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Meeting tomorrow's networking needs in K-12 education will depend largely up on network resilience and ability to support demand

Lessons in network resilience


Meeting tomorrow's networking needs in K-12 education will depend largely up on network resilience and ability to support demand

Today’s classroom isn’t what it used to be. The e-learning market is growing rapidly, with some estimating a 14 percent year-over-year increase between 2019-2025, reaching as high as $350B by that time. And these forecasts came before the global pandemic began, which has fueled an unprecedented rise in online education across the country and world. California alone, for example, plans to serve over 1 million K-12 distant learners this fall.

Importantly, while distance learning is skyrocketing, it is just one component of the evolving and expanding digital classroom, which relies more than ever on a flawless network connection.

Related: Remote learning for the long haul

New learning technologies like IoT devices are enabling a host of capabilities for staff and students, from data collection to improve operations, to more personalized learning experiences, and applications like human to machine learning. This shift marks an enormous opportunity for students’ learning, but it also brings new and pressing challenges that must be addressed. Unlike the physical classrooms and textbooks we’ve relied on for centuries, these new digital learning ecosystems are vulnerable to network disruption, attacks and outages.

As networks become more vital, they are also growing in complexity, with additional core and edge points of failure, increased security vulnerabilities, and higher disruption recovery costs. What, then, can be done to ensure everything stays online without any issues?

The need for network resilience

There’s no doubt: Tomorrow’s digital classroom will place a heavy burden on learning institutions and their often-small IT teams. However, as networks become more distributed and applications running on them become more data-intensive, there is one thing organizations can do to ensure secure, always on connectivity: implement a best-of-breed network resilience solution.

Network resilience revolves around preparing the proper solutions and procedures needed to sustain optimal uptime under all circumstances. If done correctly, the network can support the distanced learning of today, as well as increasingly complex learning environments on the horizon. To help educational organizations develop a robust and resilient network, you must address the most common pain points and best practices to keep learning networks online, regardless of location or external disruption.

Managing the expansively wide area of educational networks

In digital ecosystems, disparately located students must seamlessly connect with learning management systems, digital textbooks, and a host of other applications and devices that may be widely spread out. Campuses and educational facilities are often sprawling, with devices and tools spread across several buildings.

Expansiveness and the inability for short-staffed teams to be onsite present significant challenges, especially when network disruptions can interrupt educational processes, decrease staff productivity, and incur high reputational and financial recovery costs. These challenges are greatly multiplied when unexpected events like shelter-at-home orders prevent technicians from traveling or being on-site and make maintaining network connectivity even more vital.

The expansion of IoT within the classroom also brings new challenges. According to IDC, there will be over 40 billion connected devices in use by 2025. The use of these devices, along with integrated networks, 5G and cloud computing, will facilitate the next generation of digital learning environments. However, these advancements introduce even greater network complexity and more points of failure.

Sophisticated IoT solutions will require more edge computing to support faster local processing speeds and data-intensive processes. Every new remote network node introduces an additional point of failure that could disrupt networks via issues such as a bad firmware update, an unseen security breach or a ruptured last mile cabling connection. To maintain all of this, organizations will need to deploy reliable strategies for continuous management, provisioning, and remediation.

Getting smart about network resilience

Network resilience is greatly increased when organizations set up a separate independent management plane to manage the network. The separate management plane is independent of the data plane, giving a network admin secure remote access to the network infrastructure.

A Mean-Time-To-Recover strategy that incorporates an out-of-band management network will greatly increase network resilience, reduce on-site trips, and ensure business continuity. New remote site deployments can also be drastically streamlined with remote, secure, and instant processes like zero-touch provisioning, which does not require technicians onsite.

The time to future proof is now

There is no stopping it. Educational environments are continually adopting more IoT technologies, increasing campus sizes, and depending more and more on digital forms of in-person and distance learning. Public and private institutions will need to evolve to meet new networking requirements, like increasing needs for edge support and an increased customer demand for network reliability. Those who adopt network resilience strategies now will not only benefit today, but also build a successful foundation for years to come.

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