Google Cloud Apps Admins

9 Myths and the Truth about Wi-Fi in K-12 Education [ Wi-Fi Myths 1-3]

Written by Joey Allen (GCP Apps Admin) | January 14, 2016

Understanding the truth behind the first 3 myths of WiFi in K-12 education will not only save your school money but will improve overall network performance. In this article, we'll be dispelling the myths that you need to pay for expensive infrastructure upgrades or are required to mount one Wi-Fi Access point per classroom.

Last week we introduced you to the 9 Myths of Wi-Fi in K-12 education.  Schools need to recognize these myths and act on the truth about Wi-Fi in education to further promote collaboration and learning.

1. You need to upgrade your Switches if you're going to upgrade your Wi-Fi.

This myth is prominent because older switches may not be able to handle the maximum capacity offered by the latest and greatest in Wi-Fi technology. In a classroom environment, fortunately, this isn't true- because even with your old switches, it's very rare that your AP is going to be drawing enough from your connection to stress the network.

The reason why is mainly the kind of traffic being done on the network. Traffic such as large file transfers will slow down the network, but most of the traffic being used on a Wi-Fi network at school isn't that intensive. Most Wi-Fi traffic operates in bursts-bursty traffic includes regular email, IM and web browsing, as well as on-demand video from places like YouTube and Netflix. This kind of traffic actually won't stretch out your network's capabilities, due to how Wi-Fi works.

What will slow you down is large file transfers. However, large file transfers aren't usually taking place over Wi-Fi in the classroom, so you should be fine.

Upgrading your Wi-Fi hardware will only increase the speed at which your normal "bursty" traffic is getting through. You will see benefits from upgrading your wired network and switches if you choose, but it isn't necessary to enjoy the benefits of upgrading your Wi-Fi hardware.

2. One AP (access point) per classroom provides optimal performance.

A common issue in large places, like schools or businesses, is that access points are placed too far from each other. This means that students, teachers and employees are all straining to get a reliable Wi-Fi connection. Schools dealing with this issue may think that the opposite situation- a router in every classroom- will fix the problem, but in truth that will only raise different problems.

In most cases, too many access points results in these access points operating too close to one another. This means that they're trying to work on the same channels, which slows both of them down and makes everyone's wireless performance suffer. This is especially apparent in environments where the walls don't do much to hamper Wi-Fi signals- the interference will be at an all-time high due to all the new hardware sitting around, and nobody will be able to fix the issue.

If you've heard about this system working before, however, you may be wondering why. For some schools, this actually does work out- but that depends on materials in the building and other such environmental factors. Before rolling out new hardware, have a site survey done by a Wi-Fi professional to determine where you need new routers and how much you actually need, instead of risking throwing your money at something that doesn't actually help.

3. APs (access points) need to be mounted inside classrooms.

Unruly kids or paranoid adults (Wi-Fi will melt your brains!) may make you reconsider having your APs placed inside the classrooms. However, if you've considered moving them out to the hallways, you may have heard experienced professionals tell you that isn't a good idea- and in most cases, it isn't.

The reason why this is a problem is because, while an environment like a hallway and proper high-mounting may fix the initial issues, is that signal interference and degradation is greater in an environment where there's nothing to block the APs from interfering with one another.

If an AP needs to be mounted outside of a classroom, hwoever, this problem can be fixed. Directional antennas are a surefire solution, but omni-directional antennas from high-end business APs can work as well. With Ruckles Wireless APs, however, their antenna system can enjoy the benefits of both omni-directional antennas and directional antennas due to their BeamFlex Wi-Fi technology, which you can learn about here.

There's more to talk about, too. In the next article, we'll be going over myths 4, 5 and 6, which deal with Wave 2 APs, smartphones, security and more.  In the meantime, if you have questions contact us below - we're Ruckus wireless experts.