The GFK School of Motoring was established in 1960. Since then, the school has grown steadily and now has a several offices in the London area. However, the Organization is expanding and a new branch is to be built that will link with the existing network and also utilise the latest technologies such as simulators, the internet and the World Wide Web.
Furthermore, improvement is needed in the communications and sharing of information between offices spread around the London.
The Director wants to take advantage of the Internet to change the way the company operates. The new branch will allow prospective clients to browse the website and make an initial registration. Interview and the checking of documents can then be arranged on-line. Once a client has been registered any payments due can also be made on-line via any of the various credit and debit cards.
Flexibility in the provision of services to clients also requires that once registered, a client can take a driving lesson at any of the centres. Hence an integrated and up-to-date database system is to be implemented.
The Director of the organization feels that too many mistakes are being made with the current system and that the success of the organization will be short-lived if he does not do something to overcome the situation.
He knows that a good IT strategy and network design could help in part to solve the problem and has approached our team to help create a new branch and implement an efficient and reliable information system to support the running of the organization as a whole.
1.3 DESCRIPTION OF GFK OPERATIONS.
Each office has a manager (who tends to be a senior instructor),
Several senior instructors, instructors and administrate staffs.
The staff hierarchy is as follows:
– Senior instructors
– Office personnel.
The manager is responsible for the day-to-day running of the office.
Clients must first register on-line or at an office and this requires that they complete an application form, which records their personal details.
Before the first lesson, a client is requested to attend an interview with an instructor to assess the needs of the client and to ensure that the client holds a valid provisional driving license.
A client is free to ask for a particular instructor or to request that an instructor be changed at any stage throughout the process of learning to drive.
After a successful interview, the first lesson is booked.
A client may request individual lessons or book a block of lessons for reduced fee.
An individual lesson is for one or two hours which begins and ends either at the client’s home or at the office.
A lesson is with a particular instructor in a particular car at a given time.
Lessons can start as early as 6a.m. and as late as 8p.m.
After each lesson, the instructor records the progress made by the client and notes the mileage used during the lesson.
The Organization has a pool of cars, which are adopted for the purpose of teaching.
Each instructor is allocated to a particular car.
As well as teaching, the instructors are free to use the cars for personal use.
The cars are inspected at regular intervals for faults.
Once ready, a client will be given a test date by the instructor.
It is the responsibility of the instructor to ensure that the client is best prepared for all parts of the test.
The instructor is not the responsible for testing the client and is not in the car during the test but should be available to drop off and pick up the client before and after the test at the testing centre.
If a client fails to pass, the instructor must record the reasons for the failure.
1.4. AIMS OF THE PROJECT.
1. To design and implement a network solution for the new Barking branch .
2. To redesign or upgrade the company’s existing network system.
3. To connect GFK to the Internet and provide full internet service.
4. To design a desktop and its delivery to all GFK’s client computers.
5. To address security and back-up issues.
6. To design a network monitoring policy to maintain and/or improve performance in the future. This particular aspect of the group work is investigated in detail by Student number: 0212251 in Part B.
1.5 BUSINESS REQUIREMENTS FOR THE PROPOSED NETWORK SYSTEM.
The design of the Local Area Network for the new branch and its communication with the rest of the GFK network will be approached in view of satisfying two fundamental business functions:
– Information sharing: refers to having users access the same data files, exchange information via email, or use the internet.
– Resource sharing: refers to one computer sharing a hardware device (e.g., printer) or software package with other computers on the network to save costs.
The main benefit of information sharing is improved decision making, which is one of the goals of the GFK School of Motoring.
Any application, e.g. a web browser, on the GFK LAN will have the following functions:
1. data storage
2. data access logic
3. application or business logic
4. presentation logic
Based on these functions we will be implementing client/server network architecture at the new branch. We will be using 3-tier client/server architecture to spread the load between the clients (microcomputers) and the servers (more powerful microcomputers).
This is illustrated in the diagram below:
(FitzGerald & Dennis, page 46, top).
In this case, the software on the client computer is responsible for presentation logic, an application server is responsible for the application logic and a separate database server is responsible for the data access logic and data storage [1, page 45].
Since the main advantage of a client/server architecture is also its weak point i.e. enabling software and hardware from different vendors to be used together, we will recommend a middleware software such as CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture). It will perform two vital functions:
1. It enables a standard way of communication by translating between software from different vendors
2. It manages the message transfer from clients to servers (and vice versa) so that clients need not know the specific server that contains the application’s data. The application software on the client sends all messages to the middleware, which forwards them to the correct server. The application software on the client is therefore protected from any changes in the physical network. If the network layout changes (e.g., a new server is added), only the middleware must be updated [1, page 44].
By choosing this architecture for the new branch, we have achieved two things:
1. Better load balancing between the servers on the network
2. Scalability. In the future, if due to business demands the system needs to be extended, this can be easily done by adding one or more servers.
1.6 REQUIREMENTS ACQUISITION.
In order to obtain valuable information about the GFK School of Motoring, the group decided to send out questionnaires to members of the organization who uses the old system regularly and have a good knowledge of it. We decided on questionnaires because we believe that the users, being under no pressure as they answer questions about the existing system, will provide a reliable feedback.
1.6.1 QUESTIONNAIRE 1.
User: Mr A. Patel.
Time at Company: 3 years.
Branch: Stratford Branch.
1. Question: How often do you use the system?
Answer: Daily. As many as 20 times a day, when at work.
2. Question: Are you comfortable using the company network?
Answer: Sort of.
3. Question: What do you normally use the system for?
Answer: Browsing the internet, enquiring about client information, entering client details, sending and receiving emails etc.
4. Question: Which of these tasks do you found most daunting and why?
Answer: No doubt, it is obtaining information about clients. The process is very slow and frustrating especially during peak hours. For some reasons the system is sluggish and it slows down the business.
5. Question: From question 4, do you sometimes have to abort the task?
Answer: No, because a client details got to be entered. It’s frustrating, but you wait until it’s done before moving on. As a result we tend to record client details at the whenever the system tend to be responsive. This might be a couple of days later.
6. Question: Which of these tasks do you find easiest to do and why?
Answer: No doubt, surfing the internet, sending emails, registering clients on-line.
7. Question: Have you had experiences of viruses causing disruption on the system and how?
Answer: Certainly on many occasions. I can remember on one occasion a few of my clients and me couldn’t use our computers because it was totally corrupted and my section had to be closed down while the techie people sorted it out. We lost most of the files on our computers.
8. Question: From question 7, on how many occasions did this happen?
Answer: I’ve experienced it about 6 or 7 times.
9. Question: What advice were you given about using the systems in terms of avoiding virus infection?
Answer: The normal stuff. Don’t open email you don’t the source, log-off the system before you close for the day, etc. But despite taking these measures, we still have the problem.
10. Question: Do you normally back-up your files yourself and how often?
Answer: Yeah, files are supposed to be backed up on cd-roms at the end of every working day but not everybody does it.
11. Question: Do you case of lost customer files and how often?
Answer: Yeah, we do. I know a few of my mate who do. We just try to re-acquire it from the customer without the knowledge of management. Someone has been reprimanded for it in the past. Sometimes, it’s the fault of the system. As I said earlier, it can be frustratingly slow.
12. Question: If you can change the system, what will you change and why?
Answer: Definitely, it will be the enquiry procedure. Anything that makes the process faster will do.