I help a local private school with a lot of their tech needs. So far, it's been on the order of repairing/installing office computers and helping manage the office network.
But now the administrator is looking forward and wants to get the staff and students modernized and online. He has asked me if I would be interested in setting up a server and maintaining it (possibly for a little remuneration).
But now I'm in a quandary - I'd love to help, but I have little experience with servers. I have the time to dedicate to learning and maintaining, but this will be a new venture for both the school and I.
The school would need user logins for approx. 50 staff and faculty, and around 200 students. These would all need strongly filtered internet access, data storage, security, printer access, backups, and I'm sure they'd eventually want VPN's. They'd like school email accounts for all students and staff, shared calendars, etc.
My original plan was to use Google Apps (they already have a Google Apps for Education account) combined with OpenDNS filtering. But now I understand that it would be pretty simple for a knowledgeable student to bypass that.
Also, the school currently uses an old 24-port switch, a hodge-podge of wireless routers as AP's (it's a long 2-story solid brick building complete with fallout shelter), and "standard" DSL (bandwidth unknown). Only the office computers are wired. Almost all the teachers access the network wirelessly. To keep the students from learning the password and gaining access, the school uses MAC filtering to prevent unauthorized access. Obviously if they are going to allow student access, this system will also need to be rethought.
So given all these requirements, I'd like to ask these questions:
- Besides filtering, what other benefits can the school receive from their own server as opposed to only using Google Apps?
- Does a Virtual Private Server solve these issues any cheaper than having their own server? Would it introduce other problems?
- Without looking for a specific hardware recommendation, what kind of server would we need? Basic, mid-level, etc.? What features should I be careful to invest in?
- I know Windows OS fairly well, and have dabbled in Ubuntu. Given my relative inexperience and the above needs, does any server software stand out as far more applicable to the school's (and my) needs?
- Given the possible user numbers, mix of user systems (Macs, PC's, phones, etc.), and other things I'm sure that I can't foresee, what changes should we consider for the network?
- Is there another possible solution to this project that I should look into?
- Any glaring holes you see that we've missed?
Right now, the school doesn't utilize the network for much more than print sharing. So it won't take much to make improvements. However, we'd like to also future-proof as much as is reasonable. The school is on a tight budget (who isn't?), but some of these things could be a great help.