How and When to Set Up A Small Wireless Network In Your School
Limited wireless networks are just what they sound like: small networks with limited range that cannot handle the demands of, say, the entire population of a large high school full of students, faculty, and staff all carrying one to three personal devices. Small networks cannot handle the bandwidth demand from multiple classrooms of students streaming videos at approximately the same time while all classrooms report their attendance at the top of the hour and district emails regarding cybersecurity threats go out.
Potential Small Wireless Network Areas:
- Administrative Offices
- Small Administrative Office, Small Multimedia Lab/Library, Mobile Computer Lab
- Any staff that needs to be (literally) mobile/wears multiple hats
- Very small elementary school. Teachers who are using iPads or something to take attendance. Small schools might make it with a few high-powered wired PCs and Printers, plus a wireless network for the other stuff.
- Annexed community (e.g. a construction module office or library)
Small networks range from a small administration office with a skeleton staff to several offices, connected printers and copiers, and a couple of dozen devices spread across a tiny school (and that’s stretching it to its limits). Anything more than that and a larger network is necessary.
What is a wireless network?
Wireless networks, or Wi-Fi networks, are networked radio signals that relay information (data) from the internet to devices (laptops, desktops, mobile phones, tablets, etc.). Over the years they have improved to the point that they are as secure, reliable, and fast as most wired networks.
Advantages Of A Small Network
Small schools or contained school communities can benefit by having a faster connection on the limited space. It costs less to install and maintain a small network as well, and its general exclusivity makes it a more secure method to share and receive data.
Certain types of information or use are better on a wired connection. So one of the advantages of using a limited, small wireless network is that in an office with equipment better left on a wired connection, such as a dedicated printer or copier, wireless can be for everyone else, or for other appropriate devices as you see fit.
Where To Start
Like with any project, you must determine the scope, budget, and overall goals. What is this network supposed to be able to do? How many devices should it be able to support, and at what bandwidth? You need to know what your goals are, what the scope of the project is, and the budgeting limitations.
You’ll want your main office, the library, and maybe a small computer lab or mobile lab (cart with laptops) to have Wi-Fi. Any other computers would need to be wired or else you’d have to get a much larger system.
This small Wi-Fi network can be a separate network from the rest of the school, to separate
one network from the other for security or speed purposes, or it can be used in a smaller school, or only by a select group of people.
What Should The Small Network Be Able To Handle?
Think about the demands that each individual might put onto the network. Employees, teachers, students , and guests may be on the network if that’s what your school decides, and they will each have their own needs. In an elementary school, very few students will have their own personal devices on them at all times, and even fewer will be using internet access on those devices. This is why the small network might be all right for a small elementary school but not appropriate for a secondary school, where students often have two-three devices.
Account for at least two devices per employee on the network. They will likely have personal devices such as laptops, smartphones, or tablets that they may want to use in addition to work-provided devices.
Once you have the scope down, you can move on to the next phase: choosing your equipment.
- Ethernet Cables
- Access Points
If you have a small school or limited wireless needs to think about, go for the smaller wireless network. It offers convenient connectivity and could also be a way to test the waters on a wireless set-up. Further, elementary schools with fewer unknown devices being brought in could benefit from not wasting money on a monster system too large for the needs of the school. No matter what you decide, make sure that you properly measure the resources that you will need.