Data Centers

K-12 networks call for unique maintenance actions

The basic process of routine maintenance is the same on any computer network, regardless of the industry it operates in. However, there are some unique features to routine maintenance in a K-12 computer network.

By William Evans

Many systems require routine maintenance to keep them running efficiently. And, computer networks are no exception. Scheduled maintenance, often weekly or monthly, should be a normal part of network administration in today's corporate environments. With the increased complexity of current K-12 computer networks—the need can be seen there as well. The basic process of routine maintenance is the same on any computer network, regardless of the industry it operates in. However, there are some unique features to routine maintenance in a K-12 computer network. Both will be addressed in this article.

Why routine maintenance?

There are three main reasons why routine maintenance is important in a K-12 environment. First, less important tasks are overlooked when the network administrator becomes busy in day-to-day activities. Scheduling routine maintenance makes sure they get done. Second, routine maintenance tasks are proactive, and proactive approaches always improve the health of any system. Third, performing regular tasks like this will allow the network administrator to become even more aware of his environment and more able to "tune it" for best performance and reliability.

How do you perform routine maintenance?

To perform routine maintenance three things are required:

  1. A thorough knowledge of the computer network, systems, and their relative importance
  2. A scheduled time window when best to perform the maintenance
  3. A list, in either paper or electronic form, of the tasks to be completed

Typically the senior network administrator, or the IT manager, would be the K-12 staff member with the most knowledge of the computer network and related systems. So, it would be best to consult them on this type of project. As far as scheduling goes, it would be ideal to perform this maintenance during off hours. However, this is rarely possible in a K-12 environment, so using a time period when the system load is low would be the next option. As to creating the list of maintenance tasks—here is an outline of an example list:

Network Device and Server Maintenance Schedule

School District XYZ

Document Date: 04.27.06

Current Date: ___________

  1. Server Equipment
    1. Check Backup Systems
      1. SERVER1
      2. SERVER2
      3. SERVER3
    2. Perform Manual Backup
      1. Transfer most recent full backup to archive tape and deliver off-site
      2. Backup software firewall configuration
      3. Backup internet filtering server configuration
    3. Check Logs
      1. Event Viewer (all servers)
      2. Scheduled Tasks (all servers)
      3. Antivirus software (on centralized system)
      4. Any special logging software
    4. Updates
      1. Windows Update all servers
      2. Other Software (backup, antivirus, etc.)
      3. Hardware (BIOS, firmware, etc.)
      4. Any special software
    5. Housekeeping
      1. Clear "bad" DNS entries (on domain controllers)
      2. Clear "bad" DHCP entries (on DHCP server)
      3. Check roaming profiles, temp files, etc. (on file servers)
      4. Manually defrag servers (where necessary)
  2. Network Equipment
    1. Perform Manual Backup
      1. Backup configurations on all routers and switches
      2. Backup configuration on hardware firewall
    2. Check Logs
      1. Check logs on switches and routers
      2. Check logs on other necessary network devices
    3. Updates
      1. Upgrade firmware on routers and switches
      2. Upgrade firmware on hardware firewall
      3. Upgrade firmware on other devices

The above document outlines a basic monthly routine maintenance checklist for a K-12 computer network. Working off of a list such as this ensures that all necessary tasks are completed regularly. Although this document can be used as a primer you should customize it to meet the needs of your own K-12 environment. You would need to identify and process any unique hardware, software, or design accordingly. It's also important to note that whatever maintenance schedule is chosen, weekly or monthly, it should be followed as regularly as possible. Doing so will allow the process to become most effective.

Conclusion

There are many reasons why routine maintenance is an important part of the network administrator's tasks. Using the above primer, and having the proper knowledge of organizational uniqueness, the network administrator can build a complete routine maintenance schedule that enhances the way you support the computer network in your K-12 computing environment.

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