Decisions, Decisions

Should I outsource my school’s Wi-Fi network?

GUEST COLUMN | by Jason King

CREDIT ADTRANPicking up from our last discussion around cloud wireless, let’s take a look at the specifics for when a school district should move forward with either an on-premises or managed Wi-Fi solution.

From a greater number of mobile devices on the network to digital education initiatives to online learning and flipped classrooms, there are a growing number of market drivers making this decision more critical than ever before. Ultimately, a loss in connectivity can result in lost productivity and frustrated students and teachers.

Giving students an education that facilitates long-term academic success while instilling confidence and critical thinking skills requires a modern curriculum and a dependable network.

With this in mind, when does it make sense for a school district to make the switch from an in-house Wi-Fi solution to a managed offering?  Key to this decision is to ask the following questions:

Question 1: Single-site, Multi-site and Multi-tenant facilities – does the district have difficulty managing multiple buildings?

For smaller school districts or private schools where there are fewer buildings, an in-house Wi-Fi solution might make the most sense. If the school doesn’t have the IT staff needed to manage multiple properties, then a managed Wi-Fi service might be the best way to go, so that everything is centralized with one provider.

Question 2: Wireless network expansion driven by BYOD – is the district able to keep pace with the number of new devices coming onto the network?

Many school districts are facing a growing number of devices on their network. This is being driven by both BYOD and 1:1 computing programs, where wireless devices are becoming the norm in the classroom. Does your IT staff have the expertise to handle the on-boarding of all these devices? There is software to help combat this trend, but many are turning to a managed solution to offload the burden.

Question 3: Limited IT resources – does the district have enough resources to manage the network?

Many schools focus on a student to teacher ratio in order to determine if the learning environment is being optimized for individual attention and student success. Flip that around and consider your school’s IT staff to student ratio. If you start trending too high, a managed solution might be the right move.

Question 4: Day-to-day maintenance/management – is the IT staff getting bogged down in routine tasks?

If the staff is limited, the district could benefit from offloading typical IT burdens and allow their existing resources to focus on what they do best—serve their students and faculty.

Question 5: Wi-Fi security – are you able to keep up with the security demands?

Today’s IT staff needs to have real-time and historical reports and trends into network health, users, connected devices, capacity and usage. Only then can they make informed decisions on network investments, which include whether to go with an on-premise or managed solution, to improve the user experience.

Critical to all of these questions is making sure the district also has the flexibility to go from an outsourced model to bringing management back in-house – especially important, knowing that E-rate funding has no guarantee year after year. Also, most school districts do not want to get locked into a long-term subscription model.

A school system’s first priority is students. Giving them an education that facilitates long-term academic success while instilling confidence and critical thinking skills requires a modern curriculum and a dependable network. That’s why the network solution needs to be one that enriches this experience and puts learning above all.

Jason King is the director of marketing for the Bluesocket Business Group at ADTRAN. With over 15 years’ experience in the industry, he is responsible for the overall promotion and positioning of the company’s Wi-Fi solutions. Find him on Twitter @jjking24

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