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Wireless Networks Thread, So are you glad you did it? in Technical; A change from the usual techy threads. You've explained to the SMT that half a dozen 30 quid routers from ...
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    So are you glad you did it?

    A change from the usual techy threads.

    You've explained to the SMT that half a dozen 30 quid routers from PC World won't do the job, chosen Meru, Ruckus or whatever, had a site survey, gasped at the cost but managed to get funding, spent the summer installing APs and controllers, updated the AUP, given a presentation to staff on the first day back and your shiny new wireless network is up and running.

    A month into the Autumn term, The coolness of being able to check your email or catch up with the news without having to walk half way round the school to find a decent 3G signal had worn off and the invoices for the kit and installation arrive in your pigeon-hole (Accounts haven't quite reached the digital age yet).

    How many teachers and students are using the new facility? Do they use their own devices? Or did you get funding for laptops or tablets too? And most inportantlly, have lessons improved?

    Are you glad you spent the money this way or, hand on heart, would it have been better to have replaced those 6 year old PCs that nobody uses because they're too slow and unreliable or kit out another two or three classrooms with boring but cheap and reliable desktops?

    OK it would be cool to have Wi-Fi and it's nice to keep up with the Jones's and offer free Wi-Fi like Starbucks. The geek in me relishes getting stuck into an interesting project, it will look good in the cv but there is still this nagging doubt that it will all be a white elephant.

    What do those who are a year or two down the line think? Are you glad you did it? Would you do it again? Would you do anything differently?
    Last edited by ANiceEnglishman; 26th September 2012 at 07:40 AM.

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    DaveP's Avatar
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    Our wireless network has been in for over two years now and I can say that it is just another part of the network. I do want to make some changes [add a couple of transparent proxies (one for staff, one for students) and upgrade to the 'N' spec] but we would not be without it now. If we didn't have it I don't think that it would make a lot of difference but for the fact that because it is there some staff build their lessons around the fact that it is there [if you see what I mean?]

    Yes it was a pain to get done.
    Yes I would do it again.

    What would I do differently?

    • Include transparent proxies and include the 'N' wireless networking standard from the start
    • Go for a greater coverage of the school [some parts of the school still do not have wireless coverage]
    • Not be so trusting of the survey done by the installing company: They estimated one [sometimes two access point per room to give full coverage] We have found that we get the cover we need from two access points, at most, per department/block.

    That's about it.

  3. 2 Thanks to DaveP:

    ANiceEnglishman (28th September 2012), laserblazer (4th October 2012)

  4. #3

    SYNACK's Avatar
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    Managed wireless, yes. Our little stack of cheap routers were a massive problem and signal was good but performance was rubbish. Replaced it and suddenly it is much better. Still not even close to wired but the school probably saved that amount of money in my time cleaning up after the old system.

  5. Thanks to SYNACK from:

    ANiceEnglishman (28th September 2012)

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    Grey-gear's Avatar
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    Our school wireless network has always been made up of the little £30 wireless routers, at the time when the school installed a new network they decide to save money and not get any wireless points what so ever. Then the day came when a room was give 30 laptops and we need to get them working wirelessly, we had to put four wireless units in one area to get them to work and they were slow as well as not always working.

    This repeated to a few time and now almost every room has a £30 wireless routers. Luckily we are having new buildings biult with professional wireless points put in, we have one of the builds done already and it works like a dream, only problem is that the department does not have laptops there and the teachers use it more, but when the big building is finished it 'should' make wireless acess better.

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    ANiceEnglishman (28th September 2012)

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    tmcd35's Avatar
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    I'm guessing I'm in the same boat as the OP. We are made up of entirely £30 AP/Routers at the moment. Just spent the summer reconfiguring them and setting them up for best overall coverage so we do have good WiFi through out the school now, so long as we don't get too many users near one AP. I've made sure our SMT know the importance of a proper Managed WiFi system, but I've also impressed on them that we need to make sure we can justify the cost before we go ahead and do it. At the moment we can't. We don't have laptops for students to use at the moment, even teachers laptops are hardwired at the desk. We are looking into iPads for the future and that I think would give us the reason to change, either that or we may change our policy on BOYD.

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    ANiceEnglishman (28th September 2012)

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    twin--turbo's Avatar
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    We started out Circa 2004 with site wide 3com AP's, worked OK but was not fantastic.

    In 2008 we moved to a temporary site, they had previously had a failed Madge system so as part of the move we covered about 50% of the site with Cisco Light Weight AP's and controller. It was ok but the fact that 50% of the site was uncovered was an issue. Our sister site also implemented Cisco.

    For our new build we wanted 'N' so we went the Meru route, and so did our sister site.

    Very costly and rather complex, but 99% of the time it looks after itself and gives us almost total coverage.


    If I was doing it again, I would investigate Ubiquity Unify as we could probably get a similar level of performance and operation for a 10th of the cost.

    Rob

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    ANiceEnglishman (28th September 2012)

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    100% teachers wireless
    c50% support staff wireless
    c50% student devices wireless

    No BYOD other than a few ipads and phones, and a couple of test-bed student laptops.


    Yes I'd do it again. Have done it repeatedly since 2002 with a variety of vendors (at a small site but with more devices than people!). An important part of the spec is 'it must work well'.

    Having control over the hardware around the school has been important at every implementation. Knowing chipsets, firmware and drivers and being able to update them has been necessary with each new implementation to get the best from it. Support of the wireless infrastructure is also another vital piece to the puzzle. It is unlikely that without RF and Wifi expertise that you will be able to effectively troubleshoot transient problems caused by the shared nature of the medium.

    In terms of impact to the way the school operates, it has enabled staff to make use of modern technology to improve their working practice. Which translates as bringing their laptop to meetings and have the data right their when ever they need it, and working at home with the tools and resources they are going to use in lessons. It allows for more flexible use of spaces - for any room can host training sessions on "latestwebsitedeliveredservice" instead of needing to book and ICT space. For T+L the flexibility of being able to dynamically change a traditional classroom into a full ict suite by simply rolling a trolley into the room, or being able to differentiate multiple lessons simultaneously by having small groups work in teams around a few laptops across several classroom and subjects has proven to be a great success.

    The key is not only a reliable wireless infrastructure, but well chosen end user devices that match the needs of the users while also providing a low operational overhead on the IT Support services, training and evangelism.

    P.

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    ANiceEnglishman (28th September 2012)

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    witch's Avatar
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    Ruckus one school, Meru the other.
    Yes, would do it again. Both schools have sets of netbooks used constantly - often as a reference book next to their workbooks so they copy out info they want rather than cutting and pasting as they would do if in the IT suite - which has improved lessons. They are also using them out and about around the school, with cameras - they can see immediately what their videos etc look like.
    The staff like to be able to log on and then move around the school.
    Wireless netbooks are very useful if a child needs to be taken out of a room as there isnt always a pc nearby.
    What would I change?
    Transparent proxies would be useful
    A few more access points - we have lack of cover or dodgy cover in some places
    I have rarely had to touch either system - they just work

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    ANiceEnglishman (28th September 2012)

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    Managed wireless works well here - with both a large fleet of laptops (about 300) and provides BYOD for staff and students. As well as ipads and tablets etc.
    Quite an old solution now and started to upgrade the access points for N ones.
    About to roll out transparent proxy at October half term to improve BYOD and the ipads we have.
    Would certainly implement again if it was a requirement of the school and it was going to be utilised well.

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    ANiceEnglishman (28th September 2012)

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    I installed 60 Unifi Pro points over the summer at a total cost of around £10k. This was replacing a failing 3COM managed system that was about 5 years old and was falling over regularly and not coping with the increase of iPads and general WIFI connectivity. Although it was a big investment we have around 2300 students and 200 staff all of whom are able to BYOD. We also have 300 college laptops/tablets in constant use so it is heavily used. Just looking on the stats of the Unifi and it says we have on average 600 users connected at any one time in the day and around 30GB of data transferred per day. So far it’s been flawless but its early days I guess. We were quoted around £50k -60k from Aerohive plus ongoing yearly maintenance on top which wasn’t cheap for the same kind of setup so I think so far it looks like we made the right decision but I guess time will tell.

  19. Thanks to lmgtfy from:

    ANiceEnglishman (28th September 2012)

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    Thanks to all for some very interesting and useful replies.

    We are in a fairly modern building with structured cabling and well placed equipment rooms linked by a 1Gb/s backbone so it is cheap and easy to provide a wired network point wherever it's needed. Our philosophy has been to have roaming profiles and provide a computer wherever a user is likely to need one. Every room has at least four network points and a laptop connected to a projector for presentations and about 40% have up to 20 networked desktops. There are several rooms with 30 desktops for the largest classes.

    We have several laptop trolleys with cheap and cheerful routers which plug into the wired network wherever they're needed. They can be used alone for smaller classes or to 'top-up' a less well equipped room for a large class.

    We have a number of what I have christened 'reconfigurable classrooms' with wall mounted PCs. Desks can be arranged facing the PCs for a computer lesson or in the conventional way in the middle of the room.

    All this works very well for us and I can't see a reason for an extensive wireless network - 'never us a wave when you can use a wire'!

    We would probably want to provide BYOD access in a few locations - meeting rooms, senior management offices, perhaps the library and sixth form (and of course the ICT staff area!)

    I know this is a technical rather than a teaching forum but it's interesting that only one poster has really raved about how wireless has transformed lessons.
    Last edited by ANiceEnglishman; 28th September 2012 at 08:49 PM. Reason: typos

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    Duke5A's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ANiceEnglishman View Post
    I know this is a technical rather than a teaching forum but it's interesting that only one poster has really raved about how wireless has transformed lessons.
    I guess I'll make it two then. When I came into the district I'm in now they had just installed a fully managed Cisco wireless network. It consists of six buildings, 120 access points, three wireless controllers, and an install of WCS to manage it all. The place I came from had no wireless capabilities (except for access points mounted on carts) and I was extremely leery of the entire setup. The more I worked with it the more I was impressed by it. There was only 180 wireless devices in the entire district after it was setup and we're just shy of a thousand now scattered between all the buildings. Teachers have laptops and the majority of student computers are mobile netbook carts with each cart housing 30 devices. Teachers can check a cart out from the library and bring a lab's worth of machines to their classrooms. Is a matter of fact, the only buildings with dedicated, hard-wired labs are the middle and high school. Each elementary has three to four carts of thirty netbooks. It really is awesome...

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    Little-Miss's Avatar
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    Our issue arose when the head wanted Netbooks, so we had a load of bog standard WAP's. Teachers moaned that netbooks werent logging on. Told head needed managed wireless, got it installed....HP, wasnt great. Had more netbooks, wireless struggled. Had fire. Had Ruckus installed in our temp home. Worked wonderfully. Planned to install it in school, find out builders have created giant Faraday cage, council pays for more AP's...WIN!

    Netbooks are always in use here. We have 50 odd netbooks...plus staff laptops.

  23. #14

    Domino's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Little-Miss View Post
    find out builders have created giant Faraday cage,
    Errrrr, McWhut?

    On Topic: The thing to consider is Wireless as a means to an ends. When we did ours at my last place, it was as part of a multi stage push to improve the IT situation. so with BYOD and school netbooks, teacher laptops, etc there was no way a wired network could compete.

    So yeah, if anyone's doing it to be cool then they're being foolish. I'd would hope there's no edugeekers taking that path though

  24. #15

    Little-Miss's Avatar
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    Because the building had no roof for six months and basically open to the elements, when they came to put us back together they suddenly realised that the walls were a little on the wet side and werent gonna dry anytime soon. So to fix it they put metal frames on the walls and added plaster board to that (technical terms i dont remember). When i found out what they had done, i questioned how it would affect wireless to the classrooms so they agreed to put a WAPs in every classroom.



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