Going Wireless

How to set up a wireless internet network in your school

What is wireless internet?

What Is Wireless? | Internet Setup
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Understand how to set up a large wireless network

A large wireless network, such as in a school, requires a more intense network than just a wireless router. A large wireless internet requires access points. Watch the video below to learn more about access points:
What Is a Wireless Access Point? | Internet Setup
A large wireless network utilizes a set up similar to the diagram below. A router is connected to access points. The number of access points needed depends on many factors (explained in the next section). When connecting to different access point, users are connecting to the the SAME wireless network (known as an SSID) - this is one of the main advantages to utilizing access points.
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Formulate a Plan

The next step to setting up a wireless network in your school is to formulate a plan by defining the needs and goals of the project. This is very important to ensure you don't waste valuable resources such as time and money. Answer the following questions:

  • Who is going to need access to the wireless network? (teachers, administrative staff, students, guests, etc.)
  • Where will wireless coverage be required – parts of the building, the whole building, the grounds etc?
  • How many devices need to access the network, and how many are expected to be accessing the wireless points simultaneously?
  • Will users be allowed to connect personal devices to the network? If so, consider that the average user has three devices (cell phone, tablet, and laptop) and add this to the total devices that will be connecting to the network.
  • Are there likely to be clusters of users and peak periods of activity?
  • Will the wireless network need to grow in the future, by either extending the range of the network, or through increased usage?

Access Points, Access Points, Access Points, Oh My!

Next, determine the number of access points needed and where they should be located. It is recommended to get a map of your school to help you through this process.

When determining where access points should be located, consider that each access point must have power. Access points can receive power through an electrical outlet, or you can purchase access points that supply power over ethernet (PoE). However, PoE access points are more expensive. Review this website for more information regarding PoE access points.

When purchasing access points, ensure that you purchase business-grade, not consumer-grade access points.

By default, access points are configured to a specific channel. Access points that are adjacent to each other need to be set to different channels or the signals from the access points may overlap and interfere with one another. Below is an image illustrating how to set different channels for adjacent access points:

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Consider Security

Simply installing a wireless network leaves the network exposed to security threats, because anyone can access the network. The main advantage of a wireless network (that devices don't have to be physically connected in order to communicate and share resources) is also the main security threat. You will need to work with your school to determine what level of security is needed and what steps you need to take to ensure the network meets those security standards.

This article recommends dividing networks into two main categories: the convenience network with basic personality and the critical network where performance and security are essential.

Consider Management

Having a large wireless network means that you will need a method for managing that network. It is recommended to utilize a cloud-based management console such as Cisco Meraki. Cloud management tools will allow you to completely manage the network over the Internet. This article explains other management options available.

Consult experts and other schools

Throughout the entire process, consult experts and other schools to ensure you are making the best, most up-to-date decisions.

Test and Adjust

Once the network is ready, let the users test it! Be prepared for glitches and adjust accordingly.