There’s no denying that a strong campus WiFi network is critical in terms of attracting and retaining students in higher education. You’re dealing with a user base that expects to be connected via desktop PCs, laptops, smartphones, tablets, gaming devices and more — plus the load of IoT-integrated technologies that campuses should be adopting to stay on the cutting edge and remain competitive among institutions. So, what if your campus WiFi network is actually failing?
Higher education IT professionals must be constantly evaluating the strength and performance of their network because, ultimately, if the network is not meeting the standards set by students and staff, you could be endangering your institution’s reputation and enrollment numbers — and that’s not a reality you want to let go unaddressed.
Today’s college and university users expect nothing less than sustained, reliable connectivity that doesn’t fail them. Are you meeting that expectation? Check out these five ways in which your campus WiFi network may not be performing as well as it should be, and then download your free copy of the Step-by-Step Guide to Wireless Networking for Higher Education IT Pros.
The connectivity scene for colleges and universities is wildly different today than it was a decade ago. Students and staff rely much more on WiFi than they ever have in the past. From the dorm room to the classroom, there are masses of users trying to connect.
“Much like dining halls, health centers and laundry services, Wi-Fi is considered by today’s college students to be a must-have service … 61 percent of college students have at least two devices that they want to connect to college networks. With demands like that across campuses, colleges need to take steps to ensure that students are able to access what they need for education and entertainment.” (EdTech)
If your institution isn’t accounting for this vast user base and its ramifications in terms of bandwidth, coverage and security, you can bet that students and staff are experiencing problems with your network. This is not a risk you can afford to take. It’s vital to ensure that your campus’ wireless networking infrastructure can fully support the magnitude of users expecting to connect on a 24/7 basis.
“Already, innovative colleges and universities turn to connected devices to control and monitor heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, improve campus security via IP cameras and monitor student health using smartwatches.” (EdTech)
The Internet of Things has caused a surge in WiFi usage on campuses everywhere, demanding greater performance from your network. Higher education is experiencing a proliferation of Internet-dependent devices and applications that keep institutions at the forefront of advancement. Think about whether your campus WiFi network has the capacity to fully support IoT integrations such as:
In addition, the IoT has enabled many schools to offer a more personalized experience for students, including the capabilities for staff to provide better informed academic recommendations and for students to forge connections with alumni. Again, all of this requires a high level of network performance — one that your institution may not be reaching.
“Smartphones, tablets, smart TVs and game boxes: Name any gadget, and undergrads likely own it. In fact, data from the latest College Explorer report from re:fuel agency shows that the average college student brings seven connected devices to campus. College and university network professionals, particularly those managing residential networks, must decide whether and how to accommodate the significant amounts of traffic these devices generate, taking into account student expectations, the state of current infrastructure and, of course, budget limitations.” (EdTech)
The fact is BYOD puts a heavy strain on a campus’ bandwidth, and dealing with the issue requires more than simply telling users to limit their usage. Does your wireless networking infrastructure enable your IT professionals to have a high level of application visibility and control? Have you developed policies to prioritize different applications and devices accessing the network? If the answer is no, this is a pretty big indicator that your campus WiFi network may be failing and you need to take action now.
There’s no room for error when it comes to protecting student and staff information, so it’s crucial to ensure that your campus WiFi network is protected from cyber threats like ransomware and other dangerous intrusions. Securing your wireless network must be a top priority when you’re dealing with hundreds to thousands of users connecting through multiple devices at every moment of the day.
This is especially important if you’re focused on catering to today’s campus user by providing a “free love” environment. Often, this translates to a wide-open network, one that doesn’t even require any credentials to log in. These are the least secure types of networks, posing huge risks in terms of visibility and protection.
Bottom line: If you’re allowing guests to connect to the main network and you’re not ensuring robust protection against intrusions, your campus WiFi network is failing. The good news is there are ways to provide the feel of “free love” in a secure environment that doesn’t put the institution or its wireless users at risk, and there are intrusion detection and prevention options for fortifying your network.
Ensuring extensive coverage and strong performance of your campus WiFi network demands a holistic view of the RF environment into which the network is being deployed. Keep in mind that the ages and construction materials of many campuses can span decades or centuries, which may be affecting your network design in a negative way.
As a result, it’s imperative to ensure a properly executed site survey and design. This is the only way to enable your network to support the coverage needed, the capacity for the number of devices connecting, high-bandwidth applications, seamless roaming and more.
Don’t risk the possibility of delivering a failing WiFi network that frustrates users across campus.
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