When I was a high school student, bringing a smartphone into classrooms was not permitted. If you were caught with any electronic device, it would be confiscated. Pronto.
In this new digital era, schools are embracing this transformation everywhere. Classrooms are changing, with Wi-Fi being the primary form of internet access. Students, faculty and guests also use more than one device at a time, including laptops, tablets, wearables and smartphones. As the number of devices grow, it becomes critical to plan your K-12 networks effectively and future-proof it to be able to implement newer and safer technology.
If you’re expanding, upgrading or building a secure wireless network for K-12 campus or districts, review these five helpful best practices.
1. Plan for density
Secure Wi-Fi networks are often planned based on coverage. If the wireless signal simply covers a classroom it does not signify that it can actually handle the device density in that room. With students and faculty using multiple devices, the number of devices connected to a particular wireless access point increases. Ensure that you are prepared for max traffic density in your classroom — and across the entire campus.
How? As a first approach, ensure you have sufficient coverage and layer this with density. Use a site survey tool like the SonicWall WiFi Planner to make this process easier to visualize. Next, estimate where you find max device density, peak traffic and plan your Wi-Fi deployment around this.
2. Go cloud
More applications and functions are moving to the cloud (or are likely already there). For K-12 schools untethering Wi-Fi from their wireless controller or firewalls, the cloud offers powerful infrastructure and applications to simplify management and security.
By going this route, K-12 districts and schools have the flexibility to manage wireless security solutions from the cloud, scale limitlessly and also drive down TCO.
How? Transition to a cloud-managed wireless solution. The SonicWall wireless solution can be managed by the WiFi Cloud Manager, which is a scalable, centralized Wi-Fi network management system, simplifying wireless access, control and troubleshooting capabilities across networks of any size or region.
Managing multiple management dashboards is challenging as there is a high risk of things falling through the cracks. To avoid this and to streamline the process it is essential to have a single-pane-of-glass management system with real-time analytics to capture threats and abnormalities in your network. This type of management saves you time and helps you become proactive rather than reactive.
How? Empower yourself with the right management solution to govern your entire network security ecosystem from a single dashboard. Capture Security Center is a scalable cloud-based security management system that’s a built-in, ready-to-use component of your SonicWall product or service.
Capture Security Center features single sign-on (SSO) and single-pane-of-glass management. It integrates the functionality of the Capture Cloud Platform to deliver robust security management, analytics and real-time threat intelligence for your entire portfolio of network, email, mobile and cloud security resources.
4. Enable content filtering
Wi-Fi is an easy gateway for malicious attacks. It must be protected with the right encryption and security mechanisms. Create granular policies to ensure that students are protected against malicious and non-reputable websites.
How? Ensure that you enable content filtering on your network. SonicWall provides a Content Filtering Service (CFS) that compares requested sites against a massive database in the cloud containing millions of rated URLs, IP addresses and domains. It provides administrators with the tools to create and apply policies that allow or deny access to sites based on individual or group identity, or by time of day, for over 50 pre-defined categories.
5. Future-proof with the latest technology
Ensure that you deploy the latest wireless technology in your schools. Future-proofing secure Wi-Fi is the best way to ensure that you get your money’s worth in the long term while providing the best user experience.
How? This does not mean you have to rip and replace your entire existing network. It could be a gradual approach, wherein you upgrade only critical units based on your needs. Build your network on the latest certified wireless standard: 802.11ac wave 2. Future-proof with wireless access points that are 802.11ac Wave 2-capable.
Adhering to these best practices will make your WiFi network efficient and secure — all while saving you time and money.
Tech Brief: Scan and Protect Wi-Fi Device Traffic Across K-12 Schools and Districts
Srudi Dineshan is product marketing manager at SonicWall.