Did you know the average number of devices being used on a daily basis by students and staff alike is around 3.5?
The amount of devices is unfortunately just one challenge schools are facing as technology becomes a bigger and bigger part of the learning environment.
It’s not easy to successfully navigate, however, a critical place to start is by ensuring that your school’s wireless network has been properly designed and deployed to solve these challenges, not make them worse.
Here are five WiFi problems that every K-12 school struggles to overcome and what you can do to solve them.
Ever-Increasing Numbers of Devices
As the number of connected devices continues to grow, it gets more difficult for your wireless network (that was typically built 3+ years ago) to support them all.
These older school wireless networks weren’t designed for capacity, and surely were not optimized for mobile devices. These two challenges will impact your network performance in major ways, causing reliability issues, slow connections and ultimately a more than frustrating user experience.
If your school’s WiFi network is over 3+ years old, it’s time to update. Your new WLAN design will have many new features and capabilities that will allow you to properly handle and support your current devices numbers as well scale with you as those numbers increase.
BYOD is one of the biggest trends for K-12 schools, and it has been for quite some time now. However, this doesn’t mean it’s any easier to correctly support. How do you manage and control devices that the school doesn’t own?
Here are four different aspects that you have to consider when it comes to supporting BYOD in schools.
- Bandwidth - delegating appropriate throughput and having the right amount of access points (correctly placed & configured) is essential to reliable wifi performance.
- Security - What and who is accessing your wireless network? Role-based access control can identify who/what is accessing your network, assign roles to those users/devices and then create and enforce policies to help control the types of applications being used on campus and what they’re allowed to access.
- Support - Ensuring you have enough staff or some level of managed services to deal with the expanding amount of devices is critical to delivering proper Wi-Fi performance.
- Management - MDM or Mobile Device Management allows you to control the devices and applications being used both on and off campus. MDM should at least be able to do the following:
- Segmentation of student and employee data
- Mobile security
- Application delivery, management, and control
Managing Network Access
You don’t want just anyone to connect at anytime from anywhere with no rules or restrictions put into to place. You also need to be able to handle on-boarding and authentication of the increasing numbers of devices/end-users on your network.
Your students should have a different level of access than your teachers and staff; even some of your staff shouldn’t have access to certain documents that say a principal or administrator would have.
In other words you need to be able to provide your end-users and devices exactly the resources they need, nothing more and nothing less.
So how do you manage network access?
Network Access Control (NAC) - allows you to identify end-users, and create policies to enforce on your school’s wireless network.
That will keep your network secure by providing visibility, and better management of everyone and everything accessing your wireless network.
This way, students & teachers alike don’t have free reign of the websites and applications they are putting into use while on the campus, or what devices they are allowed to bring with them.
Whether it is school owned devices or BYOD devices network access control can improve security as well as performance by keeping your network clean and organized.
As a K-12 IT manager, you can wear many hats in one day. Meaning, your time is valuable, and sometimes you don’t have enough time (even with a team) to wear the “Wireless Network Hat” you’ve been given. However, small things like forgetting updates can lead to bigger issues, and eventually an outdated design.
Working with a knowledgeable managed service provider can lighten the load and make things more time efficient. While it’s not a replacement for team members or a catch all for sustaining and upgrading your network; managed services depending on how much you would like to delegate to an outside source can free up hands to work on different issues without cutting into your precious time.
Cost of Today’s Wireless Systems
Updating your schools wireless network every 3-4 years is a must not a suggestion. Waiting longer than this can not only create more problems and a slower school wireless network, but it can end up costing you the big bucks.
Don’t try to fix the problem by purchasing more AP’s, bandwidth, even fancy technology unnecessary for your wireless network to perform at optimal levels.
Speak with an experienced network engineer, have them come out to do a wireless network assessment to really dig deep into the health and operational condition of your current wireless network.
Money is a tough topic because it just seems like you never have what you need. However, there are many options available today including E-Rate, and financing your new wireless network.
Wireless really should be thought of as an operational cost, like electricity or water. You can’t function without it today. You wouldn’t send your students to school without lights in their classrooms would you?
It’s hard to secure the funds you need every year or every 3-4 years when it’s time for an update because the costs are so high from a capital expense perspective.
However, paying a lower monthly amount that provides you with the complete wireless network system you need, might just make more sense.
Ultimately the point is that cost doesn’t have to stand in your way, there are options out there for everyone, so don’t think you have to put that project on hold.
There are a lot of WiFi problems that K-12 schools struggle to deal with on a daily, monthly, yearly basis.
Whether it’s your WLAN design, your devices, your applications or your end-users, overcoming those challenges takes proper planning and having the right wireless network that works for you and not against you.
At SecurEdge Networks, we know we can't be all things to all people, but what we do know is how to design and implement, reliable, affordable, safe and easy to support wireless platforms. If you have any questions or would like to discuss and upcoming project, please contact us here.