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Wireless Networks Thread, New Network... Advice Needed... £££ to spend! in Technical; Right, let me start by saying hello! I have been a reader of Edugeek for a few weeks now but ...
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    mrmarsh's Avatar
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    New Network... Advice Needed... £££ to spend!

    Right, let me start by saying hello! I have been a reader of Edugeek for a few weeks now but haven't made the leap into contributing anything yet... mostly because everyone seems so much more knowledgeable than me! So, let me pick your brains and tell you about my situation - hopefully the great intellect that is Edugeek can give me some advice!

    I work in a primary school in Kent (430 pupils) that would be considered by most other primary schools (maybe secondary too!) to be spoiled rotten when it comes to ICT provisions... and we are. Money is no object! Example:

    If you went to BETT and saw the 3D imaging setup in the RM 'Futures' presentation then you would have seen the 12 grand model. Our head has a vision that the school will be a leader in primary school ICT... and is putting in an order for the 6 metre screen at a whopping 18 thousand pounds... Ouch. But I am not hear to discuss the educational merit of a 3D PowerPoint presentation... I am here to discuss how BEST to spend around 20-25 thousand pounds on a brand new "future-proof" network capable of supporting a wireless device for every child into the next 3 years.

    We currently run a 4 year old RM CC3 network that is crippled by an ageing server and wireless network running on PC World bought D-link access points. One in each classroom... 30 laptops attempting to run off one AP... It doesn't take a genius to realise that we were going to run into problems - I'm new to the school by the way, so this was done before my time

    Essentially the head has said - "rip it out and start again, here's the money..."

    This is what we have now:

    - 1 server running a CC3 Curriculum and an Admin network
    - 20 wired classroom and office desktops
    - 175ish wireless devices ( including 15 x Pupil Asus minibooks, 90 x Pupil Fujitsu-Siemens laptops, 20 x Pupil RM Laptops, 20 x Staff RM Laptops and my personal favourites 30 x Nintendo DS' and a Nintendo Wii )
    - Told you we were spoiled...
    - A wireless network of 16 D-Link Access Points (unmanaged)

    The network is failing - painfully slow - because it isn't geared up for wireless access, so I want this to be the focus of our new network.

    I've had two quotes for a full install, one from a company supplying a Ranger server the other an upgrade to CC4 from RM. However, when I spoke to both companies they seemed very wary about a wireless solution - The Ranger company advised us to build a new building and put a wired computer suite in! Now, as you can see from our current wireless requirements and vision, that isn't going to happen!

    I am totally new to large-scale networks and would love to hear what other suggestions people have. My main questions:

    - What alternatives are there to Ranger and CC4? We have no in-house tech support and only one independent contracted technician that comes in two mornings a week. I would love to know if there were any other managed solutions I could consider?

    - Is a vanilla install an option without in-house support? Does anyone have any experience of external contracted network support?

    - What wireless solutions are there out there? (I've heard good things about Aruba?)

    - Is it simply a case of looking in the Yellow pages and ringing up some network installation companies and picking their brains or is there somewhere I can go for education specialist installs/discounts?

    Sorry for my massive ramble, if you haven't given up reading yet I would love some help on this one!

    Thanks again!

    Russell

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    Hi Russell,

    Welcome to Edugeek; and don't be shy about knowledge, it's all about sharing and learning.

    Now, this here project of yours sounds quite exciting

    If the current technical support in the school can handle CC3, then I'd be inclined against changing something that works. - For god sake don't touch CC4, not yet, it's just not stable enough and will detract away from the good upgrade you could do.

    Buying a new server for £2k and migrating your CC3 install over onto it would be easy enough and would be useful for the continuation of existing built devices etc (laptops if built into CC3) otherwise it will take you some serious time in reconfiguring.

    Could even spend a little bit more and virtualise the server to give you a bit more flexibility with multiple servers in the box etc.

    A managed wireless solution I can't comment on, but we were quoted around £25k to replace ours (30 D-Link APs unmanaged). - (If you do buy a new one, can I have your old dlumps?

    I see your primary focus as being able to handle the increasing wireless demand and for that, yes, you want to get several companies in and explain your needs and have them develop a solution.

    £25k you'd think is a lot but I'm not too sure if you could afford it all especially if you opt for something like Ranger (new licenses and binning of existing CC3 ones) and install a wireless solution which for the numbers you're talking 430 kids each with a wireless device is a tall order.

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    PEO
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    stone computers do excellent servers. Also Viglen are worth getting in contact for a price on servers

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    Get a few suppliers in to discuss your wireless needs and give you quotes on hardware. I woud sugesst getting in a some larger business suppliers that deal in stuff like hp gear as you may get signifigant discounts if you are able to go with a single brand solution on top of the usual steep education discounts. I would definitely recomment big brand name servers as they are usually vastly less hassle in the long run (hp, Dell, IBM)

    It might be an idea to ask around the other schools in the area or on here to find a skilled person to contract for a short term to help out with the upgrade project and possibly help with the installation and mantiance as if you want to be a leading school you will get a whole lot further if you have someone around who can provide knowlagable advice when talking to suppliers and making plans.
    Last edited by SYNACK; 18th January 2009 at 03:46 PM.

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    We currently have an Aruba Wireless Network in place, managed

    But we will be upgrading our's in september, i cant remember the name for the life of me at the moment.. when it comes to me i will tell you lol.

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    Welcome to edugeek.

    Have you spoken to your contract IT tech about what they feel may need to be done to the system? With inside knowledge they maybe able to make some good recommendations.

    With the number of clients you are proposing a new server or perhaps 2 virtualised would definitely help. Sticking with RM if you have limited support maybe your best bet.

    Ensure your switches are all of a decent spec too (10/100/1000). HP are always highly recommended by edugeek users. Look at PoE if replacing as these will help with the wireless.

    I would advise you to get a full wireless survey done on how many APs and where they need to be located. Look for a fully managed solution, I'm sure many people will be shouting ruckus at their screens now. Ruckus are a another supplier highly recommended by edugeeks.

    You said you'd like the wireless to be the focus, but I'd do it the other way around. It will be easier to add additional APs as your number of clients grow than to replace / upgrade your servers.

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    I'll only pass on what I learned the hard way and we're currently rueing somewhat at one school that was in a similar situation.


    1. Definitely go with a managed wireless solution... Netgears offering has worked well for us but Ruckus has a more avid following... I'd recommend visiting some good examples of both before you decide.


    2. DO NOT USE Sophos as your Anti-virus option. Go with something that doesn't hold everything at gun point. This has been the one biggest issue I had with our WLAN and had I known the problems it would cause I would have seen the £300+ cost of an alternative as a bargain. FYI: We're using Avast as our system but there are plenty of discussions on this elsewhere.


    3. If you can go with Intel WLAN adaptors built in to your laptops from the get go or at least check for problems with the ones you are/might be getting with your laptops. Compatibility issues can really bind up a project like this so ensure you get Access Points and systems that support what you have. Trying to "make do" is not an option given your level of tech support.


    4. Software installs should be as local as humanly possible.. Avoid server shared resources like crazy and reduce the throughput on the wlan as a result. Things like clipart, etc... are common problem areas here.


    5. Get a decent wired structure in place for as many workstation areas, Wii's, etc... as you can, to reduce the load on the WLAN. Every machine you take off the WLAN is resources freed up.


    6. DO NOT get wireless connected printers. Get wired NIC printers and plug them into the network that way. Ignore at your peril.


    7. Look at dual band (A and B/G) and possibly even N' band Access points so you can benefit from multiple frequencies to maximise your workload.

    If you have A or B only WLAN adaptors, turn off the B frequencies and get them to use A only.. if you have B only adaptors, buy some PCMCIA cards with A, G or N on... Using B will just slow your wireless to a crawl for all B AND G band devices which is a real kick in the crotch to speeds.


    8. Mandatory Profiles from the outset... This reduces the load on the network, speeds up loading time and also ensures that you have a vanilla setup that won't change that much.


    9. Develop a comprehensive wireless usage policy so that you don't get more than 80+ wlan connected devices trying to use the same AP or set of AP's at the same time. In our school we have a strict, one trolley to be used in one block of 3 classrooms at any one time. Scheduling becomes important, as does ensuring that the laptops are charged.

    You will find that policies and the like will actually require considerable time and SMT support from the outset or the whole thing will fall on it's backside very quickly.


    10. Final point and this is more a personal observation but make sure that your tech has a decent sized work area with a 16 port Gigabit switch, lots of power sockets and total freedom so they can pull in large quantities of Laptops in one go for updates, testing and installation tasks on a regular basis.

    Laptops invariably don't benefit from being left on for things like virus updates, WinUpdates, program deployments as the teacher usually expects to turn on, log-in and GO... So regular maintenance for all this to be done is an absolute must.


    Overall I think you're going to find that 175 devices is going to be unrealistic and I would strongly recommend you do as much as you can to reduce the number that need wlan to operate. Where possible having network ports that say a third of laptops can naturally plug in to, would be well worth considering.

    Anyway, as someone who spent 6 months learning all of this the hard way... Good luck... You are going to need it

  8. Thanks to contink from:

    robins (7th February 2009)

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    Last edited by somabc; 18th January 2009 at 05:43 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrmarsh View Post
    I work in a primary school in Kent
    Go and talk to Marc (user Diello on this forum, and one of the admins) at Highworth Girl's Grammar in Ashford. You might even be one of their feeder schools, I'm sure there's some opportunity there for some collaboration (i.e. you get network advice, they get to play with your 3D display...).

    --
    David Hicks

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    Quote Originally Posted by EduTech View Post
    We currently have an Aruba Wireless Network in place, managed

    But we will be upgrading our's in september, i cant remember the name for the life of me at the moment.. when it comes to me i will tell you lol.
    Please let us know what you are upgrading to when you remember as I was always lead to believe that the Aruba was the Rolls Royce of wireless systems. Obviously you've had problems with them - what where they?

    Thanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EduTech View Post
    We currently have an Aruba Wireless Network in place, managed

    But we will be upgrading our's in september, i cant remember the name for the life of me at the moment.. when it comes to me i will tell you lol.
    Just out of interest [ as we have Aruba kit ] - what are you upgrading to ?
    We currently have x2 800's and a around 25 AP60's

    I personally think the Aruba kit we have implemented - [ and I actually managed to configure the second x800 myself ] is some of the best I have ever used for stability etc...
    Last edited by mattx; 18th January 2009 at 08:36 PM.

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    Why not contact us.
    we specialise in Primary School Networks. Although we arent in your area yet.
    but we offer free inpartial advice.
    also we are wireless specialist's..
    feel free to contact us.

    www.ictschools.co.uk


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    I can personally recommend the Netgear Solution, we have 3x controllers and 42 APs set up and once it was configured initially it just works, the only time we have issues is if we are multicasting ghost images across the network.

    The complete set up, including controllers, APs and PoE switches cost us something in the region of 12-15K (we bought stuff in batches so I cant remember all the costs involved)

    A maxed out setup of the Netgear stuff (max of 3 controllers and 16 APs per controller (48 Total) should allow you to put 3 in each classroom, giving a max of 45 wireless devices per room (roughly) As Contink said if you go for the dual band APs (A/G band) and dual band laptops the controller will distribute them intelligently and give you more bandwith.

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    Good Afternoon mrmarsh and a warm welcome EduGeek.net

    I am the senior technician for Ruckus Wireless at Net-Ctrl, Mark Power or myself may have bumped into you at the BETT show at stand G89, sharing with the EduGeek team, however we met ALLOT of people.

    Let me start by explaining why Ruckus Wireless is a great solution for schools.

    It uses a BeamFlexing technology to avoid interference allowing the client to have a strong, reliable connection at great distances in dense environments.

    It achieves this in two simultaneous methods:

    1) Hardware (The patented antenna system)

    Unlike omnidirectional antennas that radiate signals in all directions, BeamFlex directs transmit energy towards the best path to the receiving device. And unlike fixed- positioned directional antennas, BeamFlex dynamically configures and re-configures its “beam” to achieve omnidirectional coverage with directional performance within a given environment.

    2) Software (Code on top of the chipset)
    By continuously steering transmissions to high quality signal paths, BeamFlex maximizes and sustains Wi-Fi transmission speeds while minimizing transmission errors. BeamFlex stabilizes wireless network performance to enable consistent throughput at range.



    The great thing is it is around 30% cheaper that the other names, Cisco, Aruba, Bluesocket. (not that money is an issue by the sounds of it )

    If you would like more information regarding Ruckus Wireless technology please contact myself or Mark on 01472 281211 or stuart.white@net-ctrl.com.

    P.S Ruckus are holding a Webinar on the 26th if anyone is interested.

    Kind regards
    Stuart White

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    Hi Russell, if you get the chance take a serious look at the Extricom Wireless offering, you might just find that it ticks all your boxes.

    Their blanket approach and ease of use etc does beat most other systems. As a historic managed Cisco and HP provider we have now moved to the extricom solution because of the benefits they offer.

    Regards,

    Matt



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