The term data network (or computer network) refers to a number of computers being connected
together by electrical cable, or a wireless connection, so
that they can share common resources.
Most schools now have a data network of some sort, made up of a variety of components, all of which can be a bit daunting to the newcomer!
- What is a LAN?
- A Local Area Network describes the network in your immediate local area, such as your school.
What is a WAN?
- A Wide Area Network describes a data network beyond the confines of your school. In an education environment the WAN usually refers to the network run by your District or State education system, to which your LAN is connected.
What is a CD?
- The Campus Distributor is the network switch, usually housed in a large cabinet, that can be considered to be the "hub" of the school's network. (See picture below)
What is a BD?
- The Building Distributors are the hub of the network infrastructure in each discreet building in a school, usually tucked away in a small cabinet on a wall in a storeroom. Each BD is connected directly to the Campus Distributor, preferably with a "high speed" connection. (At the time of writing, this would be 1Gb fibre or UTP).
- How successful networks are in
performing their tasks generally depends on their speed - how fast
information can be moved over the wires which connect the computers
together - and their reliability in doing so.
Network speed (and reliability)
can be affected by many factors, including not only the quality of the
various components used, but also by the workmanship used to connect
the components together, including the termination of cables into their
For example, the old coaxial-cable networks were rated at 10Mb; the late 1990-2004 period saw 100Mb as "the norm"; while in 2005 and onward sees 1000Mb (1Gb) to be considered "the norm", certainly for connections between the Campus Distributor and Building Distributors.
Despite claims by manufacters, wirless networks do not yet provide the same speed performance as wired networks for many heavy-duty tasks (such as 30 simultaneous logins and resulting mega-data-transfers!)
How do I install a data network?
- As with most specialist technologies,
has become so sophisticated that it has now moved out of the "do-it-yourself"
realm. We have all seen examples of the school network which was installed
by Sally Smith's Dad or the local electrician (at the right price!),
which has been so unreliable that administrative staff have been driven to their
wit's end by breakdowns and outages, especially during wet weather!
Since the successful installation
of a data network requires a good deal of specialist knowledge,
most large organisations now have recommended standards for network components and installation
- Most organisations have a set of standards which must be observed when planning and installing a data network within the organisation.
For example, the NSW government sets installation standards, and maintains
a list of registered contractors who are approved to undertake network
installation work in NSW public schools. Details of this contract,
and other related NSW government IT contracts, are available from the NSWbuy IT Site.
Most other government organisations have similar standards and administrative regimes.