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Campus Install Shows Benefits of Hosted Wi-Fi

Deploying a wireless LAN requires work, and inattentiveness leads to help desk calls that no one wants. Working with a hosted WLAN provider, as I did in a recent campus project, can mean better processes and fewer issues during installation.

For WLAN, the campus uses Adtran's ProCloud service with Bluesocket 2020 802.11ac (2x2:2) wireless access points (WAPs) and Netvanta 1550 Power over Ethernet switches. Shortly after its Wi-Fi order was processed, it received an email with a survey to complete about the site and a "What You Can Expect" document.

No Detail Left Behind
We responded to the site information request, and provided a campus fire plan detailing access point locations and some wheeled distances between classrooms and other buildings. We then held a conference call with the Adtran project manager and engineer assigned to the project.

During that call, we went into more detailed site information, including static IP assignments and WAP naming. We provided information on virtual LANs, IP ranges, and the public IPs sending traffic to the host ProCloud. And we discussed expected use of applications like Skype, MeetMe, and GoToMeeting, and IP network security cameras. Our conference call lasted just over an hour.

The Adtran team gave us a site implementation turn-up date that was only 10 days out. We received the WAPs on a Friday, and had a conference call scheduled for the following Monday to test the WLAN.

Afternoon Well Spent
Given the size of the campus, number of buildings, and number of WAPs, we spent most of our time mounting the WAPs to either the ceiling grid (easy) or to concrete walls (requiring drilling) -- we placed them about 10 feet above the floor. Even with the drilling, we completed the installation on a Saturday afternoon, and, with little switch programming, set the switch ports to TRUNK and named the ports for easy identification. In anticipation of the new WLAN, and once the IP scheme had been implemented, the VLANs and premises firewall had earlier been provisioned.

We went ahead and connected the first WAP, and within minutes we had requested SSIDs and could associate the client to the WAP. The page loads were fast -- and while that's subjective, I was really pleased with the performance throughout the entire afternoon.

Easy, Fast, Effective
The ProCloud portal provides an excellent view of the WAPs with metrics on usage and other data that makes for easy management. Moving the Wi-Fi controller to the cloud makes sense, and using hosted Wi-Fi provides a level of support that eases the burden from customers and value-added resellers. The host, Adtran, maintains the WAP software, and whenever any WAP is offline it sends an email to the campus network admin, making the WLAN service proactive instead of reactive.

This process was easy, fast, and effective -- a credit to the advanced planning that took place preceding this deployment. "In Wi-Fi Gone Wrong," I wrote about the perils of this campus and its Wi-Fi network. After replacing its cabling infrastructure this summer, the layering in of the WLAN was hours of work, not days. The goal of the school is to implement a one-to-one initiative in phases so 30 clients can connect to each classroom using Chromebooks and iPads. Eventually, the school plans to use more online curriculum and testing, as well as increased collaboration between other schools and outside parties.

Wi-Fi gear that previously had suffered damage now resides in a box -- a reminder of what was poorly installed and over priced. Now the campus is lit up with Wi-Fi and the process to move into a viable WLAN solution was painless. And this translates to happier customers.

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