How to avoid the Wi-Fi blues in academia

3. Enable robust wireless security

Security on campus is important for students, faculty, and guests alike. Following best practices will maximize the security of the wireless network, for example by enabling strong WPA2-based encryption and access control, applying appropriate group-based policies to allow faculty and staff access to data not accessible by students or guests, providing guest access that is isolated from campus servers and resources, and protecting the network against viruses through network access control (NAC).

Especially for schools that need to meet CIPA requirements, content filtering can be critical and will also need to be enforced on the wireless network.

4. Manage application traffic

Data consumption by students won’t slow down anytime soon, and network administrators need to prepare for the bandwidth strain students will bring.

By keeping a close eye on application traffic, administrators can ensure no single application is hogging most or all of the bandwidth and degrading the wireless experience for students using other applications. Identifying the most bandwidth-hungry applications and throttling them to manageable speeds will help ensure that critical tools, such as learning applications, perform adequately and meet the needs of teachers and students.

Organizations concerned with the potential legal implications of student file sharing can also use traffic shaping to throttle or even block peer-to-peer applications, such as BitTorrent, Gnutella, and encrypted peer-to-peer programs.

5. Use centralized tools for troubleshooting and multi-site management

Using cloud-based networking tools lets administrators manage campus-wide wireless and even perform live troubleshooting tasks on network infrastructure and client devices.

School districts with distributed multi-site networks and universities with extended branches and campuses will especially benefit from centralized monitoring and management tools, access point provisioning, network-wide visibility and control, and firmware updates.

It’s clear the proliferation of devices such as smart phones and tablets will only continue, and education networks are at the forefront of wireless bandwidth consumption. Students using iPads, iPhones, and laptops have an insatiable demand for bandwidth across all kinds of applications. By following the best practices above, network administrators can take a huge step toward providing reliable, high-performing, and secure networks.

Campus wireless doesn’t have to buckle under the strain of students and faculty, and cloud-based networking provides network administrators with the tools they need to ensure a superior wireless experience for all.

The author is chief technical officer and cofounder of Meraki.

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