Non-Technical Issues for Technical Coordinators

This document discusses general guidelines for non-technical aspects of internet administration. These are not requirements by MSLN but are rather suggestions and common practices used by many organizations. The choice is ultimately up to your site to decide on your policy for each topic.


  1. Email
  2. Web Usage
  3. FTP and other Software Downloading
  4. Chat and Gaming
  5. Acceptable Use Policies


Postmaster duties

The Postmaster is someone who is responsible for mail maintenance on a network. If you plan on running your own mail server, however, you need to make some decisions as to what you are going to do as postmaster. (This section does not apply to sites using the MSLN mail server.)

As postmaster, your mail server may send you copies of mail that is sent by your users that is not properly addressed. If your users start to send mail without proper mail addresses, you can find yourself inundated with messages from the system marked "Undeliverable Mail". Dealing with each message may quickly become an overwhelming task. You may wish to prepare some standard messages that you send to users who are bouncing mail.

You might set a limit to the number of bounced mail messages a person can create. Determine a course of action to take when that limit is reached. For example, if you receive 10 bounced mail messages created by a single user, you might require that person to attend a workshop on E-mail.


E-mail that goes out over the Internet, whether generated from a mail client or a netnews client, is not private. Mail on your local server may need to be reviewed to solve a problem that arises, to review for policy violations or to determine the source of a huge file taking up your server disk space. In order to avoid claims of privacy violation, consider including a statement in your network policy explaining the absence of privacy and the reasons why privacy can't be guaranteed.

Mail Forgery

Be aware that some mail and news programs do not authenticate that the e-mail address in the "from" field is in fact the person creating the mail. This type of loophole can lead to forgery.

Chain Letters and "Forwards"

Chain letters don't have to be illegal to present a hassle on a network. They cost the network money in that they take up bandwidth with not much in the way of redeeming value. Problems occur when the traffic that is generated by these posts takes up not only bandwidth but also disk storage space for users' mail.

In addition, many spam emails originate from spammers getting a hold of a chain letter or multi-forwarded email. When you forward an email to someone with tens or even hundreds of other email addresses in it, and any one of those emails crosses a mail servers that is infected with a spammer's virus, that huge list of addresses goes into a database of valid addresses that will now receive endless amounts of spam!

There is no real way to prevent users from sending chain letters, but you may wish to establish a policy that states what will happen if someone is caught sending them, and at the very least, warn of their role in bringing more spam into the users' inboxes.

Flames or Attack Mail

Flames are mail or news posts that attack the recipient personally. In a school environment a common flame is "keep away from my boy/girl friend or else". Flaming is a form of harassment and should be handled in much the same way. One way is to stipulate a policy where the first step is to recommend the flame recipient politely ask the sender not to send them any more mail. If this does not work then the person being flamed can notify the postmaster to deal with the problem if the sender's identity is unknown, or if they are known, escalate it to the administration. Encourage anyone receiving attack mail to keep copies of flames to document the problem.

Web Usage

Offensive Material

The freedom of expression that makes the Internet so powerful may result in users finding material that offends them. You have several options and combinations of options as to how to handle this:

  • Provide staff monitoring for all Internet capable machines.
  • Require a signed copy of the organization's Network Acceptable Use Policy.
  • Lock down the settings/rights on your computers to prevent tampering with settings or changing proxy configuration.
  • Adjust the web filter to your organization's level of appropriateness. Refer to the Support page for help with this. Please keep in mind the filter is not meant to prevent willing individuals from getting to websites they want to see. Rather, it is meant to stop them from accidentally seeing things that could offend/harm them. If your policy is to prevent viewing of sites like myspace or pornography, staff monitoring is the only effective way to enforce it.

Staff Monitoring

Placing the Internet capable machines in a lab where there is always a staff person on duty can limit most of the problems. As more and more school machines become available that can run Internet clients, monitoring becomes an issue. Who keeps the students off a computer in a classroom when there is no one there because the teacher is at lunch, in a class in another room, in conference or otherwise busy? These issues should be discussed and planned out.

Copyrights and web pages

Most web browsers have the capacity to save published files to the local machine. Both schools and libraries should post abstracts of the relevant copyright laws at appropriate places in their facilities. Students and other users should be made aware of the implications of capturing data from the network. Conventions have been established for citing electronic sources and librarians/teachers should be able to provide this information to patrons/students.

FTP and other Software Downloading


FTP is one way to download files from the Internet. Most Web browsers have this capacity built into them also. The ability to obtain files over an Internet connection is a very powerful component of the net. You can move data files from one location to another quickly. A teacher can download a student's work from home to review it there. A teacher who is out sick, can upload worksheets, which the office can print out, for the substitute. Upgrades of programs can be obtained quickly and easily. Trial versions of software can be downloaded for evaluation without the expense of mailing disks and documentation. All of these are high points. The low points are outlined in the viruses and software sections.

Bit Torrent

Bit Torrent is a transfer protocol that allows one person to receive small pieces of a file from many sources. Users that are downloading a file may also be uploading the pieces they already have to other downloaders. This allows files to be received very fast and efficiently, however its power means it is often used for sharing illegal software, movies, and music. Bit torrent traffic can use any port specified, so stopping it can be very hard. You may not wish to stop it at all since it has many positive uses, especially when getting software from the open source community. However, if you find users are using bit torrent to share illegal files, your computers should be locked down to prevent installing bit torrent software, in addition to staff monitoring.


Viruses can be a problem any time, but as soon as they become established in networks, they can spread very quickly. Virus's can invade your network through a number of paths. They can be in files users download from other servers on the Internet, they can be stuck to E-mail attachments as executables or as macros, or they can be embedded in websites.

You should be running antivirus software on all computers, and keep it continuously updated. This protects both your assets and the personal information of your staff and students/patrons. An in-depth program of backups for servers and workstations is also highly recommended, as no amount of precaution can fully prevent a virus attack or hardware failure.

Software Types

  • FREEWARE: There are several types of software that are available on the net. One of the very useful types is referred to as freeware. This is software that the author has written and then released for public usage at no charge. These are often small utilities but sometimes are complex pieces of software.
  • SHAREWARE: Shareware is another way that software is distributed. This is software that is freely available to try. The user is asked to register the software after an evaluation period. Depending on the author, the software may come in an enhanced version after registration.
  • OPEN SOURCE: Open Source software is similar to freeware in that it usually does not cost anything to use, but what makes software Open Source is when its source code is "free"(as in freedom). This means anyone can view the source code to see how the program is written, and often Open Source software is maintaned by a colaboration of volunteers.
  • Commercial software: Commercial software is software that is not available for use until it has been paid for. This is software that has been purchased at a local software store, mail-order store, or from the publisher itself online and downloaded. Companies with secure web pages will take your credit card number, verify it electronically, and then allow you to download the commercial version over the web. This software may only be licensed for use on one computer, or for a limited number of coputers. make sure to check with the publisher before installing software on more than one host.

None of the above software distribution methods presents a problem for a site as long as the basic principles are followed. There are however some things that you need to be careful of. The first is that commercial software is sometimes loaded onto an Internet site by mistake or deliberately. Use of this software can violate copyright laws. Software companies have become very aggressive in going after both people who upload commercial software to public sites and sites that make use of commercial software in violation of copyright laws regarding distribution and/or number of copies of an application that are being run at a site. Federal courts have fined companies in the hundreds of thousands of dollars as well as issuing jail sentences for violations. As a technical coordinator you are subject to some personal liability in this regard.

The are several ways you can protect yourself. One thing to do is to use the "It looks too good to be true" rule. If you obtain a piece of software that looks too slick to be anything but commercial then there is a good chance that it is commercial. Check the files that came with it for READ.ME or REGISTER.DOC or similar files. If there is nothing about how to contact the author, than you would be safest not using the program. Going to the publisher's website is often a good way to verify whether the software is free to try. If you run software tracking programs (these are programs that limit the number of users of a given program to those number of licenses that you have), are maintaining a file system that contains copies of your licenses and are only running licensed versions of software, then you have nothing to worry about with regard to copyrights.

Chat and Gaming


Internet Chat is a way for Internet users to communicate in real time over the net. This can be a great tool for learning but can also be a dangerous place for uninformed minors. You may wish to restrict the use of "chat lines" on your system to protect against online predators, except in cases where educational chat resources are requested. Some schools in the state only allow the use of chat after regular school hours unless a student is with a teacher working on a project that requires it. Chat systems include IRC, web chat (chat applications built into websites), and instant messaging clients (like AIM or MSN Messenger).


The use of the net for games is one of the things that drove Internet development in its early years. Multi-player games can, as with chat lines, eat up precious computer resources. The temptation to download games and then "try them out" on the site's computer is also a big temptation to students. Installing game programs on site computers can be a source of viruses. The install programs may also cause problems with the various configuration files on a workstation. Users who load game programs onto a local network server can rapidly eat up the server disk storage space. Some possible solutions include:

  1. "NO GAMES." This is a simple solution but may be more extreme than you want or need.
  2. "No Games during school hours" This helps to keep your resources free during the day but does not deal with file clutter on workstations or servers.
  3. No Internet Games during the day, No game files installed on server disk space, only designated machines may be used for "evaluating" shareware games after school hours.

Each of these options should have a published set of consequences for user violations such as were mentioned earlier in the E-mail section.

Acceptable Use Policies

A recurring theme in the items above is to set rules for network usage and make them clear to everyone before they start to use the network. To do this you should plan on developing an ACCEPTABLE USE POLICY (AUP) for your site, a general AUP that everyone must agree to in writing, and a published list of detailed rules and what the consequences of violating them are. This will both inform the users to prevent violations, and prevent those at fault from claiming ingorance of the policy.

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