WIRELESS NETWORKING FOR THE EDUCATOR - PART 1
"PRIOR PLANNING PREVENTS PISS POOR PERFORMANCE"
There are many things to think about when planning a wireless network for a school environment. Your wireless network must be secure, must be able to handle teachers and staff work loads, and finally provide wireless access for mobile laptop labs for students. Combining all the above could be seem very difficult considering most schools will have about 100 staff members and over 500 students.
The first stage of planning your network is to discuss with staff what a wireless network will and won't do. Find out exactly the areas where the staff will and won't need wireless access. Will the staff or students need access in the gym area? Will the students need wireless access outdoors? How many wireless laptops will be accessing the network? What applications do the staff intend to use while using the wireless network? What applications will the students be using on the wireless network? Keep asking questions until you feel everyone understands the capabilities of a wireless network. If you fail to ask many questions it could cost your district a lot of time and money on something that doesn't fill the schools needs.
Wireless networks in schools will usually have to support the following missions. A common need is to provide access for mobile laptops labs for students. Students use the labs to surf the internet, access network servers and perform research. Your network will need to support over twenty students accessing your wireless network in one area at the same time.
Mission two,, outdoor wireless access. This can provide a great learning opportunity for students to take technology out of the class room and perform science experiments via wireless computers. Great for students, but a large potential headache to secure an outdoors wireless network.
Mission three, provide teachers and staff members wireless network access to move through out the schools with out having to reconfigure their laptop every time they switch rooms. Seamless wireless access is a must for educators who are usually strapped for time and have little technology training. Your network needs to flexible enough to handle staff training sessions and conference rooms.
Mission four, Security. Providing wireless access for schools is one thing, providing secure wireless access in a school environment can be very difficult. Security in schools is often the last concern so when planning for your network explain all the wireless security threats to your planning committee so they know you just can't throw wireless access points around the network and expect things to go well. Students are very smart and often more computer savvy then teachers so if you have an open wireless network it will be exploited with in the first day.
Once you have performed your recon and asked every question you can think of, it's now time to think about what hardware for your wireless network. In the next installment of this series we will talk about wireless adapters, wireless access points, different vendors and how to start your purchasing.