Nowadays, the internet offers a lot of possibilities, and deploying a Wi-Fi network in schools and universities can improve the way students learn and changed the way teachers communicate.
Setting up a Wi-Fi network in schools and universities is often a big challenge. You have to develop a core infrastructure that can support thousands of students, faculty, and visitors accessing the school’s private network simultaneously. So, before configuring your Wi-Fi network, you should take into consideration the following points:
- Budget to set up and upgrade the network
- Coverage area
- Throughput and Bandwidth requirements
- Security of the network
- BYOD policies
Determine the coverage area
It is important to determine the precise coverage area in order to understand the equipment needed for your deployment and its bandwidth requirements. When focusing on key areas like the school’s main offices, the classrooms, the computer lab, the library, or other outdoor areas, you must adapt your Wi-Fi network infrastructure to the characteristics of that environment. Be careful to avoid dead spots and configure your network so that your users can roam seamlessly from one access point to the other, without disconnections.
Consider the network infrastructure
Calculating the bandwidth needed for your Wi-Fi network is an essential step. In fact, a Wi-Fi network has to be designed according to its future usage and other external variables, such as client density as well as device and throughput requirements. Read more about how to calculate the bandwidth needed.
Choose the right APs
Your AP choice should depend on the location and on the capacity that the given wireless devices are able to provide. You will have to figure out how many Wi-Fi devices you will need and where to locate them. APs will be biggest part of your Wi-Fi network budget, but choosing the right one for your deployment is crucial.
Multivendor softwares like Tanaza allow you to use low-cost wireless devices, instead of high-cost hardware, and provides you with the fundamental features needed by IT managers in schools and universities to deploy secure and stable Wi-Fi network. The features include, but are not limited to, a captive portal, password-based authentication, support for BYOD policies, and web content filtering.
With Tanaza, you are free from vendor lock-in, so you can change your hardware brand whenever you want, or add a new access point to an existing network without reconfiguring everything. Also, since you have the choice among a wide range of access points with different hardware characteristics, you can build your Wi-Fi network as you want. Use one or various brands of wireless devices like Engenius outdoor access points and TP-Link indoor access points. If you use multiples wireless devices, all of them can be broadcasted on the same ssid, with roaming enabled within the whole location, and the same splash page and BYOD policies implemented. More importantly, the whole network can be managed remotely from one single centralized dashboard.
If you want to enable different login flows for your users, you will have to create various SSIDs with authentication flows specific to each user; one SSID for teachers and administration and another one for students and visitors. With the help of content filtering, each SSID can be configured in a different way. For instance, you can enable teachers to surf the web freely, while students have restricted access.
To control guest access in your Wi-Fi network, and prevent unauthorized users to connect, you can create an authentication splash page. Once it is done, you are free to enable the authentication via social login through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, for visitors, or using personal credentials (primarily for students and teachers).
Another point that the educational institutes must consider in terms of security of the network is the BYOD (Bring your Own Device) trend. Schools and universities have to apply a policy that the Wi-Fi user must accept before connecting to the Wi-Fi network. You will find various examples of “computer use regulations” on the web that can help you set rules about the students’ usage of their personal devices. It is important to remind Wi-Fi users that educational institutes control and censor the content accesed within their network. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the students to filter the content they access while connected to network. Moreover, the policy must specify the Wi-Fi user’s liability in case of forbidden data transfer, the conditions to access to the network and so on. Don’t forget to take into account that the BYOD trend has a direct consequence on the bandwidth and throughput requirement.
Example of a typical school Wi-Fi network configuration:
- Teachers access a password-protected Wi-Fi network
- Administration and IT staff access a hidden SSID with password
- Students and visitors access through the captive portal of the Wi-Fi network, students with voucher-based authentication by entering their student’s ID, and visitors with social login.
Thanks to a high-performance WLAN, schools, and universities can continue to effortlessly adopt innovative, creative and challenging teaching techniques. In the United-States, the Education Rate program (E-Rate program) encourages institutions to provide Wi-Fi to their students, by permitting them to receive federal subsidies of 20 to 90 percent on telecommunications services, internet access, and network equipment.
Tanaza’s efficiency in an educational environment has been proven by projects with institutes, like the Lisbon School of Design, that chose Tanaza in 2015 to build an efficient Wi-Fi network.