Efficacious IT managers will articulate a logistic goal such as “The school will create and maintain a robust and reliable network (including a wireless network) for students, faculty, and staff to access the LAN and Internet.”
Context for the Logistic Goal
The adjectives “robust” and “reliable” are used to describe IT networks. Robust describes the capacity of the network to provide a connection that delivers the network information that each requested in a timely manner. A robust network will allow many users in a classroom to connect with little delay, and there will be little latency observed in the network traffic. (Latency is the term used by IT professionals to describe slow connections which cause performance of web services to suffer.) Reliability refers to the amount of time the network is available, accepting new connections, and sending and receiving authorized data packets. In general, a network that is not robust will fail when a large number of users connect, while one that is unreliable will fail intermittently regardless of how many users are connected.
For most computer users in schools, “the network is down” (because it is not reliable or not robust) is an unacceptable situation, so IT professionals seek to improve the capacity of the network to provide and maintain connections and manage network traffic. While IT professionals understand the work of building and managing reliable networks, collaborative IT management depends on educators who understand the nature of the network as well as school leaders who understand enterprise networks so they do not place unreasonable demands on the IT professionals. The intended audience of this chapter is the school leaders and teachers who are involved with efficacious IT management, but who are unfamiliar with the many aspects of enterprise networks. The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of the hardware, software, and practices of managing networks; all of these can be upgraded to improve the performance of school networks. For IT professionals, this chapter represents the information they should expect the educators who are involved in IT management to understand. It is upon this level understanding that educators can begin to grasp the nature and challenges of IT management.