How Cutting-Edge Software Can Improve Colleges’ Connectivity

Sophisticated analytics tools are all but a must in increasingly complex networking environments like colleges and universities.

“Over the past five years…bandwidth demand by students has been increasing, [placing] colleges and universities…amongst the most demanding wireless environments today,” explains the 2017 State of the ResNet Report. In fact, over half (54%) of today’s college students bring at least two internet-connected devices to campus on a daily basis, and an additional 22% bring three or four.

This mass digitization of higher education has its benefits — one survey found that three-quarters of college students believe that internet-connected devices have had a “positive” or “significantly positive” effect on their studies — but it also comes with challenges. Students use campus WiFi for things like researching and emailing professors, but they also use it for high-bandwidth, non-academic activities like video streaming and cloud-based device backups.

As a result, campus networks are frequently overloaded with traffic, leading to persistent connectivity problems. This phenomenon is so widespread that over 20% of college students rate their school’s WiFi as either “fair” or “poor.”

Luckily, as highlighted in a recent EdTech Magazine piece, some colleges and universities are beginning to tackle these campus WiFi challenges by adopting sophisticated network analytics and network overlay tools.

 

Buck(eye)ing the Trend

At The Ohio State University (OSU), for instance, IT staffers have long struggled to manage the campus’ sprawling network of 12,500 WiFi access points (APs). Despite being subjected to roughly 135,000 unique devices per day, OSU’s campus networks are managed by just three in-house network engineers.

While the OSU IT team has no trouble getting its hands on network data, it has had trouble leveraging that data to create better end-to-end connectivity. “We had a lot of good tools that showed granular data, but we didn’t really have a high-level view showing performance trends or behaviors,” admits OSU Network Access Manager Ryan Holland. “We were able to get fine details, but we were so deep in the weeds that we couldn’t see the whole field.”

Relying on activity logs and user incident reports to identify network pain points eventually became untenable for Holland and his team, and they decided to invest in Aruba NetInsight. By filtering data gathered from the OSU networks’ APs through advanced machine learning-powered analytics, NetInsight provides Holland and co. with actionable insights for improving WiFi connectivity across the campus.

“Having a tool like this allows us to pause and ask whether we can use our time a little bit better and work smarter to fix problems that don’t affect just one or two access points, but instead tens or hundreds,” says Holland.

In the short time since its adoption, NetInsight has helped the OSU IT team discover a configuration error that was preventing hundreds of students from using eduroam, reconfigure a set of APs that were artificially capping the number of users they were allowing to connect, and more, making it all well worth the investment.

 

The Networking Experts

At Turn-key Technologies, platforms like NetInsight serve as the foundation of much of the work we do. Our network technicians pair their award-winning industry expertise with top-of-the-line analytics tools to perform comprehensive site surveysnetwork assessments, network cleanups, and more.

While we’ve honed our skill-sets across a wide variety of fields, we have nearly three decades of experience working specifically with institutions of higher education. We recognize the pivotal role that reliable connectivity plays in the modern academy, and we can help any institution build the network capacity it needs to meet — and even exceed — students’ sky-high expectations.

By Craig Badrick

June 12, 2018

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