Deploying Wi-Fi and other new technology in your school is an exciting prospect for both students and faculty. Having widespread and consistent access for your devices is an invaluable resource, but also expected in today's world. The problem is that messing it all up is easier to do than recovering from those mistakes.
Wireless deployments take time, money and effort to build rapport/trust for your new wireless network. If something goes bad, it will most likely eat up a lot more time, money and trust. The best way to avoid something going wrong with the deployment is to know the potential pitfalls.
Here are four common ways schools and even entire districts make a mess of their Wi-Fi deployments, and how you can avoid making the same mistakes.
#1: No Goals
It’s sort of our un-official motto at SecurEdge that, “The application drives the infrastructure”. In other words, what you’re trying to do will help you design and build the right kind of network to support it.
This all starts with having goals and detailed plans.
Goals are what we reach for. If they're not clearly outlined, you may end up reaching in too many directions and never actually doing what you want. Ask yourself:
- Why are we spending this much money?
- Why is it important?
- What do we want for our school?
- Is this best for our school?
- How do we make it happen?
In answering these questions you can determine your goals and strategies and ultimately what you’ll need from a wireless infrastructure point-of-view to support it all.
#2: Misallocation of Funds
There are a couple ways schools underspend when it comes to designing and deploying new classroom technology. The first thing they underspend on is infrastructure. They get excited about giving students or instructors the good stuff—like iPads, chromebooks and other innovative tools. However, if you don't have the underlying system to support them, then good luck getting them to work properly.
It all starts with proper analysis. How can you expect to have a successful school Wi-Fi network if you don’t plan effectively? You need to know your environment, understand your current network and its limitations.
You need to think about switches and cabling and all of the nuts and bolts if you will that go into a proper network. You're better off if you spend on infrastructure first and let the fun stuff come later because without it, the fun stuff will be useless and frustrating.
The second area many schools underspend on is their IT staff. Most schools only have one or two possibly three dedicated in-house IT professionals on staff. Remember, it takes people to successfully deploy and support your wireless network. If you don't have the staff in-house yet, that will be your first task.
In many cases schools can benefit from utilizing managed services to help support their wireless network. For an in-depth look into managed services take a look at our recent blog, “Managed Services-Does Your School Wireless Network Really Need It”
#3: Communication Breakdown
No we’re not talking about the Led Zeppelin song. In this case we’re actually talking about poor communication, specifically between the school and the parents. A common characteristic of schools with successful wireless networks is that they are very transparent not only with their teachers and students but with the parents as well.
Have an FAQ section available online with important information regarding your technology plans as well as providing detailed contact information. You should strive to have an open door policy and be proactive when possible. Some good examples would be to have workshops and lectures, or even open forums to answer any questions people have.
Let parents be a part of the process by sharing your goals with them. If you are handing out devices to students, this kind of communication is essential for parents. You'll want to address as much as you can before your deployment.
#4: No Experienced Leadership
Many people in various roles may be pushing for a new school wireless network. From students to teachers, to the administration or even parents. However, no matter what, something is very likely going to go wrong.
Having no leader in place means you run the risk of things going even more awry. It takes a solid, experienced leader to push through those obstacles to ensure the deployment is a success. Appoint someone with the experience, resources and ability that can deliver regardless of the scenario.
Suggested Reading - "What I Learned About School Wireless Networks from the IT Director"
The more information you have and more clearly defined strategy you have before your deployment, the better off you will be.
If you have any questions regarding your school's current wireless network or you would like to discuss designing a new Wi-Fi network simply contact us here, we'd love to see how we can help.