5 Critical Building Blocks for a Successful School Wireless Network Design
How can schools today guarantee that their investments in wireless technology will continue to perform over time? Just like when purchasing a computer, you want to know it will last a few years before being worth no more than a doorstop. Investing in the proper technology, with the right wireless network design, will ensure that your school's technology plan will continue to grow with you, and your students needs.
The type of equipment you choose matters, and cheaper does not always equate to long-lasting. We realize budgets and costs are important for schools, but implementing a cheap solution could end up costing you a lot more money in the long run.
Equally, if not more important than the type of equipment you implement, is your school's wireless network design. Having the correct design is a crucial component to consider before you purchase and deploy your new Wi-Fi network.
To make sure you know what you should be including in your new wireless network design, here are 5 critical building blocks that will ensure your success.
Think ability, not quantity
Schools are adapting a 1:1 ratio for students and devices, but this is only a minimum. They want to ensure students have one learning device to use, but many students have their own devices as well (BYOD), including tablets, smartphones, and now wearables.
The average number of devices is typically 2 per student in lower grades and 3-5 devices for high school and college students.
The increasing number of devices is challenging most school wireless networks because they are either outdated, or were designed for coverage and not capacity. Covering a campus with access points and designing for coverage is easy, building your network to support capacity and scale with you takes a little bit more understanding.
Understand the Importance of Role-Based Access Control
All of the various types of users your supporting, be it teachers students or even guests, need active directory accounts. This allows you to control the amount of access each user on your network has based on which role they're assigned to.
Essentially this prevents students from having access to privileged information and guarantees that everyone sees only what they need to see.
Suggested Reading: "3 Easy Ways Bandwidth Shaping Can Maximize Campus Wi-Fi"
Design Your Network for the Lowest Powered Device
Have you ever seen a wifi connection on your tablet but you couldn't connect? Some devices, such as tablets and smartphones have a fraction of the power of a laptop, they may see the signal from your access points, but are unable to communicate with it, resulting in either poor performance or no connectivity at all.
There are a variety of different types of devices in schools today, not just laptops, so in order to deliver maximum performance to every one and every device it's critical you design to the lowest powered devices.
Automate Device Registration
With the growing number of devices per student, pre-shared keys are a thing of the past. Today's school wireless networks are all about automation.
For school owned devices, you should automate push settings and configurations using managed group policies.
For the personal devices of students, teachers, and faculty, create a registration process to gain access into your wireless network so you’re not having to deal with every device yourself.
Almost everyone is savvy enough with technology today that they can do this themselves and save you the hassle.
Support BYOD, but Manage Performance
Students want to connect their personal devices to the school wireless network and believe it or not this is not a bad thing.
When you grant access to connect to the school’s network, you ensure users are routed through your web filter, so you can limit bandwidth and monitor the content that's being accessed.
You can also block certain applications that use a lot of bandwidth that may not be educational, such as Netflix.
You can still give your teachers access to Netflix in case there is a documentary or film that pertains to class, but most likely students do not need the same permissions while in class.
At SecurEdge, we are specialists in designing wireless networks for school environments, having planned, designed, and installed hundreds of successful and secure wireless network solutions for schools throughout the United States and the Caribbean.
If you have any questions regarding your school's wireless network, please contact us here, we'd love to see how we can help.