It’s 2008 and you just deployed wireless access points in all the hallways and common areas of your schools. You apply a simple password and give it out to all the staff. Voila! You have a wireless-accessible network.
At this point, most IT staff were content with the setup. It was a simple solution to a simple problem. Device density was not an issue since most schools only had a handful of laptops or wireless devices. Every kid and staff member did not need to stream Netflix or Youtube throughout the day. It was easy. It was simple. It was the past.
Fast forward to the present -- one-to-one has taken the country by storm. If you haven’t deployed devices in a one-to-one fashion, then you are most likely in the planning phase of it. Now, comes the hard part. How do you plan a scalable wireless network that meets the demands of today and isn’t a completely wasted investment for tomorrow? Honestly, it’s not as difficult as you might think.
First, get rid of the mindset that you have to have absolute control over your network. It is okay to loosen the reins a bit and let the data flow. The worst thing you can do is overcomplicate your design with unnecessary authentication and device restrictions. This leads to issues with connections and makes things much harder on teachers who are learning to teach with new tools.
Making sure that teachers can enter a classroom and have the room ready to learn in less than a few minutes is paramount to them. Every minute wasted trying to get devices connected or access to a website is an opportunity for the students to become disengaged. This is something we take personally at Five-Star.
Second, don’t believe all the vendors who show you shiny pieces of software with bells and whistles. Take time with your decisions, and don’t let money drive the conversation. If you rush, you are likely to purchase a cheap, useless system with no features/terrible support or an expensive piece of magic software that will bloat your network. Five-Star works with a multitude of vendors to obtain a seamless high-speed functional network.
Third, I highly recommend partnering with someone who does not care whether you buy from one vendor or another. Someone that truly understands education and technology.
This is not the CIA, NSA, FBI, or DOJ.
This is a school.
Yes, you need to protect your network.
Yes, security is important.
However, the ability to be flexible with different situations and have an easy one-step or two-step setup for wireless devices is far more important. Most of the time we find complications in places that make it more difficult on the IT staff.
At Five Star, we have seen just about everything when it comes to wireless network design and security. While some schools lack enough security and others lock everything down, we believe in bringing a balanced approach to wireless design.
Not too much, not too little, just the right amount.
We also find that the “right amount” varies between school systems. There is no one “cookie cutter” design that fits everyone. We are not a sales company looking to sell you everything (you think) you need or everything you might want. We are a services company first and foremost. We start by listening to what you hope to accomplish when it comes to creating awesome learning experiences for your kids. Only then can we help you design a wireless network to meet the needs of your classrooms for today and tomorrow.