Located on over 200 acres at the height of historic Thetford Hill Green in Vermont, Thetford Academy is an independent school of approximately 300 students in grades 7 to 12. Established in 1819 (making it Vermont's oldest secondary school), Thetford has a small college campus feel with multiple buildings surrounding a central quad.
The school’s wireless network was “hobbled together” with a mix of Apple Airport base stations and NetGear and Linksys access points, explained Glen Page, the school’s IT administrator. “Nothing we had was really designed for anything other than a small home network,” he said. The resulting network simply couldn’t keep up with student and teacher demand.
Page’s goal was to cover the entire campus with a fast, reliable wireless network, but finding a product that could deliver what he was looking for at a price that made sense proved challenging. After learning about Open Mesh from a friend who had installed a network at a college, he knew he had found what he was looking for.
Page purchased 25 Open Mesh 802.11n dual band access points, which he hardwired in throughout the campus with the help of some existing switches and cabling, fed by a 20Mbps fibre pipe to the Internet. The self -healing, self-configuring access points gave Page several features that were either not found anywhere else, or only in products costing far more.
Page configured the network with Open Mesh’s cloud-based network controller, CloudTrax. He set up an open public network, which provides visitors with isolated, secure tunnels to the Internet. Page also enabled a closed, WPA2-encrypted network in bridge mode, which gave authorized wireless users seamless access to LAN resources.
Page decided on locally hosted open-source products such as pfSenseand Untangle to handle his firewall, content filtering and device registration for both students and teachers. The hardware and access points integrated seamlessly with each other.
Page said the result was a definite success. “I have huge numbers of simultaneous users all over campus and have little or no complaints. The students and teachers love the fact that the entire campus is blanketed in wifi.”
Page said that CloudTrax makes it easy for him to monitor the network and add or replace access points as needed, greatly reducing costs and the time he’d spend on network maintenance.
“I used to spend hours programming each access point and would have to do it again if someone pressed the reset,” he explained. “Now, I just edit the CloudTrax map and plug in the new Open Mesh device and I’m done.”
Page said he was impressed with Open Mesh’s support when he needed it, and that he plans to buy more Open Mesh equipment in the future.
He offered this advice for others considering deploying Open Mesh in similar situations: “Go for it.”