When the server in the computer room goes down …

Friday, June 26th, 2009 | ICT in Africa

The people of Africa are known for their spirit of innovation.  We say, “ ‘n boer maak ‘n plan” – loosely translated, this Afrikaans proverb says that a farmer always comes up with a plan.

But how innovative are we when the server in the computer room goes down?  Owing to a variety of reasons, it often takes an unacceptably long period to get the server going again. During this time the computer facility is not used and curriculum delivery can not take place.

Or is that what we allow ourselves to believe?

Is there a Plan B (B is for boer) that educators can fall back on, so that when the network is down, each individual workstation can still be used by learners in their quest to come to grips with the curriculum?

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9 Comments to When the server in the computer room goes down …

Skip Zalneraitis
Friday, 26 June, 2009

If the software that’s required must be server based, there are three alternatives on the face of it: a backup server, faster repair time, or replace this unreliable server.

Friday, 26 June, 2009

I suggest that programmers of software should make provision for their software to be inclined to operate on a single workstation. When the server is down, most (almost 90%) of all software is server-based re the database. Surely their must be a “boer” who can desing a “plan” that when the server is down, plan B should kick in – standalone workstation to continue with the software.

When the server is back in the LAB, the standalone workstation data should then be “transferred” to the main database and “plough back” into the server database – again another “boer” can make a plan for this to be possible.

Albie the Boer planting the plan / idea

Clinton Walker
Friday, 26 June, 2009

Yes there is a plan B. BUT a plan is worthless unless executed.

Saturday, 27 June, 2009

Even without the server in a standard Khanya lab you still have access to all the Microsoft applications – Word, Excel, Paint etc… Surely it’s not too difficult to have a few MS-based lessons up your sleeve?

Sunday, 28 June, 2009

The whole notion of a school being entirely dependent on a lab environment has been outdated for many years. Given that many schools have had to begin their journey of experiencing ICT in learning in this fashion, it would be very appropriate to setup a more diverse deployment of ICT in schools.

Redundancy and resilience in a network normally required more than one server and this should be the starting point. Also, some standard PCs could be loaded and configured to provide access to some applications despite a server going down – in other words, acting as mini-servers themselves.

An inexpensive model would also be to have a server cached with learning data which could be activated in the event that one of the primary servers experiences problems.

Another option would be to rethink some of the poor examples of an open source lab we have seen in the past. It might be better to have a thin-client Linux based server, containing some basic content but instead of having all the thin clients in one lab, rather deploy one in each class. This enables access at the point where the teacher is placed…enabling a hook up to data projection and access to resources without having to do a ‘one size fits all’ in the lab. The chances are that the use of a Linux server going down is minimal. In this scenarion, the major hurdle to be overcome would be to have a linux knowledge source accessible to the school.

Mark C
Monday, 29 June, 2009

I have highlighted the fact that having one server for a school running more than one computer is a problem. There are schools that are successfully running on this model without the Windows server going down. But when it went down it created a huge problem and the whole system was down for at least a week. At this school the LAN does look after the network but a techie (not CEI) had to step in to redo the server. When this school started having so many computer rooms and computers in their classroom I highlighted this problem and was shooed away like a problematic fly. What did this school do in the mean time? Use the computers as stand-alones – with using office products.

The idea of the virtual server(s) is appealing but we have found a school where the backups in the server and the backup server folders/files were corrupted. We had to leave this school for CEI to do.

The idea of running Linux also appealing to me because of some stability issues, but the technical staff…. Has anybody done an in-depth study of the one school in East that runs Linux as a model?

The idea of every educator having his/her own PC/laptop which can work with/without a network in the classroom with a data projector can be better. But I know Kobus’ words …”Maar wat van die kindertjies?” How do they learn how to use the computers for what they need to do?

Marius Pretorius
Monday, 29 June, 2009

There are three basic network models for a computer lab. Workstation based, server based or a hybrid of the two. The model that should be used depends on the type of support that is available. Having a server based network makes life so much easier in managing the software (updating etc.) and accessing data at a central storage space. However, where there is no support for such a system it might make sense to simply have individual workstations and store data on memory sticks which are very cheap nowadays. Just think of it: no network problems! Sometimes a less advanced solution may be the best solution under certain circumstances.

Monday, 29 June, 2009

Maybe a last note – with EIAWB on their way into each and every classroom during this decade, I would suggest that standalone workstations connected to an EIAWB might seemed to be the option “in” vs the server option “down”.


Thursday, 9 July, 2009

Many times our school didn’t have a plan B other than panic and rant and rave which didn’t help anyone. Whenever I give a presentation, I prepare one using technology and another under the assumption that the technology isn’t working. It takes a lot of extra time but I always feel better prepared.

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