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A Virtual Trip Through the Inner Workings of a Public High School Computer Network Jessica Moss 4 February 2008 EdTech 575. Stratford’s Network. Introduction.

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A Virtual Trip Through the Inner Workings of a Public High School Computer Network

Jessica Moss

4 February 2008

EdTech 575

Stratford’s Network

As a public school teacher, I use the school network on a daily basis. It streamlines tasks like taking attendance or recording grades, and allows me to access the Internet for resources. I’d be lost without the communication it provides.

A network is simply a group of computers communicating with one another. But how does the network actually work? I took a tour with one of our district technicians to find out…

school background
School Background

Stratford High School

Grades 9-12

~3000 students

~600 computers

Each classroom and office has at least 1 networked computer

wan overview
WAN Overview

All network activity for the Berkeley County School District is managed through the district office. It uses a metro ethernet line to connect to every school in the district. This is referred to as the wide area network, or WAN. On the illustration in the next slide, Stratford High is “SHS,” located in the Bellsouth cluster.

lan overview
LAN Overview

Within Stratford itself we find a smaller network. This local area network (LAN) connects the individual computers of the school to the main server, where they access local programs and files. It also connects the school to the WAN, accessing district-wide resources like email and the Internet.


As seen on the previous slide, the basic network setup includes the following:

District Office (WAN)‏

Main Data Feed (Core Switch)‏

Independent Data Feeds (IDF)‏


Independent Workstations

district office
District Office

The district office houses the hub of all network activity for the various schools. In addition to being the seat of technical operations, it manages:

Email (Groupwise)‏


Intranet (“Distoffice”)‏

Berkeley County School District Home Page


As opposed to the Internet which can be accessed by almost anyone, the local intranet (ours is called “Distoffice”) is accessible only to computers within its network. It maintains information not given to the general public, including personnel forms, employee benefits, and policy manuals.

main data feed
Main Data Feed

The district connects to Stratford High through the main data feed (MDF), or core switch. This basically controls the entire network at the school level, using fiber optic lines to connect to independent data feeds. Should power go out, it has a battery backup for 30 crucial minutes. It is also located in a very unassuming upstairs closet.

independent data feeds
Independent Data Feeds

In several other unassuming closets throughout the school, we find independent data feeds (IDFs). These connect the individual computers to the main data feed, and thus to the entire network.


On the side of the LAN overview chart is a lone computer called labeled “Server.” Servers act like a main hard drive, storing and maintaining information across the network. They give teachers access to common programs and provide them with space to store important files. They send information to individual computers (clients) through the MDF and IDFs.


This is the root (“Media”) server for most of the computers in the school. It manages a LOT of programs. Some, like Integrade Pro, are used by all teachers while others are subject-specific. Other servers exist, including “Admin” and “Guidance,” with separate functions. The discs on top are the daily backups.


Stratford’s network uses Novell Network Software, McAfee Netshield, and Lightspeed security. Other programs are used via the network including:

Groupwise Email

Integrade Pro



What that means for me, as an individual teacher, is that all I have to do is plug my computer into a handy outlet, and I have complete access.


The following map shows the layout of one floor of the school, indicating the placement of the MDF, some IDFs, and two servers (Media and Guidance). It is not to scale, but gives a good picture of how the network is spread out in the actual building.

for more info
For More Info…

Berkeley County Office of Technology



Network Tutorials: