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Lessons in wireless

Jul 15, 2013

With the growth of mobile devices within the Education sector, a robust wireless network is the favoured method to deliver seamless coverage. With the added challenge of users wishing to bring their own devices, the demand for connectivity is proving to be a challenge for ICT departments to accommodate users, remain secure by retaining control and still keep on top of operational costs.

By following three key steps, schools can look to deploy wireless networks with confidence:

Step 1 – Define Your Use Case – When developing the Use Case, you need to ask yourself, “where is your wireless network today, what do you need to accomplish to meet your requirements, and most importantly, where will it need to be in the future?”

Key Use Case questions:

  • What is the user population in each part of the school? Classrooms, boarding houses?
  • Do you require coverage for different types of users? Students, staff, guests?
  • Is BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) for users a requirement? Management, security, access rights?
  • What policies do you require to manage users, devices and apps? MDM, traffic shaping, roaming profiles, security, reporting tools?
  • What types of devices will be supported? Desktops, laptops, notebooks, tablets, smartphones?
  • What will be the impact on the current networking infrastructure? Port capacity, cabling?
  • What apps are currently running over your wireless network?
  • What is the expected growth of apps, users and devices will require wireless in 3 years, 5 years?

Step 2 – Match Your Priorities With The Right Manufacturer - Once you have a feel for your Use Case, it is important to choose the right solution as there many options available. So be sure to understand which features each manufacturer supports, how easy is it to deploy, to manage, on-going support costs and does the solution meet your requirements now and in the future?

Step 3 – Model Your Deployment - Successfully aligning your Use Case with the correct model of Access Point (AP) can make the difference with regards to project success. As a rule, most manufacturers offer a less expensive AP for areas with lower traffic, less population density and more expensive high-density APs for higher throughput, stronger signal strength e.g. Classrooms, boarding houses.

A. Active RF Survey. This entails engineers on-site, with specialist equipment to test and record the radio frequency strength at each location within the campus.

The key benefit of an Active RF Survey is that it is 95% accurate and provides you with real-world analysis of your location.

B. Predictive Planning Tool Assessment. This is a software approach where information is gleaned from floor plans, building materials, population density, application usage, etc. The tool will provide a suggested AP deployment and accuracy is in the 90% range. The tool can be also used for budgetary purposes.

C. Road Test Evaluation. This approach involves obtaining test equipment from the manufacturer, to conduct your own evaluation based on your requirements.

If you are planning to replace or migrating to a wireless network for the first time, it is critical to take the time to plan. Developing your Use Case and conducting pre-deployment testing can save days of hassle and increase your confidence that your new wireless network will support you for many years to come.



Taffy Johal is the Managing Director of VCloud Solutions, offering wireless networking solutions and associated services into the education sector.

Category: Cost Savings

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