Students free to roam with wireless consolidation

Tuesday, 16 August, 2011

New Zealand preparatory school Hereworth has upgraded its wireless network to improve its performance and manageability.

Hereworth School is a private preparatory school for boys, specialising in primary and intermediate education for both day boys and boarders.

The school has a mixed computing environment supporting both PCs and Apple Macintosh systems with a combination of wired and wireless networking technologies. This diversity extends to the school’s networking environment with network switches and wireless access points from a variety of different suppliers.

Students use a combination of computers installed in classrooms with wired network connections supplemented by a number of wirelessly connected Apple Macintosh notebooks. Over time, more students have been bringing their own laptops to school, which also requires wireless connectivity.

As demand for wireless connectivity grew, Hereworth’s existing wireless LAN solutions became insufficient. Managing wireless connectivity became difficult and much more administration time was required. Furthermore, providing seamless wireless network access was problematic and the various wireless LAN solutions suffered performance issues due to the high saturation of neighbouring wireless networks. This was causing connectivity issues for both staff and students, particularly when they moved from room to room.

“We had a mixture of wireless capabilities, based on different varieties of solutions, and as a result we had connectivity issues trying to roam across the different wireless access points,” said Sean Feltoe, IT Manager for Hereworth School. “Each of the access points was managed separately and manually and that ultimately was what we needed to improve.”

To address these problems, the school employed a D-Link DWS-3024L Gigabit Managed Unified Wired/Wireless Switch. Accompanying DWL-8600AP Unified Wireless 802.11n Dual-Band Access Points increase wireless throughput and capacity.

Hereworth’s existing switches are now connected to the new switch, effectively unifying the entire network around a centralised management point and providing additional capacity to expand the network in the future.

The solution reduces time for managing and administering Hereworth School’s network. IT staff can now easily and centrally add new devices to the network as students frequently bring new laptops into school.

The central management capabilities of the new solution also improve the level of security. Instead of monitoring the security level of each access point, the switch automatically enforces security settings to prevent unsecure wireless networks.

Students and teachers benefit from improved wireless performance and the ability to move throughout the school without experiencing wireless signal dropouts.

Additionally, the new access points suffer less interference than the previous solution, as the majority of the equipment within the school supports the 5 GHz frequency, a part of the spectrum that other wireless networks in the school’s area have yet to clog up.

“Our mobile users can now get seamless roaming between access points for clear, uninterrupted data and voice communication throughout the entire network infrastructure,” said Feltoe. “The coverage and performance of the wireless network has also been significantly increased. At the same time, the deployment was extremely quick and simple so there was very little downtime or interruption to the school.”

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