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Union School District

  
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CHALLENGES

  • Deploy a reliable wireless network to support use of mobile devices in classrooms
  • Eliminate bottleneck issues for Wi-Fi users
  • Eliminate Wi-Fi failures
  • Reduce time spent by IT staff on managing wireless network

RESULTS

  • Students and staff accessing the Internet from classrooms, media centers, libraries, dedicated labs and administrative offices
  • Labs able to handle 30-plus computers simultaneously
  • Creating separate networks with different security levels for teachers, students and guests
  • Using mesh capability of the Aerohive APs to provide network connectivity to outlying portables

 

Case Study: Union School District, San Jose, CA

The Challenge
Union School District’s history stems back to 1858 when children attended a portable one-room schoolhouse that was pulled from ranch to ranch by a team of horses. Today, however, “portable” refers to mobile devices such as iPads and laptops. Like many school districts, Union was in need of a reliable wireless network to support the use of mobile devices in classrooms.

Aerohive Helps School District Put the Management into Wireless NetworkingOver the past few years, Union had been performing major upgrades to its wired network, which included T1 lines that provided the connectivity between sites. Bottleneck issues were plaguing the school district, and although they were able to solve this problem with fiber upgrades, throughput issues were only resolved for wired users.

Wireless connectivity was being provided by access points (APs) that were installed by school faculty and staff that were home vs. enterprise-class systems. When there was a problem, a lot of IT staff’s time was taken up managing them individually. At certain times of the day, there was so much congestion, only half of the laptops in the school’s lab were able to get online. Often times, schools experienced Wi-Fi failures that required hands-on help from IT staff.

Additionally, about a year ago the district experienced a significant increase in netbooks and laptop computers. The wireless connectivity problem was destined to get worse without a change in the district’s Wi-Fi strategy.

“We still had an Achilles heel and that was our wireless connectivity,” said Alan Fillmore, Director of Technology, for Union School District, which is located in San Jose, Calif. “We started looking for an enterprise-class solution that would allow us to bring the 802.11n standard into our network.”

The Solution
As soon as Fillmore and Sean Mulligan, the district’s network engineer, learned of Aerohive and its controller-less architecture, they were hooked. The school district was already testing a controller based system but did an about face after being introduced to Aerohive for the first time during a webinar.

“For the price and distributed, controller-less model, we felt it was a better fit for our needs,” said Fillmore.

The Results
Union School District is nearing completion of its Aerohive WLAN deployment that will span nine locations.

In total, 4,800 students and 400 staff will be accessing the internet from classrooms, media centers, libraries, dedicated labs and administrative offices.

The results of Union’s Aerohive deployment have been immediate, says Fillmore. As far as the teachers, instruction is easier and faster. Also, the labs are able to handle 30-plus computers simultaneously in comparison to bygone days when the system maxed out at 10 to 12 clients.

“If schools purchase laptop carts in the future, I feel confident we can get at least 30 laptops online at the same time. That simply was not possible with the previous non enterprise-class APs,” Mulligan adds.

There is also a major difference in how the district is able to manage its Wi-Fi network, says Mulligan. “Under our old model, if somebody couldn’t get onto wireless, it was very difficult to track the problem down. We had to send somebody out there to restart the wireless access point, and that still may not have resolved the issue.”

However, the district is now using Aerohive’s HiveManager Network Management System (NMS), which lets IT staff look at the clients, see where they have roamed, see the last time they connected, and see how strong the connection is.

“HiveManager gives me so much more power in trouble shooting issues. I never have to send anybody out to a school just to reset an access point,” says Fillmore. “HiveManager makes it so much easier for us because we are deploying so many APs, we need that centralized management to keep an eye on all of them.”

As with any organization, security is extremely important to Union School District. Prior to Aerohive, the district had “almost no way of keeping our wireless network secure,” says Fillmore. “There were a lot of security holes due to our old, non enterprise-class APs.”

However, using HiveManager, Union’s staff is now able to see who is connecting to the WLAN at any given moment, and he can easily see if there are any rogue APs that need to be shut down.

The district has also expanded its use of virtual LANs (VLANs), to a greater capability than was previously possible before Aerohive. There are separate networks with different security levels for teachers, students and guests.

“We can break up SSIDs based on the users, and that also enhances the security,” says Mulligan. “For example, we can better manage network resources, including levels of internet access for teachers based on the SSID or user identity, and yet more strict for students and guests.”

As one example of the Aerohive WLAN in action and improving the education experience, Fillmore describes the success it’s already had with an intervention program.

One school had a portable classroom without network access. This room was used for an intervention program targeting students with reading problems which required use of network-intensive learning programs. The district was able to use the inherent mesh capability of the Aerohive AP, using one radio to provide local Wi-Fi access to the portable classroom and the second radio to mesh back to the main campus Wi-Fi network, solving the connectivity problem for this classroom at no additional cost.

“The schools didn’t want to miss the education opportunity with these students, so what we were able to do was use the Aerohive system to provide a high-capacity network in that classroom,” says Fillmore. “The district uses a variety of technology systems to support the regular curriculum with intervention programs. As a result we have some of the highest test scores in the state. We see tremendous value in technology-assisted education, and our Aerohive solution has certainly helped us achieve those results.”