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4.6. Informing the Users

All of the configuration information that you gather or develop through the planning process must be given to the end users to configure their systems. You can use several techniques to help your users configure their systems.

First, you want to relieve end users of as much of the burden of configuration as possible. In Chapter 3, "Network Services" we discussed NIS, NFS, and configuration servers. All of these play a role in simplifying the configuration process, with DHCP having the most important role. DHCP configuration servers provide every parameter needed to configure a TCP/IP client. Everything covered in this chapter -- IP address, subnet mask, hostname, domain name, default gateways, and server addresses -- can all be provided by DHCP without involving the end user in the process.

One important thing that DHCP does is point clients to the other network servers. The servers require that the client is configured to be a client. For NIS and NFS, the client must have a full basic configuration. Once the client is running, NIS and NFS can provide additional levels of configuration support. NIS provides several system administration databases that include many of the basic configuration values. With NIS, you maintain these databases centrally so that users do not have to maintain them on their Unix desktop systems. NFS can distribute preconfigured system files and documentation files to client systems.

However, even DHCP combined with other servers is not the complete solution. Even DHCP requires that the users know that DHCP is being used so that they do not enter any incorrect values during the initial system installation. Therefore, the network administrator must directly communicate configuration instructions to the administrator of the end system, usually through written documentation or the Web.

To communicate this information, the network administrator will often create a short list of information for the user. When DHCP is used, the information given to the user is often the same for all Unix clients and for all Windows clients. For example, Unix clients might be told to use DHCP to configure the interface, to run NIS, and to run NFS. They might be further directed to mount specific NFS filesystems. Windows clients might be told to run DHCP to configure the interface and to use specific workgroup and NetBIOS names.

Building a TCP/IP network requires careful planning on your part. Once you have made your plans, you must document them and communicate your decisions to the people who will be using your network.

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