Selecting the best WiFi system for a school is one of the most important technology investment decisions you should make carefully.

With the implementation of 1:1 and BYOD initiatives increasing, more schools will require an upgrade to their current WiFi infrastructure. Nothing can be more frustrating than inadequate bandwidth when a class of 20 students is trying to connect their tablets to the WiFi. Losing class time and the enthusiasm to use the mobile devices does not serve well.

Bandwidth
Adequate bandwidth is crucial for a school

My first technology initiative at the school was to upgrade the bandwidth to the best available to accommodate the 20 new iPads. The second initiative was to upgrade the Wifi. Any enterprise grade system would have been a significant improvement over the inadequate “G” consumer units we had around campus, but I wanted to plan for the future. My vision was a 1:1 or BYOD for every classroom. I wanted a system that would accommodate that growth.

Choosing technology hardware can be daunting given its dynamic nature and the extensive product offerings. Where do you start? Fortunately, I found out one of my student’s father was a WiFi guru. He owned a wireless ISP on a Caribbean Island and was a real expert. Having a resource like that is invaluable. Being able to get expert objective recommendations is not always easy to come by. I suggest you always reach out to the school parents when you are making any technology decisions, you may also have an expert among them.

New Ruckus WiFi
New Ruckus Smart WiFi Controller

The brand that was recommended is Ruckus®. Well regarded by those in the know. The quality and technology are outstanding. At first we did not think we could afford the system, but fortunately Ruckus® gives substantial educational discounts making it by far the best value. Many manufacturers offer significant discounts to the education market. Do not disqualify a product based on its published pricing.

In addition to the valuable advice by this parent, he also gave up a good part of a Saturday to help me with the configuration. This saved me many hours and I learned a great deal in the process. By doing the installation ourselves, we saved the school thousands of dollars.

New Wireless Access Points
New Smart Wireless Access Points

In addition to the ten wireless access points that blanket the campus, there is an outdoor access point that will reach all the way down to the lake we are on. Students can utilize the WiFi during outdoor classes on our beautiful campus!

Some of the key features of the Ruckus® Smart Wifi are: beam steering, adaptive signal control, role-based user access, integrated features to handle BYOD challenges, adaptive mesh networking and more.

The staff and students are extremely pleased and impressed with this new system.

To learn more about the key features of the Ruckus® Smart WiFi system, visit www.ruckuswireless.com

6 Responses

  • Hi, Paul,

    This is a story with a happy ending. I really enjoyed your description of the process, the fact you engaged with a tech-savvy parent, and the fact you managed to upgrade technology at your school in a really significant way while taking into consideration costs.

    I loved the do-it-yourself approach involved as well because participants of a system are more quickly invested in it when they engage in problem-solving for that system, particularly if the problem-solving yields positive results. The same principle applies to parental involvement: I am sure that parent is now permanently linked to your school as a result of his direct participation in the wifi installation as a consultant.

    I am sure the fact that your school is small, and the fact that on the face of it, your managers trust you and let you experiment and explore new options were contributing factors in your projects’ success.

    Long live trust and independence given to do good works! This is awesome. Just awesome. I really enjoyed reading it.

    Claudia

    Reply
    • paulhaberstroh

      Hi Claudia,

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to respond. Being a small independent school does allow for flexibility and mobility with utilizing resources. If every school took advantage of the resources among it’s teachers and parents we would be able to solve many issues. I am very fortunate that the administration recognized and embraced the technology experience I have and let me put it to good use.

      We are also very fortunate to have engaged and generous parents at our school. You are correct that this parent now has a stronger connection to the school. I have also developed a stronger connection with this parent on a personal and professional level.

      Thanks again,
      Paul Haberstroh

      Reply
  • Deborah Creel

    I never thought about the person who had to make the decisions regarding technology. Thank you for your insight into what kind of things are taken into consideration while making choices on things like bandwidth and wifi. It’s great that you had a parent who could help you on your journey. I really liked the pictures you added too. It’s cool to see the technology in place and working as expected.

    Deborah Creel

    Reply
    • paulhaberstroh

      Hi Deborah,

      Getting the expert advice on the project from a parent saved me a great deal of time and research. I am also very fortunate to have a school administration committed to technology!

      Thanks!
      Paul Haberstroh

      Reply
  • I’m curious about a few technical details. What was the technology before the upgrade? I know you indicated it was 802.11g, but really if you have enough points on a mesh environment 54mbps is plenty to handle 30 or 40 connections per point as you’d get a realistic 1mbps+ connection; more than enough to handle the average webpage at reasonable speed. Did you did any other core infrastructure upgrades like total available bandwidth? Does the Ruckus product just provide bare wireless connectivity or is it doing things like content filtering, proxying, firewalling, etc?

    I ask those questions because I’m always interested to see how people solve these kinds of BYOD challenges.

    Thanks Paul; great post.

    Reply
    • paulhaberstroh

      Hi Blaine,

      The system I inherited was a dozen or so consumer “g” units. These were not meshed together and acted as individual access points. The bigger issue was they were all set to the same channel causing signal collision which then caused the units to “pull back” to avoid the conflict. As a rule of thumb, a wireless access point will deliver about 60% of spec in actual throughput. Some of the factors that affect throughput are: signal degradation, RF interference, and error detection and correction. The best throughput I measured confirmed this at around 25MBs and it was usually less. Another factor with older access points is that they will detect the oldest protocol connection and lower all connections to this level. For example, if someone had an older “b” device connected to an access point, all connections scale back to this bandwidth.

      The first upgrade I prioritized at the school was to increase the bandwidth coming in to the campus. We went from a 5MB DSL to a 100MB Cable. The second being the new Wifi. The rest of the infrastructure is adequate for now with decent switches and some glass connections. As you can see from the screenshot, I am getting 90+ at my laptop on the WiFi during a high usage time of the day.

      The Ruckus does offer comprehensive security management and we also use a SonicWall for content filtering in addition to managing individual device settings.

      The Ruckus is anything but bare bones and has technology superior to anything else I evaluated. The Smart Wifi antenna technology actually steers the beam to the best quality path making it a great solution for a BYOD initiative. This and many other patented features make it the best value for a school. I understand now why this is the recommended brand by those in the know.

      Thanks,
      Paul

      Reply

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