Today's classrooms literally breathe connectivity, and because of the increasing numbers of mobile devices on campus wireless has become a mission-critical resource for colleges and universities everywhere.
However, this has created a real problem if your network isn't performing. Even the slightest downtime will cause huge disruptions in today's classrooms. So what do you do when your schools wireless network can’t seem to keep up? It may be time for an update.
The problem with most campus wifi networks nowadays is their outdated infrastructure. The majority of on-campus network traffic is wireless, which is something that most aging networks weren’t designed for when they were originally built.
This is a big issue, especially when each student carries between 3-5 devices each, which includes laptops, smart phones, tablets, and even wearables. Not to mention, a gaming console and smart TV back in their dorms.
So how do you meet the expectations of your students and faculty? How do you take your aging school wireless network and update it to support the challenges of today and tomorrow?
In this post, we've put together some tips we've learned from helping other schools update their networks in the past.
4 simple ways you can effectively update your aging school wireless network
Start An Action Plan
Planning for an overhaul of your wireless network can be daunting. You might not even know where to begin.
I suggest you start off with gathering statistics on how your network is currently being used. You can interview and poll your students teachers and other administrators to find out how they are interacting with your network.
Things like frequency, location, device type, applications and activities they are using and how they feel about their experience overall.
Once you know what your users want and what your network is expected to support you can more easily prioritize what changes need to be handled first.
It comes down to having a clearly defined strategy. What do you want wireless help you accomplish? Is it streaming video, online testing, more efficient on-boarding, implementing learning management systems, more advanced network security?
There's almost no end to the possibilities but you need to establish your goals first. At SecurEdge we always say, "The business process, drives the infrastructure". In other words what you're trying to do will dictate the infrastructure needed to support those goals.
Suggested Reading - "Why Going 802.11ac Doesn't Spell Disaster for Your Old Wired Network"
You can save a lot of money by thinking outside the box. Let's face it budgets are always a factor and a wireless network refresh is never cheap.
Take the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga as an example. When their network started to fail, they had to make upgrades fast which usually means you don't have time to be as strategic as you would like, or so they thought.
UTC was able to work with the local National Guard, who was on the campus for training exercises, to re-cable the school. UTC saved about $100,000 and managed to upgrade the fiber that was running to some of the school's older buildings.
In addition, instead of purchasing commodity Internet through vendors like Verizon, AT&T or Quest like everybody else, UTC worked with the local electrical power board for the infrastructure increase.
It's not just about partnerships either, you can maximize what you have by simply creating and enforcing new policies, for example bandwidth shaping or bandwidth management can help you increase your wifi performance without having to purchase more a bigger pipe, saving tons of money and time.
It's not always about buying new, a lot of times its about getting the most out of what you already have.
Anticipating demand is something we all try to do but I admit it’s not that easy, especially when the demand increases at a greater-than-expected rate.
It's critical to follow trends and keep up to date with what's happening in the industry and especially within your own campus.
You need to have real-time visibility into your network so you can make smarter decisions about how to better support your users. Having a campus wifi management solution is a great way to gain the real-time visibility you need to make future updates easier and more strategic.
Collaborate with other schools
Another school may have gone through a situation you have yet to experience, which makes it a good idea to pick each other’s brains.
Meet with other CIO's or IT teams to share and learn about what they're doing and what challenges they're facing.
It's important to seek out new ideas and best practices that you can use to improve the student learning experience on your campus.
It's not easy in your day to day to stay up on all of the latest trends and updates. That's why it's great to have a partner who can help talk you through new ideas and any problems you're having.
Suggested Reading: "Wi-Fi is King: The Demand for Wireless Access in College [Infographic]"
Students and technology nowadays are practically attached at the hip. Providing the best learning environment means equipping their space with the technological tools they need to succeed.
Maintaining your wireless infrastructure is critical; you need a modern wireless network or system to support today's demands and expectations.
At SecurEdge we've been helping schools of all sizes and types to design, deploy and support robust, secure campus wifi networks. If you have any questions about updating your wireless network to meet the growing demand, simply contact us here, we’d be glad to help.