Yolo County's Internetet Access Plan

Support: Districts' needs addressed by a comprehensive implementation roadmap.

Greg Lindner, Yolo County Superintendent of Schools

This article describes what the Yolo County Superintendent of Schools (YCSS) is doing in collaboration with our local School Districts in the areas of Internet Access. It further defines why we are doing it and the kind of equipment we are using.

While this information may be old news to some of you, perhaps it will benefit some out there that are just getting started with their connections. Nothing in this article is meant to say one piece of equipment is better than another but simply represents what equipment and vendors we used. Additionally, all schools and districts are advised to first, identify if they have a need to connect to the Internet, and then if yes, they are advised to utilize the provider that provides the least cost solution while providing the greatest ease of use and support.

Questions regarding this article may be directed to Greg Lindner at Yolo County Superintendent of Schools ([email protected]).

The Yolo County Superintendent of Schools has developed a Strategic Plan in order to have a well designed comprehensive plan for accomplishing educational excellence that is strongly supported by all the significant constituencies of the community. Everything we do in the ITS department relates back to this Strategic Plan.

Strategy V of the Strategic Plan states, "We will develop and implement a technology plan that meets the needs of those we serve". Through an Action Team comprised of Educators, County Office Personnel, Community Members and Business Leaders, a Technology Plan was developed and is in the process of being implemented.

Specifically, the Plan calls for:

  1. Continued operation of the County Wide Financial/Payroll/Personnel System and Student Systems
  2. Migration to a County Wide Network able to provide access to a centralized information channel specific to the needs of and accessible to defined user groups
  3. Internet Access for all schools in the County
  4. Technical assistance in the areas of Microcomputer Support, Network Design, and Network Support
  5. Training for all defined clients in the areas of Administrative Software, Educational Software, General Technology, and Networking - including Internet training.

The Yolo County Superintendent of Schools is located in Woodland California. The computer area of the Information & Technology Services department is approximately 1000 square feet, consisting of a computer room, a printer room and a forms room. The site has a raised computer floor, a dry fire alarm system, a power distribution unit (surge protector/power conditioner), separate punch locks to enter each room, alarm system for outer offices and computer room, and a dedicated air conditioner. Additionally, the entire site is fully networked with 10BaseT, category 5 cable running Ethernet and TCP/IP. Two large (750 and 950 sq. ft.) training rooms are available for training and are fully networked.

Currently the entire site is networked with a thinlan backbone (includes a redundant second backbone). Eventually as the need arises this will be replaced with a fiber backbone. Individual workstations are wired via category 5 UTP back to one of three wiring closets where they are connected to category 5 patch panels. The patch panels are then connected to HP Manageable Hubs.

YCSS utilizes HP Netservers for administrative uses running Microsoft NT Advanced Server software. Client software is Microsoft Windows for WorkGroups as well as Macintosh System 6.05 and above. YCSS employees access the HP3000 (used for financial systems) via the network. TCP/IP, Netbeui, Ethertalk phase 2, and WRQ's NS 3000 Connection are used at YCSS.

An HP9000, E-35 Server with 2 gigabytes of disk space, 96 mb of memory, DAT tape drive and CD-ROM has been purchased and is on-line. Clients will connect to the HP9000 utilizing TCP/IP. Server software will be identical to what is being utilized on the SCOOPNET Server at Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE): WWW, FTP, NetNews, and E-Mail will be available. (Our Home Page is pretty plain right now but will improve over time!)

Over the next 18-24 months, YCSS will work with districts to migrate the HP3000 WAN to a full network WAN so that costs can be contained and existing phone lines utilized for both HP3000 connectivity and Internet connectivity. Furthermore, the E-35 Server Contents will be refined and modified to meet the information needs of our clients. This will be accomplished by committee - made up of representatives from our client base.

Finally, the network will be monitored and analyzed for security, performance and upgrade needs.

Specific Equipment Used

A 3Com Netbuilder II (8 Slot Chassis) has been chosen as the host router at YCSS. This router was chosen because of its ease of expansion, cost, and because of knowledge base and leveraging ability of SCOOPNET. SCOOPNET utilizes the same router as does EGUSD, Marin County, Novato USD and many other school districts. Utilizing the same router as our service provider (SCOOPNET) brings many benefits in the area of knowledge and vendor awareness. Knowledge is increased because YCSS can collaboratively work with the other schools in the network to solve problems and increases our position with the vendor because so many of the schools are using this equipment.

The HP9000 E-35 Server was chosen because of its high quality and excellent support record. Additionally, YCSS can leverage its current support agreements with HP and the superior support it has received from HP over the last several years.

Livingston Remote Access Servers were chosen because they have proven to work well and because they are among the lowest cost solution for remote access.

US Robotics Sportster 14.4 modems were chosen because of high quality and low price.

Frame Relay was chosen because of no mileage sensitivity (costs are fixed no matter how far away the remote site is) and because it allows multiplexing the signals to the host without having to purchase a port on the Netbuilder II for each remote site.

Software chosen will be freeware off the Internet for client access. Additionally, an e-mail gateway will be setup to allow sending/receiving mail from Microsoft Mail for the YCSS Internal LAN. Server software will be shareware from the Internet and then modified by Lloyd Internetworking to fit our environment. The server software (a.k.a. Cyberstation) will also be maintained by Lloyd Internetworking until such time YCSS staff are capable of doing this function.

YOLONET will connect to the Internet via SCOOPNET. A T-1 Frame Relay line (initial port speed 384mb) will be used to connect to the Internet. The name server will be located at YCSS. Hewlett-Packard, Comlink Inc., and 3Com are being consulted about how to set up the network firewall to insure proper security. Comlink Inc. will do the actual work.

One of the advantages of using the same equipment and vendors throughout the network is the ability to utilize the knowledge gained by the other members. YCSS is working with SCOE to make sure we benefit from their work and they benefit from ours. Additionally, SCOE is filtering newsgroups available for downloading. We have also contracted with Lloyd Internetworking to set up our server and provide consulting, maintenance and training.

YCSS is currently developing its Acceptable Use Policy and will have it completed prior to April 95.


YCSS is forging ahead and will probably be fully operational on the Net by the time you read this. It has been an enlightening experience along the way bringing with it a tremendous opportunity to learn new things! It is satisfying knowing we are achieving the goals laid out in our strategic plan. It has also been a little scary having so much change so fast. We are fortunate to have a great team here at YCSS who are adjusting to the change --it is seen as an opportunity to learn new things and really make a difference. It will be even more satisfying after we've seen the technology in use.