Colleges and universities can effectively and efficiently meet the explosion in demand for wireless networking on campus by following these steps.
- Take time to redesign: "Never Band-Aid the system you have," says J. Brice Bible, CIO at Ohio University. "Complete a full redesign so you can architect a WLAN capable of scaling out to meet future needs."
- Seek user input: "What you did the last time might not work this time because needs and spaces change," says Rich Siedzik, director of computer and telecommunications services at Bryant University. "There are so many diverse ways that faculty, staff and students use technology that IT teams won't know them all."
- Make capacity a priority: Today, it's more important to consider the traffic a network's access points will be expected to carry than where those APs should be placed, says wireless industry expert Craig J. Mathias, a principal with the Farpoint Group. "Then, provision the right types and numbers of access points to handle the demand."
- Plan for the unknown: "Keep track of device and technology trends in the pipeline to assist with being ready when students come back to campus after holidays or at the start of the academic year," says Brian Kelly, director of information security and network operations for Quinnipiac University.
- Evaluate solutions onsite: "Every single environment is different," Bible says. "Doing an onsite bake-off between manufacturers proves which system works at your institution. It's absolutely worth it."
- Invest in robust radio-frequency management tools: "Traditional IT staffers are not RF engineers," Siedzik says. "The more sophisticated tools you have to manage airspace, the better."
- Pay attention to I.P. pools: "If you run out, people can't connect," Siedzik says. "Manage your network access control licenses and increase them accordingly."
- Think about 802.11ac: Mathias recommends considering an institution's needs for the next wireless standard, 802.11ac, during any project related to an existing wired or wireless network. "Consider 10-Gigabit uplinks in switches to accommodate the anticipated traffic of the future," he says.
Read more about how campuses integrate wired and wireless networks here.