How Schools Can Support Increasing Numbers of Connected Devices: 4 Actionable WLAN Design Tips
The evolution of technology has been rapid and consequently has required more updates than ever before. We are constantly updating our phones, applications, tablets, laptops, etc. The capabilities and structure of our school wireless networks are no different.
Many K-12 institutions are facing the issue of needing to revamp their wireless networks, in order to support the ever-growing amount of mobile and connected devices within their school’s infrastructure.
In order to have a reliable, and secure WLAN design it's necessary to focus on four main points.
- The environment your WLAN will service
- What type of devices are being used to access your WLAN
- The type of applications being used
- Who the end-users are
Assess Your Environment
It’s hard to believe but there are quite a few K-12 establishments that have gone as long as 7 years before updating their wireless network.
Truth be told, waiting this long to improve connectivity can cause you to need more of a network ‘face-lift’ than an update.
The time frame for making these revisions has left us with a 3-4 year window where everything runs smoothly.
Many schools choose to throw up more access points (APs) to solve their wireless network problems, which will more than likely cause more wifi problems than it solves.
Not to mention it will also take away precious funding from already limited school budgets.
Discussing what your options are with an educated wireless service provider is essential to your success. They can help you navigate the complex Wi-Fi engineering process, starting with completing a predictive RF site survey.
Predictive site surveys are helpful for a plethora of reasons. It takes into account all aspects from building size, structure and materials, to the number of users and devices.
Faculty and students alike are no longer resigned to a computer lab to gain access to the Internet. Schools require the capability of connecting through laptops, mobile devices, tablets, white boards, printers, (the list goes on) to benefit their learning experience.
Using a predictive site survey allows you to focus in on all these factors and formulates a RF design using the correct amount and location of APs to bolster bandwidth and connectivity required by your specific environment.
With the results of your predictive site survey, an engineer will ideally need to run a physical wireless site survey (on-location).
This allows an experienced engineer to validate the predictive RF design as well as to make any necessary adjustments in a real-world environment.
The Number of Devices Accessing the Network
Figuring out the number of devices that will connect to your schools WLAN brings 3 topics into consideration consideration.
First being coverage, where, when and how will your end-users be connecting to your network. This is where the aforementioned predictive site survey comes into play. It allows you to figure out where it is necessary to have access, and ultimately where you WANT your users to have access.
Capacity. You will be able to place access points where the traffic is the heaviest, what type of devices are being used (mobile or stationary), and how many you’ll need to correspond with the user to make sure the throughput is available without running into wifi performance issues.
Everyone wants a wireless network design that is effective, and performs at the desired speed. Using a wireless site survey as a safeguard for performance, gives you a visual through wifi heat maps.
Allowing you to gauge saturation and employ the correct amount of access points. While providing security, and permitting availability of usage by differing devices.
The Kind of Applications Being Used
There is an application for almost everything today. However, at school you don’t want just any and every application to be accessible. This is where role based access control comes into play.
RBAC gives us the ability to see where, who and how people are accessing the network. Allowing you to implement security policies based off of who (students & faculty), how and what they are able to access.
This way, students don’t have free reign of the websites and applications they are putting into use while on the campus. Whether it’s classroom-based devices or their mobile phones, restricting use is something to factor in for security measures as well as performance.
Suggested Reading: How to Optimize Your Wireless Network Design for Mobile Devices
Using application performance testing, you can evaluate how your network is performing and where the weaknesses lie from the perspective of the end-user.
Experiencing first hand where your design is flawed eliminates guessing from the equation.
Defining who your end-user is, enables you to create a network that is applicable to varying types of users and the differing levels of access each type needs.
As BYOD becomes more prevalent, being ready by planning ahead with your wireless network capabilities keeps the 3-4 year upgrade not looking as bad as before. You will be able to identify, assign, and apply roles to you end users- enforcing what type of access they are allowed.
Using a knowledgeable network engineer can prevent you from over or under engineering your RF design (too many, not enough, or poorly placed APs).
In other words, your users will have the network experience designed to benefit all aspects rather than the design working part-time.
At SecurEdge, we deliver affordable, robust, and secure wireless platforms – it’s all we do. If you have any questions about wireless network design or would like to discuss an upcoming project, please contact us here.