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How K-12 School Districts Can Future-Proof Their Wi-Fi Infrastructure.

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Posted by Lonnie Smith - 05 November, 2020

A 2019 study by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) found that about 60 percent of the nation’s K-12 school districts have implemented one-to-one computing initiatives. Such programs provide every enrolled student with an electronic device for accessing the Internet, digital course materials and digital textbooks. That’s great news for students — a Michigan State study finds that one-to-one initiatives lead to better outcomes in English and language arts, writing, math, and science.

Supporting such initiatives is challenging for school technology teams, however. Many are finding that their legacy wireless networks do not adequately support growing numbers of devices and more widespread use of bandwidth-intensive applications.

The Fond du Lac School District had been dealing with capacity limitations and other infrastructure issues for a few years before launching a district-wide upgrade in 2019. Rather than simply adding new access points (APs), the district elected to work with RMM Solutions and Aruba on a bold, new network design that not only meets immediate needs but prepares the district for continued growth.

Capacity Challenges

One of the biggest issues with school wireless LANs is that they are based on legacy design principles developed back when Wi-Fi was a “nice to have” feature used occasionally by a few people. Coverage-oriented designs focused on the placement of APs to provide adequate signal strength and ensure there are no dead spots in the area. That approach results in resource contention, signal interference and snail-like speeds for the increased numbers of users and devices in today’s classroom environment.

Many school districts try to address the problem by adding more APs. That’s usually only a short-term fix, however. Mike Gerlach, the Director of Business Services for the Fond du Lac School District, wanted a network that would enable a variety of advanced technology solutions that would benefit students, teachers, administrators and staff. RMM and Aruba came up with a plan to deliver just that.

For starters, all APs are being upgraded to Aruba’s Wi-Fi 6 (802.11.ax) APs, which are designed to address connectivity issues in high-density environments. With more antennas and new features allowing multiple clients to transmit simultaneously, these APs support about three times as many concurrent users as older APs.

Switches are also being upgraded to Aruba CX 8400s, which run on their own fully programmable network operating system (AOS-CX). The switching software includes a built-in network analytics engine (NAE) that provides unprecedented visibility into network and device activity, fault isolation and system performance. NAE detects problems in real time and analyzes to predict future performance and security issues.

Simplified Management

Ease of management was another consideration for the school district. RMM suggested using Aruba Instant to create controller-less environment. Instant virtualizes controller capabilities on Wi-Fi 6 APs, enabling zero-touch provisioning, seamless roaming and role-based access control.

Single-pane-of-glass management is handled through Aruba Central, a cloud-based network management platform. It provides a global view of all devices as well as an overview of network health. When problems occur, Central’s analytic engine provides quick identification, characterization and resolution.

When upgrades are completed, the district will have the infrastructure in place to support more than classroom initiatives. The robust wireless network solutions will enable centralized management of everything from climate control and building access systems to attendance tracking and school bus fleet management.

Special Offer from RMM

Upgrading legacy wireless infrastructure is increasingly critical to K-12 operations. RMM Solutions can assess the future Wi-Fi infrastructure needs of your district and recommend solutions that meet your budget and operational requirements. We’ll even provide half-off a wireless site assessment for customers choosing an Aruba solution. Call us today to learn more.

 

Topics: #Wireless, wifi, K-12, Access Points, Network Design


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