In my last post, I talked about using PHP and if you didn’t have access to a server that allowed PHP to run, what could you do? For the more technically minded out there, you may be surprised that this is even an issue. The sad truth is that lots of free websites don’t offer PHP and quite a few schools have the servers locked down through official policy and end of argument.
There is hope
A year or two ago, our IT support (not a managed service) started buying QNAP Tera-stations. Ultra-cool name aside, these network storage devices are great for back-ups. We use them to hold our photo archives and video project construction files. Some of you would be amazed* at how frequently I get asked to make a change to a five year-old video. Keeping the source files makes that a lot easier.
Technology changes all the time, so rather than recommend a specific model, I’ll talk about the features available on even the basic, home model. In the software section, this is just some of the features they offer:
- iTunes server
- Music server
- Photo Station
- Video Station
- TV Station
- Auto-back up
- Print server
And most importantly, for this post, it can also act as web server with PHP support and MySQL database support along with phpMyAdmin (which is an easy database management system)
While not wanting to endorse a particular product or even model, a quick Amazon search shows that these products are not bank-breaking (we’re talking a couple of hundred pounds here).
I think these products have been loaded with features to appeal to the geek-at-home. I’ve quite tempted to get one for myself to house all my media.
When discussing them recently with an ICT teacher from another school, he pointed out it would be a huge benefit in his classroom. He’d be able to allow his students to program webpages to interact with databases without risking the security of the school’s servers.
At Cramlington, we’re seriously discussing# the possibility of loading up one of these with our interactive webpages and offering it to other schools. Another school could take the QNAP, plug it into their network, change a couple of settings and be running things like:
- Drag-and-drop seating plans
- Custom timetables
- Class blogs
- Rewards system
- Random name selector
A nice, simple solution with a huge range of possibilities. Damn, I should totally get sponsorship before hawking products for free.
* I suspect those of you in a support role would not be that surprised.
# Don’t get too excited just yet. We’re discussing it properly and going about trials sensibly. Watch this space.