Five key steps to upgrading your wireless network

3. Anticipate peak usage.

Wireless networks can’t properly be configured with an average number of users and devices in mind. Schools need to determine the maximum, or peak, load that the network will encounter and ensure that there is sufficient bandwidth both at the access layer (where students are connected to the network) and during testing (when the maximum possible number of devices are accessing the network at once).

4. Understand the changing landscape.

School leaders need to think beyond the current technology standards and specifications and make investments that will ensure their classrooms will continue to have sustained high performance and reliable connectivity as new wireless devices and applications are introduced.

IT personnel and other decision-makers must consider that most wireless devices in use now do not support the new standard of 802.11ac. A hybrid wireless network will be needed to support both current devices and the newer, faster devices that inevitably will become commonplace over the coming months and years. What decision makers should look for is Wi-Fi capability across the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands (the new 802.11ac standard operates only in the 5 GHz band), as this will give students reliable Wi-Fi no matter what their devices support.

5. Future-proof for new WLAN standards.

The new Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ac, is about three to fifteen times faster than the previous standard, 802.11n. Schools will need to develop and implement long-term plans for upgrading their wireless network infrastructure and end-user devices to support 802.11ac when it becomes commonplace.

Finding the answer to these issues is daunting, but it can be accomplished when school IT departments and decision-makers, equipment vendors, technology integrators, and government agencies work together. Sharing resources and understanding the scope of demand for ever-higher bandwidth will give all participants the information they’ll need to devise their own unique solutions to meet the needs of each school.

President Obama, the FCC, and the private sector have made a $3 billion promise to America’s students, and technology is available to deliver on that promise. Now it’s up to the many stakeholders to make the promise a reality.

Kowshik Bhat is the director of product marketing for Xirrus Inc., a provider of Wi-Fi technology to the nation’s schools.

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