Nov 23 2015

8 Steps to Consider When Upgrading a School District Network

Keeping one step ahead of network troubles requires a solid plan. Learn a few tips from a K–12 networking expert in EdTech's latest webinar.

Before launching a network upgrade across a school district, IT leaders should consider all aspects of how the new hardware will impact the schools, and how well the pieces work with legacy hardware components.

During EdTech's latest K–12 webinar, "Time for a Network Upgrade?" three experts offered advice on how to plan a network overhaul, from the overall strategies involved in choosing the right hardware components, to the tactics of implementing them in each school, and tips on getting the best use of funds through the federal E-Rate program.

Among these experts, Jason Wiggins, the technology director of Nacogdoches Independent School District in Texas offered eight salient pieces of advice:

1. Plan for the Future by Examining the Present

Determine the needs of users and what they want to do. Prioritize functionality and user-friendliness to encourage user buy-in. Monitor bandwidth and current Internet usage to ensure speeds are up to spec.

2. Put Security First

“You can have the best network in place, but if you don’t protect it, your end users are not going to be able to use it. You’re going to have downtime,” said Wiggins.

3. Consider All Network Equipment

When determining port counts, consider all desktop and wireless devices. Students will typically have around three, while educators can have up to five. IP security cameras and locks should also be taken into consideration.

4. Secure Sustainable Funding

Equipment may be top-of-the-line when it’s first acquired, but if IT doesn’t have the funding to support it with updates or replace it when the time comes, end users will suffer.

5. Nail the Timing

Get on top of school board approvals, funding and equipment acquisition early. Otherwise, the equipment will be arriving at the door on the first day of class. That means IT will have to work after hours, and setup will fall behind.

6. Document Everything

It’s important that IT staff write down all of its VLAN infrastructure setups and IP address schematics, as well as processes and project plan. Documentation is necessary to keep everyone up to date.

7. Coordinate and Communicate

IT needs to involve the maintenance department,  working together to install server racks and electrical components. They also will need to keep principals and other key stakeholders updated on their progress to avoid nagging questions. Ample documentation will help with this.

8. Consider the Physical Space

Many schools are outdated. IT needs to consider the setup and capacity of electrical outlets when installing new equipment. It’s also important for IT to look at the utility systems that are in place. In the absence of server or network closets, IT staff should consider where to place loud, new equipment, ensuring that it is far away from instructional areas, so learning won’t be disrupted.

Interested in learning more? Register for free to watch a recording of EdTech's latest webinar, including advice from Wiggins and two more experts.

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