Davidson College is a highly selective independent liberal arts College of nearly 2,000 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, NC. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the College has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts Colleges in the country.
As a highly respected institution, Davidson prides itself in having the best technology in place to support learning functions, student activities, and the needs of the faculty and staff. Since 2008, Davidson has seen the demand to provide wireless coverage on campus increase exponentially each year. Today, the average student at Davidson has 3-5 Wi-Fi Enabled devices, many of the faculty members carry iPads and iPhones, and the learning initiatives continue to move towards online testing platforms and multimedia delivered over wireless.
Davidson tapped SecurEdge Networks based in Charlotte, NC to help engineer a wireless network solution that would help them support the demanding needs of their faculty, staff, and students.
“We liked the fact that SecurEdge had been designing and building these types of large scale wireless networks for other schools as well as many large hospital systems for years. We had talked to other companies out there, but SecurEdge had the expertise and experience we felt comfortable with.”
– Rob Smith, Director of Systems & Networks, Davidson College
The challenge of designing and building a campus Wi-Fi Network
Davidson had some major challenges they needed to address. One of the biggest was that they had multiple wireless systems on campus. Davidson has a sprawling type of campus with a lot of beautiful outdoor courtyards and areas where students gather and do classwork outside. There was one wireless solution that was deployed to cover those outdoor areas. That same solution was used to shoot into the student residence halls utilizing an outside-in approach. The outside-in approach created some coverage challenges in some areas. The academic buildings were covered by two other wireless systems that provided “hotspot” kind of coverage.
With several different wireless systems to manage, a lack of complete coverage, and very limited wireless management tools it was very difficult to provide high levels of security for the different groups of users (students, faculty, staff, and guests) and to troubleshoot the many different types of mobile devices that were showing up on campus (iPads, iPhones, Android devices, etc.). Davidson wanted to provide support of all of those devices with the highest levels of security.
“As the number of wireless devices and applications began to grow exponentially, we realized that wireless access was no longer a nice-to-have service, it was a critical service. This was a fundamental shift in the way our users wanted to access information.”
– Mur Muchane, Executive Director of Information Technology Services (CIO), Davidson College
SecurEdge Networks, a premier Aruba Networks partner, worked with the network group at Davidson College to put together a wireless system combining products from industry leader Aruba Networks with large campus design and wireless engineering services from SecurEdge.
The Aruba Wireless solution provided Davidson a single management dashboard for all wireless users and devices regardless of whether the user is in a residence hall, academic building, outdoors, or even at a remote campus site. The Aruba Networks wireless solution was designed to provide complete coverage with a single interface for visibility and real time reporting. It even incorporates advanced features like Network Access Control (NAC) and high availability to ensure the network would always be up for those late night research papers and study sessions.
What’s the future of wireless at Davidson College?
Today Davidson’s ITS Department is looking at other advanced mobile technologies like streaming IP TV over the Wi-Fi network for the students, wireless video surveillance for safety, and Wi-Fi enabled communications for staff. A year from now who knows what type of mobile devices Davidson will use to improve services on campus.
“The nice thing about wireless system we built with SecurEdge and Aruba Networks is that we know we’re ready for just about anything.”
– Jeff Bowman, Wireless Network Administrator, Davidson College ITS
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