A “bring your own device” (BYOD) initiative opens a school network to a glut of new, heterogeneous computing devices, so a robust wireless infrastructure is paramount to success. If the network doesn’t have enough bandwidth or access points to accommodate this density or is frustratingly slow, a BYOD program will quickly falter.
This is where planning is critical: IT officials must predict not just the number of users and devices, but when and where students plan to use them. An adequate number and appropriate placement of wireless access points are crucial to ensure that students can access web resources when needed, says Rich Kaestner, a project director for the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). As a rule of thumb, each access point can handle about 30 devices.
Most schools spend a year (or more) prior to a planned BYOD program preparing for this new reality. Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, for example, completely rebuilt its wireless network, replacing 801.11g access points with 802.11n and adding new access points to double its wireless capacity. To make sure it could handle sudden spikes in demand during the school day, Forsyth County (Ga.) Schools boosted bandwidth, bumping its wide area network speeds from 1 gigabit per second to 2Gbps in each building and from 500 megabits per second to 1.3Gbps for Internet access.
Officials at Deer Park (Texas) Independent School District also increased bandwidth speeds after discovering holes in the district’s coverage during a BYOD trial run in fall 2010. When campus Wi-Fi networks became overwhelmed by the influx of student-owned devices seeking connectivity, Chief Technology Officer Kari Rhame Murphy and her team tweaked the location and number of access points in the network infrastructure.
Given that experience, Murphy advises all schools with BYOD initiatives to analyze their network capacity on a regular basis and to be prepared to upgrade equipment when needed.
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- Identity Management
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