Technology coordinators today must manage not only individual computers and peripheral equipment, but also increasingly powerful and complex network systems. The author, a self-described, one-man technology department for a county school district in New Jersey, has devised a hybrid approach to handle the many issues he faces in a typical school year.

Hillman stresses that he begins by being consistent in the equipment and technologies that he uses, making sure that his schools’ computers, cables, and connections use the same protocol as the district’s (in his case, Ethernet twisted pair cabling operating under the TCP/IP protocol with 3Com switches).

To manage the network, Hillman uses well-known network management software and also software that has particular applicability to school systems.

The author uses Transcend Network Supervisor as his general management software. This software can be obtained at no charge at http://www.3com.com/products/trans_net_ma n. html. Transcend, which is compatible with 3Com networks, creates an on-screen map of the network, with intuitive symbols showing the status of particular equipment: green means things are running properly, red means equipment is down. Transcend graphically shows the stress that a particular device is under; the links from one device to another; and information about each device.

There are two popular alternatives to Transcend: Cisco Works and Open View. Cisco Works software, devised by leading networking equipment manufacturer Cisco Systems, can do all the same mapping, monitoring, and alarm-tracking of Transcend. It can handle Cisco devices and third-party equipment. As with Transcend, it provides a wide range of data in real time and displays the information in a color-coded format. Information about the product can be found at http://www.cisco. com/warp/public/cc/cisco/mkt/enm/cworks/ind ex.shtml.

Hewlett Packard developed the other leading network software, Open View. It is also user-friendly and includes a great deal of color-coded graphics for a quick look at how the system is operating. The system can track 3Com and Cisco products, and it has the benefit of usually being included at no charge on HP and Dell NT servers. HP provides information about Open View on its web site at http://www.openview.hp.com.

Regardless of the system chosen, the author recommends also purchasing Intermapper, a software program written by Dartmouth College. The author praises the software for three reasons: (1) It is Mac-compatible; (2) It is easy to use; and (3) It is targeted at finding the types of problems encountered on school network systems, as opposed to business networks. A demo of Intermapper is available at http://www.dartmouth. edu/ netsoftware/intermapper/demoForm.html, and the full system costs $395.

Intermapper creates multiple maps of a network and then enables the administrator to split the network into segments. These are particularly useful if a network has a series of individuals who act as sub-administrators and are assigned to monitor sections of the network; Intermapper enhances interaction with those sub-administrators in locating and handling problems.