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   DataBus - Vol 40 No 3: April-May, 2000
Microsoft Proxy Server

The Connected Learning Community
New technologies have created exciting new opportunities for education. It is now possible for every student to have extensive access to the world's knowledge. Every student can be ensured learning methods best suited to his or her unique needs. These technologies enable students, teachers, and communities to create a new learning environment of connected PCs, which we at Microsoft call The Connected Learning Community. In the Connected Learning Community, all students have access to a computer that is connected online; each student is empowered to pursue their own individual path of learning; and students, parents, educators, and the extended community are all connected.
The technology to make this possible is now available through the Microsoft® Windows NT® operating system platform and Microsoft's BackOffice® Suite of products. Microsoft recognizes, though, that the power of these new learning tools must be controlled. Schools need to manage and customize the access which students, teachers, and administrators are given to Internet resources. They also need sensitive information on the internal network to be protected from unauthorized access.
The best solution for these needs is the Microsoft Proxy Server, included in the BackOffice Suite of products. Microsoft Proxy Server allows you to provide Internet access to an entire school system through a single, secure link. You can set up just one IP address for your network, and have a set of private Internet addresses for all other computers. Powerful administrative capabilities allow you to monitor which sites are being visited and block access to inappropriate sites, while also restricting the access that the outside world has to internal documents.
Microsoft Proxy Is a Secure, Easily Managed Internet Solution
Microsoft Proxy Server's single, secure gateway eliminates the need to share one dedicated machine for the Internet among multiple students. This eliminates the need to run multiple Internet lines into the school to provide different computers with separate connections, and delivers maximum accessibility, while helping to simplify administration.
Microsoft Proxy Server Web Site: Intuitive Interface
The Windows® interface is consistent throughout the current Microsoft operating systems: Windows 95, Windows NT Server 4.0, and Windows NT Workstation 4.0. The most widely used interface in the world gives schools the advantage of familiarizing their students to an operating system they are likely to be using in the business world. Additionally, the familiar and intuitive interface is consistent throughout Microsoft Proxy Server and other Microsoft products, making Proxy Server an easily managed and powerful tool for teachers and school administrators.
Auto Online Connect and Disconnect
To save even more time, and provide better access control, the Auto Dial tool in Microsoft Proxy Server automatically connects to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) whenever a user needs information not already stored in the local cache. When the desired information is retrieved from the ISP and stored, Auto Dial disconnects from your ISP, saving online costs. For example, if a teacher accesses the Web before school from a computer in a classroom, the Proxy Server-based system would dial your ISP, cache the information he or she accesses, and then disconnect, saving time in the classroom. How? When the students and teacher go to that same information later on, the computer will recognize the cached information as if it were on the Web, and not even dial your ISP.
High-Performance Access
Microsoft Proxy Server also delivers high-performance access to the Internet and your intranet. Proxy Server improves response times and minimizes network traffic by caching a local copy of frequently requested Internet or intranet data on a local computer. Proxy Server does this by dynamically analyzing Internet and intranet use and automatically identifying the most frequently used data. Proxy Server then caches this information, thus ensuring that users can access the most popular information quickly. Proxy Server also enables administrators to define a Time-to-Live for all objects in the cache, helping to keep the information fresh and ensure maximum efficiency. For example, with these tools you could provide a quick way to access an up-to-date MSNBC web page several times a day, without having to go out and retrieve this information over the Internet every time.
Compatible and Flexible
Proxy Server runs on Windows NT Server, and allows a range clients to access the Internet. In fact, if your computers can run a Web browser, they can take advantage of your server, regardless of their platform. Microsoft Proxy Server is easily integrated with the following platforms: Windows NT Server Windows NT Workstation Windows 95 Windows for Workgroups/Windows 3.1 UNIX Macintosh
Microsoft Proxy Server integrates easily with Windows NT Directory Services allowing an easy plug-in and single log on for the network's users. In other words, if you already have a Windows NT network running, any user on that network can be given privileges to access the Internet through Proxy Server from any computer on the network, without having to enter their username and password multiple times.
Additionally, Microsoft Proxy Server is easily integrated with existing network protocols. It integrates tightly with the Windows NT Server networking, security, and administrative interface, so you can centrally administer Proxy Server using the same tools. Popular network protocols are supported, so it works easily with your existing network. Proxy Server works on both IPX/SPX and TCP/IP-based platforms. It also works with existing Web browsers, and most desktop operating systems and hardware platforms. Microsoft Proxy Server supports open standards for broad compatibility. It complies fully with the CERN-proxy standard, which supports the HTTP, FTP, and gopher protocols, providing access to the widest possible range of browsers and Internet applications. Proxy Server supports the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) for secure data communication through data encryption and decryption. WinSock Proxy, which is included with Proxy Server, supports Windows Sockets version 1.1-compatible applications running on a private network--including LDAP, IRC, SMTP, Microsoft SQL Server™, RealAudio, and VDOLive--without any modification.
Powerful and Easily Managed
Microsoft Proxy Server helps ensure that your users can access the rich content of the growing number of applications on the Internet. Proxy Server does this by providing support for a wide range of applications and protocolsžincluding those with live, streaming audio and video such as RealAudio and VDOLive, LDAP, IRC, SMTP, and Microsoft SQL Serveržand provide transparent access from any desktop. Active, Intelligent Caching stores frequently accessed Internet data on the server where users can bring it up without going on the Internet. This enables the school district to serve a greater number of Internet users, thereby providing higher capacity without adding bandwidth to its existing Internet connection.
Microsoft Proxy Server is integrated tightly with Windows NT Server user authentication, preventing unauthorized Internet users from connecting to your private network, thus keeping your sensitive data secure. This feature enables network administrators to restrict access by user name or group affiliation, and block access to restricted sites by IP address or domain so you can ensure that your users are using their Internet privileges appropriately. A school district can easily restrict access to certain protocols or from certain schools, and in an extreme situation school administrators could easily turn off student access to the Internet altogether and make it available to the teachers only.
From One Educator to Another
The Lee County School district needed to connect its schools to the Internet. The district, with more than 4,100 students in 13 schools (K-12), is the poorest school district in Virginia. "Lee County Public School System needed an inexpensive source of teaching materials to deal with rising costs and declining state funding," says Dr. Bishop, superintendent Lee County Public School System. The different sizes of schools in the district made having all of the schools connected a necessity. "Setting up a LAN, by the time you buy the software and everything, is about $30,000 to $32,000 per school. So it's not very cost-effective to put that LAN in small schools that don't have many books to start with." explains Paul Elswick, parent advocate and technical consultant, Educational Technology, LLC. Lee County installed a WAN to link all its school libraries together and set up Microsoft Proxy Server to connect all schools to the Internet through one economical link.
The Lee County School district found Microsoft Proxy Server to be the best solution. "For a great deal less money than the cost of setting up 10 dial-up lines and maintaining them, you could easily put a server into a school, and put in an ISDN line and Proxy Server," Alan Hughes, Microsoft Certified Product Specialist, observes. Because all the school libraries in the district were to be linked by a WAN, the district needed to find a client/server library tracking system. The district contacted Alan Hughes, a Microsoft Certified Product Specialist, to develop a client/server library management software system from scratch. "Any computer that can run a browser can have access to all 13 of our libraries from anywhere in the school system," notes Hughes. With Proxy Server, Lee County was able to set up just one IP address along with private Internet addresses for each of its 324 client computers. This configuration simplifies administration of the WAN and enables administrators to move computers from school to school without having to reconfigure them each time. Hughes began to develop a list of IP addresses and domain names to which they could deny access. The system uses Hughes's own automated program, which collects inappropriate site addresses to be filtered out and automatically loads them into the Proxy Server Registry every night. Ultimately Lee County expects to have at least one computer in every classroom to provide a ratio of four students to one computer. The district is also actively trying to create the first virtual Governor's School in the state, which would provide enhanced learning experiences for gifted students. The goal, according to Elswick, is to be able to pull in curricula from the best curriculum developers in the country. "We feel like the Internet is the equalizer and Microsoft Proxy Server makes it possible to do just about anything here that you can do in a big city."
Why Use Microsoft Proxy Server in Your School?
Using Microsoft Proxy Server, your school can take advantage of the many ways the Internet can facilitate learning and enrich what is taught in the classroom, without leaving your network vulnerable to attacks from the outside or to inappropriate use from within your own network. Proxy Server will make Web use from within your school quicker and more easily managed, giving your users access to a rich diversity of Internet multimedia and interactive content, while saving you money by making efficient use of Internet dial-ups. Proxy Server is truly a powerful tool, integrated with the popular Windows NT Server, and included as part of the Microsoft BackOffice family of products.
System Requirements Hardware
Intel and compatible systems: *
  • 486/33-MHz or higher Pentium or Pentium Pro processor
  • Support for IPX/SPX is available on Windows 95 and Windows NT
  • 15 MB of available hard-disk space**
RISC-based systems: *
  • System with an Alpha processor
  • 20 MB of available hard-disk space**
Microsoft Windows NT Server Operating system version 4.0 or later and Microsoft Windows NT Server version 4.0 Service Pack 3 or later.
16 MB of memory (RAM)
CD-ROM drive
VGA, Super VGA, or video graphics adapter compatible with Windows NT Server 4.0
* See your reseller for a list of compatible systems and peripherals.
**Actual Requirements will vary based on your system configuration and on the features you choose to install. System requirements of Windows NT-based programs may exceed system requirements for Proxy Server. Does not include user-defined Web cache space. (Web cache requires NTFS partition.)
Microsoft Windows NT Server version 4.0
Microsoft Internet Information Server version 2.0 (included with Windows NT Server 4.0)
Windows NT Server 4.0 Service Pack (provided on the Microsoft Proxy Server CD-ROM)

Tuan Nguyen is K-12 Education Marketing Manager for Microsoft Corporation's Southern California District. He may be reached by telephone at (310) 449-7408 or by e-mail at [email protected]