Is your network ready for iPad deployment?
The iPad recently passed its fifth birthday. In half a decade it has defined a new product category (that we didn’t even know we needed!) and became the essential gadget for many: from boardrooms to production lines; living rooms to aeroplanes, tablets have infiltrated every part of modern life. Our sector is no different and for schools and colleges iPads are the in-fashion educational accessory – but is your infrastructure ready to support them?
“We want to buy 1200 iPads so each child has their own learning tool, and we also want to let anyone who has their own to bring that in too”
Well, you’re not alone if you can relate to this scenario, it’s become reality for many educational Network Managers. Regardless of the recent high-profile issues in the states (read this if you’ve not heard about the schools looking for a $1.3bn refund after their iPad investment didn’t live up to expectations), increasingly schools are idolising the iPad as the last word in ed tech for the 2010s. Despite the lack of ICT funding, the benefits of iPads have persuaded many schools in the UK to find the money and invest in them. This is great for teachers and pupils, but what about us IT guys who have to look after them? Here are some thoughts on how we, the IT professionals, can organise our back-end to support the demands of school-wide tablet deployment.
1) Top of the list (before you buy the iPads!) must be infrastructure. In the olden days (well, a few years ago anyway), we often responded to tenders where it was very important that 30 students in one area could access the wireless system in a reasonable time. A 1-2-1 iPad deployment makes these requirements seem trivial. No longer do you get the odd classroom with a trolley of laptops in it with everyone filling in an Excel spreadsheet. In our iPad world, every child in every classroom will have a device running a multitude of (often online) apps. The ‘instant on’ capability of tablets and smart phones also means you instinctively use them more. So, not only will we have many more devices on the network, but they will be used much more too. All this means that you will need a managed wireless system.
Needless to say, you will want a system with a hefty bandwidth capable of handling this traffic. But be very careful about which one you choose – not only will it need to support the volume of traffic, but it will also need to roam successfully as most of the devices attaching will be mobile. You also need to consider wireless systems that will allow you to secure your corporate network away from the BYOD devices. (CSE can help with that)
2) Your next point to think about is what happens after the wireless access point (WAP). Each WAP will probably connect to your network at 1Gbps – fine (although not in the long term, Wireless AC Wave 2 will allow connectivity at even higher bandwidths). But what if you have 10 WAPs on one of your switches all with 30 users connected and active? This is 300 concurrent users; simple maths will tell you your 1Gb unmanaged switch is not going to be OK with this.
So you need to consider switches. You need very quick, highly scalable, configurable managed switches, to deal with the high amount of traffic your end users will be creating. Ideally this will mean 10Gb connections back to a redundant managed core.
3) Your next requirement is, of course, a decent Internet connection to deal with all these browsing users. You have that? Great, but make sure your filtering system is also up to scratch. If it is, even better, but does it come with a transparent/auto proxy? If not you will be inundated with “I can’t get on the internet on my device” support calls – teachers won’t want their BYOD users to need to put in a proxy manually, delaying learning.
Once you’ve considered the above, you’re ready to get your strategy together and work out if/how you are going to manage all these devices – and find a good way to break the news to your SMT about the upgrades required for the infrastructure before they can buy all those shiny iPads!
CSE Wireless Solutions
CSE has huge experience of installing enterprise wireless systems into schools and colleges.
We offer a tailored, scaleable solution for any establishment; from the smallest primary
school to the largest new build.