As the case with most schools equipment has been purchased throughout the years and it's all now a bit of a mess.
There is about 35 cat5 PC's cabled to the network area (pictures) and 60 wireless laptops running from a draytek vigor.
We are getting some slowness and the 60 extra laptops that try and connect wirelessly through the draytek vigor struggle and it means starting up 10 at a time as all at one go causes most to not connect. I assume the current equipment is not up to it.
I've uploaded these pics to show you what we have, I don't have much experience with network infrastructure so need some help, there maybe something very obviously wrong. The school have got some money and would like to modernise sort out the slowness and laptop issue.
I can supply any more info you need and I'm sure you'll need lots but I thought I'd start with some pics and a basic out line of what we have.
Any comments on the current hardware or recommendation of a company to sort this out?
Well, the setup is certainly a recipe for things to be very slow.
60 laptops is far too many to connect wirelessly to a single access point - you would need a lot more than one of even Enterprise class APs to support that number of laptops, never mind trying to do it with a consumer/SME type router that it appears you are trying to use.
The wired infrastructure shouldn't be too much of a problem, but you will need to look at providing more wireless access points for the laptops to connect to.
Ok well that's a great start, any suggestion or recommendation of AP and how many laptops per AP?
If the laptops are all in one area, in theory you can have 3 Access Points on channels 1, 6 and 11 to keep them in totally seperate frequencies. You don't have to do anything special with them, just make sure they are all setup on the same SSID with the same security key and the laptops should roam to their nearest AP. Of course this can cause problems if they are all at one end of the room or something like that.
As you only have a relatively small number of wireless machines you might want to look at locking the MAC addresses of the machines to specific access points if you use 3, which can be done on most decent access points in the AP software itself. However this could prove detrimental if only 20 machines were used and they happened to be all locked to the same AP - so it depends how the machines are used within the school as to what approach you'd want to take.
The thing you have to remember about wireless networks is the 54MBs is shared between all the devices connected to it, therefore with all 60 on each machine is in theory getting <1mbs data rate. Even 20 machines to an AP is pushing it if they are all accessing data at the same time, although it depends how intelligently the AP handles the data.
We run upto 25 machines on a single AP here in some areas, but I've worked really hard to optimise our network to perform well with wireless devices (mandatory profiles etc.) even then it's still slow, but such is life - there's only so much you can do. The key thing to remember is wireless will always be slower than a cabled connection no matter what you do.
I wouldn't worry about upgrading the wireless cards to be 802.11n as you are unlikely to get 54Mbs out of them with 60 laptops in use regardless of the speed of the Access points. You can do this as part of your normal rolling replacement program.
Spend the money on good quality APs instead, 802.11n capable. If you use 3 APs I'd be tempted to spread them out a little. for example one each side of the room you indicated and one close to the ceiling in the room below. This should give you the cover in that room and allow some of the laptops to be used in the surrounding rooms. This of course will depend on the structure of the walls and floor. If you can try to go for 4 APs and cover the whole area.
As for the comms cab - it's hard to say without a more detailed inspection of the setup but a Gigabit link between switches would help which will probably mean replacing the ones you have from what I can see.
Last edited by alan-d; 5th February 2010 at 06:58 PM.
Spend the money on good quality APs instead If you use 3 APs I'd be tempted tp spread them out a little. for example one each side of the room you indicated and one close to the ceiling in the room below. This should give you the cover in that room and allow some of the laptops to be used in the surrounding rooms. This of course will depend on the structure of the walls and floor.
I've seen a school try this and fail miserably. If you need to run 60 laptops together in close proximity then you might want to look into managed wireless systesm such as Ruckus.
The problem with running multiple AP's close togther like that is the laptops will always try latching on to the AP with the strongest signal first and you have no control over which that will be. So you get 60 laptops all trying to logon to the same AP at once. The laptops will keep trying to connect for about 30sec before falling over to the AP with the next strongest signal.
So the last 10-20 laptops could take over 1min before they've got a signal and can connect to the network. Unfortunately staggering logons doesn't work either.
Sorry - I forgot to mention it should be a managed system. Ruckus will handle it quite easily and we have had 60+ laptops in use at the same time in the same area of the building, but not in the same room with no problems. There are other makes that are reportedly very good too .
I also forgot to mention - If you do change the switches, make one of them a POE capable one, then if you use POE APs it will reduce the need for power cables and extra power sockets.
Last edited by alan-d; 5th February 2010 at 07:45 PM.