Just enough

A prominent feature of the network provision at my new school is that it is ‘just enough’.

Although the main backbone of the network is well-provisioned, with significant spare capacity,  actually using that capacity can prove tricky. You see, everywhere there are UTP points, there are ‘just enough’. As in, there are enough to supply the existing computer equipment, and no more.

Most classrooms have exactly one UTP socket. In both offices and computer labs, the number of network points rarely exceeds the current number of computers, and where it does, never by more than one. Any other type of room has no networking at all. This is made all the more infuriating by the fact that in almost every case, single UTP sockets have been used.

Double sockets take up the same amount of space, and require only fractionally more effort and cost to install. Frankly, I want to shoot the various infrastructure suppliers who have agreed over the years that single sockets were a good idea. It’s either retarded not to consider future growth, or criminal to deliberately under-specify on the basis that the customer will have to come back and pay again later. In my last school we installed our own networking, and worked by the rule that we ALWAYS installed twice as much as we currently need. Hell, we’d usually install twice as much as we could IMAGINE needing. The new sick room that was built two years ago has at least 8 network sockets, if I remember correctly.

Adjusting to this new lacklustre provision has been… well, crucifying. New networkable colour copier shows up? No spare network point in the office. Additional computers in a department? No network points. Plans for wireless access points in some rooms? Great… but what will we plug them in to…?

In short, almost any new equipment provision involves running new network cabling, which inflates the cost far beyond the point that it should. If not for the fact I can do it myself, the cost of just three new departmental computers would have been double the amount originally budgeted. This evening I finished a 3-hour install job to run new network cabling just so that I can install a goddamned network printer next week. All I needed was one extra socket. Guess what?

I INSTALLED TWO. See how hard that is?

About The Angry Technician

The Angry Technician is an experienced IT professional in the UK education sector. Normally found in various states of annoyance on his blog. All views are those of his imaginary pet dog, Howard.

8 responses to “Just enough”

  1. Steven says :

    Tell me about it. I work in a school which has just been rebuilt – they have (against our initialy requests) put in a reduced number of network points & also a lot of those damned single ports. Some infuriatingly are even double sockets but with only one port opened.

    Those rooms that do have extra ports are in stupid places like right in the middle of the teaching wall / Interactive whiteboard, or above sinks etc. Thing is .. we cant change them ourselves, as it’s a Private partnership building & doesn’t as such belong to us.

  2. Giles says :



    Crap, innit?

  3. Ellira says :

    I had a serious word with a company installing new suites in schools a few months ago. They were installing the same number of network *and power* sockets as computers. No one had bothered to tell them how stupid that was until I spoke up. Unfortunately, they’d already done ours, so while future schools may benefit from my astonishing common sense, I still have to unplug a computer if I want to power anything, or take one off the internet if I want to take a laptop to work on.

    The best thing about this is the look of confusion on teacher’s faces when they go around turning all the computers on. They don’t equate the power cable leading to laptop on my knee with ‘computer unplugged under there’.

  4. tmcd35 says :


    I’ve invested in a number of these to get me out of such tight spots. Not a pretty solution but they work.

  5. HPlum says :

    I installed network infrastructure for a living, my advice was always install double network points but not solely for the reason of capacity it also gives some redundancy as well. All installers should by default be advising this and everyone involved in capacity planning should think hard about opting for a single plate installs. I used to charge an extra £12 for putting in a double network point! Also putting in single points in a new build is criminal as the cost to expand and extend networks after the build is far more costly than while they are being built.

    The Belkin splitters do work but not for any type of PoE install.

  6. Todd says :

    Looks pretty average to me…..slackers…….Do something different people. Be exceptional!

  7. ScottishTech says :

    Our authority has a sparkling new school opening (to staff) in a few weeks.

    The network cabling was done by the same company who did a few of our other new builds/extension wings.

    Their track record, so far as I’m concerned, is not brilliant. Least of all for their insistence at using a particular angled wallpoint which has almost no forgiveness at cables being pulled. One tug and the door spring goes ping and wraps itself around the terminals inside. You then need to fish it out with a pair of tweezers/pliers (on the QT otherwise it needs to get done by professionals with tweezers at a stupidly high cost).

    I’ve complained bitterly about these ports over the years. My colleagues in the other schools have complained bitterly. So hopes were high that the same mistakes would not be made.

    Nope. Same crappy ports. Nice to be listened to.

    Plus – I suspect the cabling has been done over several stages by several different people quite possibly under the influence of several different substances.

    For example.. ICT Room x goes like this:

    PC 01 = D/02/06
    PC 02 = D/03/13
    PC 03 = D/01/48

    PC 19 = D/07/21 (not a typo – oh God, how I wish it were)
    PC 20 = D/02/11

    That’s in a bog-standard ICT bench going round the wall. With a mix of dual and single ports.

    And nearly every single one of the 15 ICT suites are like this.

    Again – this is a brand new school scheduled to open this Summer.

    My plans for a neat and tidy network cabinet are looking less and less likely with every room I visit.

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