In this section I will go into further depth explaining the Final Project within my IST curriculum, the work that went into completing the project and the unique challenges of being a project leader.
On January 10, 2011; Lecter and Lecter (L&L) Law Offices contacted our company, J Triple T (J3T), to discuss an upgrade to the L&L computer network. L&L wanted to move their main office to a much bigger space and also create two satellite offices in other cities. All of their computers would have to be able to communicate without being vulnerable to losing private information. The final report needed to contain the following; installation guides, maintenance, recommended policies, cost analysis, and user guides for the Lecter and Lecter Law Offices’ new computer network.
J Triple T, was a study group comprised of five individuals who all worked on various aspects of this project. I was project leader and in charge of making sure everyone staid on task, all requirements were met, and that our customer was satisfied with our work.
Lecter and Lecter had asked us to set up and configure the following components: A rack mount server, a Red Hat (Linux) server, various workstation images, users, policies, specialized servers, network equipment, network security and a central administration station.
For the rack mount server we installed two Dell PowerEdge R710 servers. Inside each server are 6 hard drives. We configured one server to use Windows Server 2008 R2 and the other server to use Fedora. Before we installed any software on the servers we configured the hard drives on the servers to provide a specific function. We chose two hard drives to work as the operating system, we then configured the next two hard drives as extra storage, and finally the last two hard drives as backups, so that if one of the main hard drives fails, it can switch to the backup and one would be saved from data loss.
For the Linux server, we chose to run it with Fedora. Fedora is widely used throughout the Linux community and has a strong community of developers and supporters. As per the instructions, I configured it to run as an ftp server, a file server, and a web server.
For the workstation images, we configured different computers to run the following software: Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Ubuntu 10.04, and Mac OS X.5. On this part, I installed and configured Windows 2000 and Mac 0s x.5. The other systems were taken care of by other members in the group. I have personal experience running Ubuntu at home.
For the Users, we created two main groups of users, one is administrators and the other is regular user. The administrators were given special rights to install software, edit important settings and configurations, and the regular users may access only certain areas and limited control over their computer.
The way we set up policies was to enforce the security concerns of the company while making it usable for the employees.
We set up the two servers to do specific things as per the requests. On the Windows 2008 R2 server we configured it with virtualization software, as a domain controller, as a DNS server, DHCP server, Print server, File server, and a VPN server. On the Fedora Linux server we set it up as a File server, FTP server, and a Web server.
The network equipment that we used in the setup of the network was a Cisco 2821 router, a Catalyst 3750G switch, and on the Windows Server we configured a virtual LAN so that each office in different parts of the country could communicate together.
For Network security concerns we put in place policies that enforced strong passwords, firewalls on workstations and the network, anti-virus protection, made sure that only specific employees had access to the shares they need, and set up network probes to monitor network traffic. We also put in place a disaster recovery plan by making backups of all the data and sending it to a safe location.
We also set up a central administration station that monitored all servers and all workstations. It was able to control everything from shared folders to VPN access. In addition it was in charge of generating support tickets for problems that may occur with workstations.
The final result of this project was 95% of what we set out to do in our proposal. Our final report comes out to about 170 pages, which includes installation and user guides, disaster recovery preparedness, security plans and policies, network diagrams, time and cost benefits for the entire project, and detailed explanations on every aspect of the project.
The biggest difficulties we had were time management and communication errors. As a project Leader and as a student it was hard to make sure everyone contributed equally and understood their rules within our group. During the last 3 weeks,we realized that no one had configured the Fedora server at all. It was game time, I stepped up and practically read the fedora guide cover to cover many time over while setting up the server. Previously, I had only ever installed Linux with the aims of being a windows desktop replacement. This was my first time configuring Apache, Samba, and really learning how to use the terminal and how powerful it is, and how easy it was to make a mistake that would ensure another 3 hours of editing config files to get everything working. Now, if I had started this at the beginning of the project I’m sure I would have been able to go about it much smoother but we were under the gun to complete everything, so the faster I had to get things done, it felt like the less time I could focus on understanding what I was doing. Eventually, after about a week and half of frustration I had it working as intended and was glad that I had gotten the chance to really dig into something new. The rest of the project came together much smoother.
I’m not entirely sure why, but it seems like in a lot of my projects I end up in the leader role. I am not an A type personality at all, and yet either because others outright refuse or I’m just not afraid of the responsibility, I end up as the leader. In scouts, when I was 17, I lead 7 other scouts and 4 adults through a 14 day backpacking trip in Philmont, New Mexico. I was in charge of making sure we kept to the right trails, picked up food on the right days, had water, everyone was safe and healthy, and unfortunately every time there was problem I would get the blunt force of everyone’s anger and frustration. In this project I lead four other people, all of them were older than me and two of them could have been my parents. At all times, I felt like I had the least experience and yet I was always the one that people counted on to come through when we would encounter a problem. Being a leader is not an easy task, but on both the backpacking trip and this final project I felt that I received much more out of the experience by being fully involved with the project.