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How to Successfully Upgrade Your School to 802.11ac: 3 Components to Consider

Outdated wireless networks are comparable to trying to take a photo on your phone when you have no storage left- it’s just not going to work right until you upgrade to a newer phone that has more storage.  Meaning, if you don’t have an up to date wireless network design, all of the devices trying to gain access to your wireless network simply won’t be able to (or if they can, performance will be at a snail’s pace).

The same can be said about your school's wifi performance where 802.11n just won't deliver the results you need. In order to properly support your end-users today and into the future, your school needs to consider upgrading to 802.11ac.

Did you know that school wireless networks should be updated every 3-4 years to sustain healthy performance levels, and solve issues where there might not have been when the design was first implemented.

The word upgrade can make you see dollar signs with scary numbers attached. Which is why SecurEdge suggests (heavily) a predictive site survey.

A predictive site survey should take place prior to the deployment of any new devices. It collects data to help a wireless network engineer know exactly how to optimally plan for both coverage and capacity.

What does a predictive site survey take into account?

  • Your schools building size
  • School structure and materials
  • Number of end-users
  • Number of user devices
  • Types of devices
  • Types of applications

With the results of your predictive site survey a wireless network professional will ideally implement a physical onsite survey to validate the predictive RF design results in a real world environment.

There are 3 components to consider when upgrading your schools wireless network to 802.11ac

  1. Understanding the types of devices and how many are accessing your network.
  1. Understanding the types of applications those devices are using.
  1. Understanding that upgrading your outdated infrastructure standards means updating your WLAN design to account for the new standards 802.11ac offers.

Understanding the Types of Devices & How Many Are Accessing Your Network

You have 3 points to study when considering upgrading your school’s wireless capabilities to the latest AC standards.

Remember that predictive site survey we talked about? This is one of the aspects the survey helps you gain a better understanding of:

  1. Coverage - where your end-users need access to the network.
  1. Capacity - where traffic (usage, utilization) is the heaviest? This takes into account not only total device numbers but also device mix or types.
  1. Performance - creating a reliable wifi experience comes down to how well you plan.

Understanding the Types of Applications Being Used

You’ll also need to consider what you want your faculty to have access to and what you will allow your students to access.

Having  role based access control allows you to create rules around what applications are being used, who is able to use them, and how they will be used.

You need to have enough security to prevent confidential information from getting into the hands of students, but enough leeway for them to retrieve educational information.

This is important for both “in-house” devices and BYOD devices such as cell phones, tablets, and laptops.

You want your students and faculty alike to have a great end-user experience. You can amplify their experience by performing an application performance test. This enables you view your WLAN designs strengths and weaknesses from the perspective of the end-user or device/application.

Ultimately, figuring out each end-user’s role, whether it be the principle, teachers, students, or even parents/guests helps you in your wireless upgrade.

How?

When you assign, identify, and apply roles, a certain amount of access is granted to each group- molding your wireless design to better compensate each roles needs.

It’s about giving everyone and every device or application exactly what they need, nothing less and nothing more.

Updating Your WLAN Design to Account for what 802.11ac has to offer

This part comes full circle with the previous two topics. Michael McNamee (SecurEdge Networks Senior Network Engineer) describes how to implement the new standards of 802.11ac in your Wi-Fi design and what you’ll need to consider when deploying them.

Suggested Reading: How Many Users Can Connect to an 802.11ac Wireless Access Point?

Michael bullets out 4 key points to focus on:

  1. Wi-Fi is a shared medium that gives each device a certain amount of air-time.
  1. The more devices on an access point the less air-time available to each device and end-user, resulting in refresh delays, and slower download times.
  1. It is important to remember different devices have different data rates that each supports, as well as other differing performance capabilities. Which is why the aforementioned application performance test is so important.
  1. The RF frequency your school is using- there are two types 2.4GHZ and 5GHZ. For the most part 5GHZ allows higher bandwidth, allowing more users at once. 2.4GHZ doesn’t allow channel bonding which is needed to provide higher data rates resulting in increased bandwidth.

Next Steps

When making a decision about upgrading your outdated WLAN technology, it is important to consult an industry professional.

It can save you time and money, with the added benefit of a wireless network that will provide your end-users (faculty & students) with an enjoyable and educational network design.

At SecurEdge Networks, we create affordable, robust, secure, and easy to support wireless network platforms--it's all we do. If you have any questions about upgrading to 802.11ac, or would like to discuss an upcoming project, please contact us here today.

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Jordan Abraham

Jordan Abraham

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