What you need to know to do it right.
We have seen the need for fast and reliable wireless networks increase at an exponential rate. There are many aspects driving the increasing demand on schools to implement wifi solutions. The upcoming PARCC test is creating the need for fast wireless. The BYOD explosion is creating a need for secure but simple to access wireless. Voice over WiFi applications are creating the need for intelligent wireless. With all of these needs creeping in, it can be a daunting task to choose the right technology and the right company to design, install, configure and provide support for the solution.
This all brings into question: "What do I need to consider when choosing a wireless solution?"
I, and my fingers doing the typing, wish the answer was short and succinct. However, there really are a lot of factors at play and a wide variety of technology implementations to consider. I am going to try to break down the biggest differentiators
Controller vs. Controller-less
Controller-less AP solutions have been popping up over the last few years, but what is the big difference between controller based and controller-less solutions?
Controller based solutions offer an "overlay" architechture. With an overlay wireless network you do not need to make VLAN configuration changes to the ports the APs are plugged into. The APs are able to form a GRE tunnel back to the controller, which lets VLAN configuration be kept to a minimum.
Controller-less solutions come in varying capabilities and designs. The biggest difference in the designs is how you manage them. Some solutions allow for local management of the AP while others require access to a cloud service to perform management tasks.
When choosing a wireless solution it is important to consider the radio frequency (or RF) management aspects of the system. Some systems are capable of load balancing clients accross channels or radios and some are not. Some are capable of steering a client to the 5Ghz band which has less interference and some are forced to let the client decide. Some systems have advanced technology to choose power levels and channel, while others only have basic capabilities and some can only be manually configured. It is also important to find a solution that can allow for spectrum analyzer capabilities to ease troubleshooting.
Security is annother major concern for schools. Allowing only the intended services to users is important. If outsiders are able to gain access to your network, confidential information is at risk of being accessed. Also, securing district and student owned resources from other devices can prevent time consuming infections. Another security function is guest access, some wireless solutions allow for easy configuration of guest acces while others require extensive network changes.
Application Detection / Traffic Prioritization
Some solutions have technology that can recognize and prioritize traffic to ensure the best experience. Some of the more advanced systems can even detect specific web applications and prioritize them above other web traffic. If you have applications that are critical on your network, make sure you lookinto this feature.
Choosing the right company to implement your chosen wireless solution can be just as important as choosing the right wireless solution. Make sure the company you choose has extensive RF design background and experience working in environments like yours. Even the best wireless network technology cannot overcome a bad implementation.
To find out more about wireless network solutions and to see what DCTS can do for you, contact us TODAY!
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