Project #1: Bill of Details and Network Diagrams for an office LAN
Projects that don't meet these minimum specs will not be accepted
and will be docked daily for late submit until they do.
Please get any questions answered in class well before the due date.
- Projects that do not have separate purchase orders prepared for each of the suppliers of hardware,
software, and services will be rejected at first submission.
Make sure to show the amount due for each supplier on their purchase order
and also on the summaries of up-front purchase.
It is not sufficient to provide one spreadsheet with a column for supplier.
Excel has templates for purchase orders.
- Summarize up-front and recurring costs separately. Projects that do not
provide these summaries in the customary format will be rejected at first submission.
The Boss wants to be able to compare your up-front and on-going costs with others without getting out a calculator!
- Make sure the printed diagrams fill the pages and are easily usable
as printed. Make 'skeletons' of your floorplan and rack diagram
and try printing them _before_ putting much effort into the details and try printing them.
Projects that can't be read as printed without a magnifier will be rejected at
- On the rack diagram, use callouts or other neat technique to label each ethernet port with it's
IP assignment. Do not label the jumpers. Make the connectors for jumpers and drops bold and curved,
not thin with right-angled bends. Avoid crossed connectors, kinks, and extra bends.
Two copies of your project are due: 1) A neatly printed copy _not_ in a binder or folder
or any kind, stapled at the upper left corner (instructor will have a heavy duty stapler if needed);
2) An 'electronic' copy as a single pdf that contains
all requested parts: Floor plan with furnishings, premises wiring, and wall jacks; Rack diagram clearly indicating the DMZ and IP addresses; Purchase Orders; and an accurate Summary of Upfront and Ongoing Costs. Bring the printed copy to class on the due date
and attach the electronic copy to an email to the instructor before class on the due date.
If you want critique and feedback, bring your project to class or submit a pdf via email.
A max 15 points may be earned if a project is resubmitted so try for all
points on the first submit.
Add This Project to Your Portfolio
The project makes an excellent entry in a graduate's portfolio at LinkedIn and to show to a
technical interviewer. Be prepared to answer questions
about it, maybe discuss other options, or to sit and demonstrate the skills.
I like hearing through the year that
showing a good LAN or HOL - Hands on Linux project helped get a student into a career.
This is 100% an Individual Project. It is not a group or team
Learning to use Visio or other CAD tool, an ability to read and
follow instructions, and getting questions answered are part of this exercise.
Technical skills are not developed by watching others do them and this is an
opportunity to practice and develop technical skills and learn about costs and capabilities of LAN components.
Every key stroke and mouse click should be from
the student submitting the project. Do not submit any portion of any files from another student,
in any degree of completion, as your own, with or without changes.
Never give another student your files in any degree of completion!
A lamer/cheat who can't do this work is likely to submit your work as his or
her own and you'll be dragged into an honor proceeding for 'facilitating
If another students wants to
see your project, show it only if you'd like, and help by answering questions.
Helping others learn the tools or about the products involved in the project is a very Ram thing to do,
will make more winners on our team, and is one of the best ways of learning more!
Students are welcome to discuss the project and work with others,
but each of them should be working at their own PC or notebook and never share the files involved,
in any degree of completion, or touch another student's keys or mouse.
Here's the Memo From The Boss. Read it with a highlighter
and come up with an accurate Bill of Details for the purchase and for recurring costs.
Specs for the project are delivered here, in the 'memo from the boss' link above, and
some verbally in class. There are a couple of weeks to get questions answered in class, so
please start early. Do not make up specifications or substitute another rack
diagram or floorplan. I suggest that you design and detail other LAN projects of your own _after_ this project has been completed so that you have more than one to show in your portfolio.
For many students, this is the first time considering what to buy or how
hardware and software are priced and maintained. Looking for and reading the specifications for
computers and other equipment is an excellent way to learn.
It is better to buy most equipment from one or a couple of well-respected suppliers than it is to google separately for each component and make a slew of purchase orders to unknown entities each with one or two components.
Gain product knowledge from the excellent descriptions and specifications at websites like dell.com, hp.com, cdi.com, cdw.com, blackbox.com, tigerdirect.com, or other on-line sources.
Ask the instructor questions about what you find and the suitability for the LAN at hand,
and the result will be a pro-quality piece for your portfolio.
(We used to bring a stack of dozens of 'trade rags' to class for students to learn about products
-- now the web is a much more accessible source.)
The network rack is put together similar to the DMZ sketched on the board in class,
and another sketch is included in the Memo From The Boss just below.
The rack-mounted servers should be identical,
each with a TByte of RAIDed directly attached storage and
rigged with at least three ethernet ports, so that any of them
can take over the role of any of the others when a server fails.
If you find a good deal on a server that doesn't have three or more ethernet ports
make sure it has an expansion slot for a pci or pci-express dual or quad port ethernet adapter.
The sketch shows
the servers as Application, Database, DMZ/Proxy, and Backup Servers.
The three 'working' servers are synch'd to the backup server on the rack,
and also to a backup server at the software house's secure hotsite via secure internet.
In the event of the failure of one of the servers, or a local or regional
disaster, there is a well-rehearsed procedure
to change a couple of IP addresses and start appropriate services
on one of hot backup servers so business can continue.
Microsoft Visio is recommended for the floorplan and rack diagrams.
It's a component of MS Office Pro, and is a de facto standard tool for all kinds of diagrams in business, IS, and IT. It's available free thru the MSDNAA for students in INFO300.
Please do not get the limited-use, free download from Microsoft's public site, do get the real Pro version from MSDNAA. Visio will also be used again in
INFO361-Analysis & Design, INFO364-Database, and INFO465-Projects and in the
advanced courses in all our tracks.
Don't wimp out and use the Excel, Word, or PowerPoint drawing tools because they're all you know!
The job will be much more difficult since you'll have to invent your own shapes and
the diagrams won't be very Pro in appearance.
Excel, or other spreadsheet, makes it easy to do the Purchase Orders, there are templates built-in for them.
A spreadsheet is also useful for the summaries of
up-front costs and operating expenses.
Most students put the final document
together in Word and copy/paste the Visio diagrams and Excel bill of
details into it, then export it to a pdf to make it easy for the boss,
or a technical interviewer or manager, to use the document without
owning Excel, Word, or Visio.
Here are some Examples
of winning projects.
Please note: These examples may not show the separate purchase orders required for this semester's project!
A screenshot of a 'shopping cart' from an on-line merchant is most welcome and if legible will substitute for that supplier's purchase order. Hand-drawn diagrams, or hand-drawn marks on the printed copy, are not acceptable. Projects will be rejected if the printed copies are absent or are not politely formatted, for example with font too large or a column too narrow to fit a column of extended costs without wrapping on a line, or without the customary columns.
Tips for Pro Work:
- Very important: Keep the printed copy that you will submit in class in mind
as you begin work! Don't wait until the
very last minute to make your first printed copy! Print at least one copy before you
put a lot of work into your diagrams to make sure they fill the printed page
and that all IP assignments and features such as telecom outlets are clearly legible!
Projects will be rejected if elements do not
fit on the printed page, if diagrams are too small to read
without a magnifier, or lines of summary documents that span across pages.
If your printer fails at the final copy, please deliver an earlier printing
to avoid loss of points until a well-formatted document is delivered.
- Be careful when choosing the 'starting project' from the options Visio presents.
If you choose something like 'floor plan' the scale will be set wrong for a 'rack diagram'.
If you choose 'rack diagram' the scale will be wrong for a floor plan.
Make sure _as you __start__ your drawing_ that the scale is appropriate and that your drawing will
be usable on the printed page or pdf.
- Use 'rulers' to help align your walls and objects. Drag them into the diagram from
the rulers at the edges. Shapes will snap to rulers unless 'snap to' has been turned off.
- Shapes important for the assignment as demo'd in class are:
Maps & Fooorplans -> Building & Walls, and Electrical and Telecom;
Network -> Rack Mounted Equipment. Callouts for labelling ip addresses annd other details,
are in the default set of shapes on earlier versions of Visio, have been moved to 'Extras' for the latest version.
- Getting shapes for equipment from VisioCafe.com is a really good idea!
- Use Layers to your advantage: Start from the background and work up, locking each
layer as it's completed. Almost 100% of problems with placing connection points and connectors
are because too many layers are left unlocked without snap-to disabled.
Complex diagrams without layers are unmanageable. Visio automagically creates
a layer for each of the shape templates...
- Make sure your floor plan is a faithful representation of the
floor plan sketched by The Boss, all proportions very closely resembling the sketch.
Don't submit a diagram where the walls appear to be several feet thick, join at odd angles,
make 'blind hallways', or otherwise don't match the Boss' sketch.
'Tracing' is the pro's technique to achieve this:
Use Visio's Insert dialog to put the boss' sketch on a
background layer of a page, then scale it to fill the page, rotate it
so that it is perfectly aligned with a 'ruler', and lock its layer. When it's time to print the final
copy the background can be set to invisible -- or, some students get good results by keeping
the boss' sloppy diagram and screening it or rendering it partially opaque.
With the background visible and locked,
trace the outside walls using Visio's Walls, Shell & Structure shapes:
Drag a Room shape onto the drawing and size it to the rectangular 'envelope'
of the premises. Add walls, doors, and windows to to make a polished floorplan.
Use the Curved Wall shape to trace curved wall segments. Where there is a diagonal wall,
place the horizontal and vertical walls, then drag a wall onto the drawing and
snap its ends onto the horizontal and vertical.
When the walls, doors, and windows have been traced faithfully, lock their layers and
move on to place the desks, telecom connectors,
premises wiring. Lock the layers with these shapes and place the networked equipment on the drawing.
- Jumpers and drops: These may be drawn with the connection tool or by finding the appropriate
wiring shape. For objects that don't have built-in connection points,
place connection points accurately.
Don't just draw lines with the drawing tool.
Use bold, gently curved connectors for jumpers and drops -- straight lines with sharp
corners blend in with walls and rack components and detract from a professional look.
Use a consistent call-out shape with finer, straight line to clearly identify IP assignments.
Label the ports, not the jumpers. Place the call-out's connection point on the port being identified.
Don't label the jumper wires with IP assignments, label the ethernet ports themselves to
- Avoid crossed lines! Take care to avoid crossed lines in your diagrams. Visio will accommodate crossed connectors
with little 'bridges',
but clusters of them are obnoxious and indicate sloth of the diagrammer.
Portfolio that abuses crossed lines will likely be pitched out of consideration.
- Zoom way in, 200-800%, to place details like connection points accurately.
400% is the highest zoom available in the pull-down,
but typing directly into the 'zoom box' will allow higher.
- These diagrams cannot be _too_ detailed -- Tech interviewers
_love_ to see, neat, highly detailed, & accurate work. They know it indicates
intelligence, technical curiosity, and enjoyment of technical work. They want to hire
those rare applicants who take pleasure in a job well-done and are motivated by
self-actualization. To _really_ impress the hiring manager
take care to show clearly all the little details and their connections, like the UPSs,
USB or SCSI connectors for the tape drives, every drop, and and every jumper in the LAN for
phones, PCs, and printers. If you can't do this clearly and neatly then don't
attempt it, you'll be better off with a less-detailed, high-level diagram that's useful for the installers.
- Do the work yourself and develop the skills. Modelling skills are in high demand for network,
database, use cases, state charts, or class diagrams!
A tech interviewer is cheat-savvy and
is likely to ask you to demo the tools for what's in your portfolio or resume and
scoot you out the door if you can't do it. Lots of students over
the past decades have related to me that
the LAN Project in their portfolio got them past an early interview, and
that their skills with technical drawing got them their job, sometimes immediately.
If you're aiming for fine detail on the desks: Make the arrangement for one desk to
include phone, pc, jumpers, and printer. When you get it right, select the objects and
join them together. Then copy/paste the group to each desk.
- For Engineering Quality drawings: Learn to 'scale the drawing' so that graphics are the appropriate
size and the dimensions printed are accurate. The drawing from The Boss, scanned from an 8 1/2 X 11 sheet of paper, pretty much fills the page and doesn't usually require changing from Visio's default scaling factor to make a good-looking diagram.
Marks on the drawing show the scale. If you want to make measurements exact use
Visio's Design -> Page Setup flyout -> Drawing Scale tool to set the scale exactly.
It's about .1 inch, 10 pixels, to a foot. Use Custom Scale to adapt to a hand-drawn diagram.
- Neatness _does_ count. Sloppy bills of details or diagrams are not acceptable, will
be docked severely or rejected for scoring. Rejected projects will lose a point for late submit
and a point per midnight passed before an acceptable document is delivered. Every semester there are a few
sloppy, unprofessional documents presented and the instructor wishes there were none.
- The intent of the floor plan is that it can be printed and handed to the installers
of office furniture and premises wiring for an error-free job.
Suzy Smiley will take the
office floorplan and do the BOD for the contract furniture specialist on a separate agreement,
so please don't bother finding the prices for furniture.
Place Wall Jacks where they're needed so that
jumpers are not shown running across the floor or around corners to get to the desks. Be exceedingly
clear about where each jack will be placed in the floorplan. Make sure to add drops for the
network attached printers, the mailing machine, and the guest offices. Use the 'telecom outlet' symbol
from Building Plans, Electrical and Telecom, one for each drop, do NOT use other shapes for the jacks!
If you really want to impress the
user of your document, show the equipment on the desk or table and the jumper wire
that connects it to the jack in the wall, and show the #s on the patch panel and the
IP assignments for the phone and PC on the desk.
- The intent of the Purchase Orders is that they can be sent directly to each of the suppliers
without any other manipulation by The Boss. It is not acceptable
to print a single spreadsheet
that includes details from more than one supplier. It is OK to use screen-shots showing the
'shopping cart' for on-line suppliers, with their totals shown on the separate summary of
purchases -- these can be part of a very pro-appearing presentation. Fewer suppliers is better
than more suppliers, use well-known suppliers and name-brand components.
- Detail lines on purchase orders and
summaries are required to be shown with at least the customary column headings:
Description, Part#, Qty, Unit Cost, Extended Cost.
A more pro-quality BOD will include a column before the description that ties it to the requirements
in the Memo or other documents about the project.
- The intent of the Summaries is that they show separate, accurate summaries of up-front purchases
and recurring costs for installing and operating the LAN.
It is not acceptable to mix 'on-going' and 'up-front' costs in the same column or in the same
section of the summary document.
It _is_ desirable to add an annualized cost of maintenance as a separate column on the summary line for each component.
If you buy PCs with a long-term, on-site repair agreement (as from Dell, can't be beat) show this
on the BOD and include a statement about it in the recurring costs section.
If a component doesn't have a stated maintenance cost a good estimate is 12% of the cost at purchase, annually.
Microsoft doesn't charge a 'maintenance fee' for their software, so it's a good idea to budget
for replacement in three to five years.
- Think about the printed output required! The printed copy of your project
is of the essence! If you don't have a color printer don't depend on color to get your details across.
Make sure everything fits on the printed pages for the Bill of Details, floorplan, and rack diagram!
Make sure the columns of your purchase orders and summary are wide enough to print the dollar
amounts without wrapping them. Make sure everything is legible without a magnifier.
- Take time to learn the software before you start the drawing you'll submit.
Visio is a complex program but most of the controls to achieve a pro result are
in the speed bar, or ribbon, at the top of the page.
There are lots of excellent tutes for Visio, and a trip to a bookstore might
be a good idea if you need step-by-step instructions. Most students are
able to pick up the tool and learn it using Visio's extensive and excellent
on-line tutorials and dynamic help.
- Investigate the Templates of shapes and decide which you'll use, then use
them consistently: Maps & Floorplans -> Building & Walls, and Electrical and Telecom;
Network -> Rack Mounted Equipment. The callouts are in the default set of shapes
on earlier versions of Visio, but have been moved to 'Extras' for the latest version.
For the best-looking results, check out VisioCafe.com, or the manufacturer's websites,
for Visio templates that exactly match the equipment on your purchase orders.
The best-looking of these diagrams show front and rear views of the rack side-by-side with bold
connectors for jumpers and very clear call-outs to show the IP assignments.
Servers generally have their ethernet connections at the rear,
switches at the front.
You can get also get all your points using the default Visio shapes with all connection points on the front,
as in the boss' sketch. It doesn't exactly match reality, but it can make a pro-looking result.
The printed copy is of the essence for this project. Electronic copies are not used for
scoring the project. On the due date, bring a printed copy at the _beginning_ of class where I'll have a
heavy-duty stapler. Please don't submit your project in a binder of any kind.
Printed copies that are not delivered at the very beginning of class will be docked a point for late arrival
and another point for each midnite passed until the printed copy is delivered.
Send an electronic copy of the printed document prior to class as one pdf document,
preferably not zipped, attached to VCU-originated email to gasaunde-AT-vcu.edu.