Dec 14 2017

Network Segmentation Boosts Wi-Fi Performance, Security for K–12 Schools

VLANs keep networks running optimally for some school districts.

More schools than ever before have put in place networks that meet the standards required to deliver innovative educational experiences. EducationSuperHighway reported in September that 94 percent of school districts meet the minimum federal connectivity target (100 Kbps), up from 88 percent in 2016.

As schools upgrade their infrastructures to better cater to digital learning, some of their main concerns revolve around assuring the performance and security of their investments.

For Mountain Brook Schools in Birmingham, Ala., a virtual local area network (VLAN) provided the best way to do this.

“VLANs are useful in K–12 schools because they allow IT departments with limited staff and funds to segment traffic on the network,” says Donna Williamson, a technology thought leader in the district.

From boosting the performance of connected devices to assuring security, network segmentation can provide big wins for schools.

Segmented Traffic Enables Peak Performance

Williamson, Network Administrator Jason Falconer and Senior Level Support Partner Walter Alexander say Mountain Brook embraced a VLAN structure because it can help reduce the amount of “chatter” on a network.

“To modify an overused analogy, if you are trying to merge onto an interstate and you only have to fight the traffic in one lane for access, you are more likely to get on than if you have to fight all of the traffic on the entire interstate,” says Williamson.

With a VLAN in place, Williamson and her team say that connected devices are only competing with those on that network segment. For example, Mountain Brook Schools’ foreign language lab has its own VLAN so that students can access video and audio resources without dragging down the entire network.

VLANs Keep Traffic Flowing Securely

Mountain Brook Schools also chose a VLAN setup for security reasons. The VLAN allows them to specify permissions for each segmented network, which means their guest network keeps unauthorized users from internal resources.

At West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District in Township, New Jersey, VLAN network segmentation keeps sometimes mischievous students away from critical IT servers and applications. VLAN segmentation can also help stop the spread of a virus with additions such as threat detection between networks.

“[School IT leaders] can put intrusion detection between virtual networks to make sure nothing bad escapes from one low-security network to a high-security one,” says Eric Parizo, senior analyst for enterprise security at Current Analysis, in an EdTech article.

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