With Wi-Fi now the primary, default and sometimes only internet access for students and staff in schools, it’s vital to get the most out of its infrastructure. This is especially true as the number of users, the number of active mobile devices per user and the amount of data moved by applications all continue to grow rapidly.
Getting the most out of what you have, however, isn’t difficult. Here are four tips to ensure that your Wi-Fi capabilities meet the mission-critical demands that typify educational computing, both now and into the future:
1. Think About Classroom Network Capacity, Not Coverage
It’s not about gigabit speeds to every user. Rather, it’s about ensuring that all those users, devices and apps, in aggregate, have the throughput they need to keep users productive. That number is almost always less than a gigabit per second, per device. Check your overall average and peak use and traffic patterns, and plan, deploy and operate accordingly. However, note that capacity demands, including the location of clusters of high demand, will vary over time.
2. Understand How Education Application Requirements Differ
Every application has its own behavior and traffic demands. Because many browser-based applications move relatively small amounts of data, they require only a limited amount of performance. Voice and, in educational settings, streaming video also don’t move that much data, but they need headroom to ensure that traffic is forwarded without delay. Check your application mix regularly, and make any changes to use policies or system settings accordingly.
3. Make the Most of the School's Management Console
The wireless LAN management console is used to configure settings post-deployment, but it’s also incredibly useful for monitoring use and performance, spotting trends that might indicate trouble, setting alerts and alarms, and identifying use trends that might indicate the need for a reconfiguration, more access points or even an upgrade. Consider applying new analytics and automation capabilities based on artificial intelligence and machine learning; these can boost both productivity and reliability with a minimum of effort and expense.
4. Plan Upgrades for Current and Future School Years
Every school will require additional access points to add coverage and capacity to address growth and new demand over time. When you upgrade your infrastructure to newer standards (802.11ac Wave 2 and 802.11ax), you will also inherently add more capacity. Given the low cost of APs today, this should be fairly easy to budget. Keep in mind that upgrades don’t need to be done all at once, so the financial impact can be spread over several years. To avoid any issues with interoperability, choose products based on the latest technologies approved by the Wi-Fi Alliance.