put a guide up on here) so I manually set all of the software up whilst jury rigged on the floor!
Once they were all set up, I got started on rearranging the existing desks to fit the 5 new machines in. We had already decided on a set up with an island of 8 machines in the middle and the first 7 machines against the wall.
The existing set up comprised of two rows of five machines, with a gap between the front row and the back wall.
The main headache for the IT lab was to rearrange the network wiring.
This whole process involved making a few new cables (and replacing some broken connectors on the end of existing ones). I buy my network cable from a shop opposite the Tesco Lotus in Chaweng for 15THB per metre, but I hear you can buy 100m reels for 1000B, a price of 10THB per meter. I get the connectors from “Mr TT ITCOM” located at the Big C Supermarket near Chaweng, by the checkouts. The same shop also sells the RJ45 and RJ11 crimping tool that are shown in the photo gallery. There are plenty of guides available online showing how to wire up RJ45 connectors for use on a LAN.
I have the system set up with an ‘Extended Star’ network topology – this is not only great value but still has layers of protection about hardware failure (unless of course, the core of the star fails!).
I use cable tie pads to adhere the cable ties to the wall, desk or floor, that way only the cable tie will need replacing if/when you need to make changes to the configuration. It still keeps everything relatively neat and tidy and out of harms way behind furniture or around the edges of rooms.
IT lab configuration and layout
Once the first 7 machines against the wall were set up and connecting to the network without trouble (which was actually trouble free, except for the file server being down to connect to and test network speeds out on!) I moved on to making the ‘island’ of 8 machines in the middle of the room. Unfortunately, we have no floor sockets for network or power, so I chose a nice short spot to get the power and network into the middle. As we had 3 8port switches to use (I’m still using an existing 10/100 8port switch until the next spending spree when the router will finally join up with a full Gigabit ethernet network), one of the machines in the island would have it’s network sent over from the wall mounted switch. This means I’m going to have to move 2 network cables across the floor and 1 power lead. I used a power block board to bring the power over (it had the longest lead in all of the stock of bits I have), and then connected 3 Belkin surge protected power blocks to this. At the moment, the wall machines have direct connections to the buildings power going through UPS boxes. I would like to eventually have this setup with 1 UPS per machine and each of these to be connected to surge protected power blocks. That should help to eliminate danger from electrical storm spikes – a much bigger problem here than I’ve experienced previously in countries like Australia or England!
The situation with the island is much the same as the machines I did previously, but we’re waiting on the new furniture for the machines to arrive, so when they do, I’ll finally be able to get it setup as it should be.
So there you go, one new IT lab ready to go!
Things still to do:
Put 5 new machines on the furniture– done! Get some floor trunking for the cables to the island– done!
Rebuild the file/print server with new motherboard and CPU– done! Upgrade the remainder of the ICT network to Gigabit Ethernet standard– – done!
Update (September 2012)
The desks arrived in the nick of time, so my first course of action was to get the machines seated in their new homes. Luckily, some forward preparation from me made this transition relatively painless and the machines were up and running in their now homes within an hour. I’ve only had to replace one ‘recycled’ network cable on the island and all is running well.
I’m still looking to purchase some tough floor trunking for the power and network cables – I’m going to make this a priority to get done before the end of the first half term.
Server woes – now over
I had further problems with the server, mostly due to amateur mistakes by myself in the past. This is what’s great about this job, I feel like I’m learning something new every week. For the purposes of the school, I have decided to set everything up on a single partition within a 500GB hard drive, this can always be changed at a later date, and I am now carrying out regular backups of data to multiple sources, so if the worst happens, I should always be able to restore it back to a last known working setup or an earlier version. The server is now up and running again though, (near-enough) all fileshares have all data restored (I’m still in the process of filtering through some lost documents) and everything is working as it was. It’s now a new opportunity for me to start afresh with a new intranet site for the staff and students, as well as including messaging software for use across the network (more to come on that soon).
Still to come… completing the upgrade to Gigabit Ethernet LAN and Memory Upgrades
I’m waiting for the next couple of rollouts before tackling this, it’s very high on my agenda though, and I personally feel will be the biggest upgrade for the end user that I’ve carried out – sad to say, I’m quite excited about this! That’s all for now folks…
You can read about the Gigabit Ethernet upgrade here!