If you can get wi-fi access at McDonald’s and at the local supermarket, why should our schools be any different? For K-12 schools, maintaining a strong wireless network means keeping up to date with the latest upgrades and practices. For schools, WLAN can be a tricky business, considering that not only are they faced with upgrading legacy systems designed for handling old requirements for basic coverage, they’re often under significant budget restraints. More and more, both teachers and students are reliant on web-based teaching applications and web tutorials that necessitate high bandwidth.To ensure that you receive a solid ROI, extensive planning must be in place for a quality wi-fi design. Below, we’ve assembled some of the best techniques you can employ to ensure your school has a solid wireless system in place.
With earlier K-12 wireless systems, extensive coverage was the only requirement. Today, with the number of ultra-fast devices on the market, and their ubiquity within schools, legacy networks can’t handle the added pressure. Instead of only worrying about coverage when looking to upgrade an old network, you should consider meeting capacity requirements and not just coverage requirements. In education, the accepted rule of thumb is a 1:1 practice, where each classroom is assigned their own access point. However, this isn’t always the best idea. In fact, having an excess of radios turned on can result in a decrease in wireless performance. Note that one access point is more than capable of covering more than one classroom.
Because wireless networks are established to, um, serve wireless devices, you should put significant amount of thought into the devices you choose to use on your network. You should ensure that the tablets, phones, and laptops you use are dual band supporting both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies. Following the installation of these devices, frequently update your wi-fi devices. To help with updates, you may want to consider an automatic mobile device management solution.
While BYOD policies are becoming increasingly common in businesses, they’re also making headway in education as well. With staff, students, and guests all having the privileged to use their own devices on the school network, you should have an awareness of network capacity. By using an automated on-boarding system, you can manage guest devices on the network with registration, throttling, and URL filtering.
When looking into access points, most are equipped with an omnidirectional antenna built in. This emits a wireless signal in a a 360 degree fashion. Because wireless signals have the ability to be transmitted over long distances, performance can be effected. You may want to consider a directional antenna instead. Directional antennas cover specific areas and decrease interference with other access points.
Your old wireless system’s wireless access points were powered through a Ethernet cable based on the 802.3af standard. Using a switch port on the other end can power the access point with up to 15W of power. In today’s world, access points require a greater amount of power, sometimes up to 30W. The requirements associated with the power supplied through the Ethernet which should be taken into consideration when designing the new wireless network.
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