When the Burrton, Kansas School District began making plans to roll out an iPad pilot program throughout their K-12 campus, District IT Coordinator Brian Watts knew their current wireless network wouldn’t be able to handle the increased load.
The existing 802.11g Cisco system was becoming increasingly unreliable, with the outdated hardware causing issues like frequent dropped connections, dead zones, and inconsistent coverage. Additionally, there was no way to give guests with their own devices access to the WiFi network without also exposing the schools’ LAN.
“Lots of concrete made it difficult for previous access points to penetrate walls,” says Watts. “And because there was no central controller, it was difficult to configure.”
After evaluating several alternatives, Watts decided on an Open Mesh solution. He installed 27 Open Mesh 802.11n access points initially—most as gateways using pre-existing cabling—then added six more to expand coverage to previously unreachable areas.
Using CloudTrax, the free cloud-based network controller, Watts gained centralized configuration, management and monitoring for the network. He set up two SSIDs, allowing the students and teachers to connect to the private, secure LAN while pushing guests to the public network.
The end-user experience changed immediately.
“We used to struggle daily with dropped connections,” says Watts. “Now, if there is a network problem, nine times out of ten it isn’t a WiFi issue.”
Watts notes that teachers love not being kicked off the network when there are too many people online, and guests are now able to connect to WiFi as soon as they arrive on campus.
“Dual SSIDs made guest WiFi a snap,” says Watts. “And the cloud controller is very easy to use.”
Watts points to cost as one of the key advantages of the Open Mesh system at Burrton.
"Overall, we felt Open Mesh gave us the greatest ROI for our school."
“The low cost of the system allowed us to purchase more access points to cover a wider area,” he says. “For less than the cost of three of the other guy’s access points, we were able to provide solid coverage to our whole campus—and use the cloud controller for free.”
“Overall, we felt Open-Mesh gave us the greatest ROI for our school,” he adds.
With Open Mesh, Watts was able to open up new opportunities for the school and community at large. For example, by installing an access point near the football field, the high school is now able to stream football games online; something that was never possible with the old system.