If your facility is located near a college campus, and you have a large number of college students frequenting your facility on a daily basis, you may want to look into a wireless network design very similar to one you might find on a college campus.
Let’s face it, parents even know what their college kids want these days: Wireless Access for mobile technology. They want it easily accessible, they want it to be fast and they want it reliable. Parents probably want it to be “safe” but the college environment offers many more challenges than answering a question like, “Which viral video are the kids watching now that they don’t live in our home?”
There are a number of differences in wireless internet access on or near a college campus that should be taken into consideration. Think of the environments college students find themselves in: a classroom, a dorm, a courtyard, a cafeteria. Traditionally, these are a few examples of what might be found on campus, but what about the environments where students congregate off-campus?
First location that jumps to mind is an apartment complex close to campus. Students will pay a premium to live within walking distance or maybe a short bike ride. One way to attract additional residents might be to offer wireless access. Before taking that route into consideration, there are a number of things to think about.
Just imagine the number of mobile devices that students carry in their backpack or pocket and the ones they’ll be bringing to their dorm room or apartment. There’s the iPhone (or Android), the iPad (or other tablet), maybe the mini-iPad, the gaming system, the laptop and quite possibly, a device for streaming movies.
This puts quite a load on your wireless network infrastructure, especially if you are not fully staffed with multiple layers of IT Professionals and someone specifically trained to handle wireless networking. If you feel comfortable handling all those layers at one time (isn’t multitasking great?) then here are some features that should be included in your wireless network design:
1.) Design for Devices
2.) Role-Based Access Control
3.) Load Balancing
4.) Indoor-Outdoor Coverage
We can go through each of these and “why” they are important in the type of environment that is mentioned above.
1) Performance: Design for Devices - if you have a wireless engineer or IT consultant that is planning a wireless network design which only takes into consideration PC’s or laptops, here’s why that is an issue. The statistics show that while the rate of the disappearing PC has slowed a tad, the trend continues to be toward tablets, which are low-powered devices. The radio power in the current version of the iPad is 25% the power of a traditional laptop.
In the below diagram, you can see why IT Life gets difficult with the low-powered iPad. The devices have the ability to “see” the access point, which might be down the hallway, but it doesn’t have the strength to transmit. You need to have good, two-way communication between the devices and access points to see the benefit on a wireless network system.
2) Role Based Access Control - Already using Active Directory to separate students from teachers and administrators? Well then you’re well on your way to reaping the benefits of role-based access control. Your directory should create groups of users i.e., Residents, Engineering, Staff, Administrative, etc.). By integrating your wireless network system with with your directory, you can allow the users access by utilizing their name and password to log in. Students are allowed a resident role internally and online, engineers are allowed a different set of services. Those are just a few examples, you need to know who is connecting to your network so that you can provide access only to what they need and prevent them from going where they shouldn’t while logged into your network.
3) Load Balancing- You most likely have only one single internet “pipe” coming to the location where you’re adding or upgrading wireless connectivity. Having the ability to control the amount of bandwidth each user is able to utilize on your wireless network system will keep all users happy. The other benefit to finding a solution with load balancing capability is that it provides you the ability to load balance users across VLAN’s.
4) Indoor & Outdoor Coverage - Above, we mentioned all the different places where college kids might congregate. Can you imagine the annoyance of being logged into the wireless network indoors, but then stepping outside to enjoy a shade tree and having to reconnect your device(s) all over again? (Modern inconveniences are such a nuisance!) Well, you now have the ability for a seamless transition from indoor to outdoor connectivity without having to reconnect on the network.
5) On-Boarding, i.e., Automated Registration of Devices on the Network - Speaking of registering on a network, what IT Director do you know that has the time to line students up outside his or her office as they reconnect each one of the devices onto the network in a secure manner? It’s just not logical to think that in today’s environment, where each college student is averaging 3-5 wireless devices per person. Do you really expect IT Professional to spend all that time typing in Pre-Shared Keys (or handing them out) and creating greater risk while lowering efficiency? For devices that don’t “belong” to your organization (i.e., the devices that belong to the residents in an apartment complex), build a registration process into your wireless network system so that you’re not going through the painful process of touching all of those devices. Your users are smart, they are being born with these devices in their laps, let them handle the registration process.
If your facility is located near a college campus and you would like to deploy a wireless network system, we are here to help. Contact Securedge Networks here if you would like a free consultation, or if you have any questions. We look foward to hearing from you!