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What advice would you give to a school wanting wifi?

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WiFi is now becoming a basic need in any primary school with the emergence of WiFi-enabled devices. Devices such as iPads and Chromebooks require a decent WiFi set up to get their full use. However, any device benefits from WiFi as the lack of wires mean extra portability. What should a school look for in terms of a WiFi set up?

There are two answers to this question, in reality, and it rather depends on your school size. Tiny schools can probably get away with a home network setup, depending on the size of the building. However, bigger schools are going to need an industry-standard set up. This will require several wireless access points, which ideally will “talk” to each other so that when you move around the building, the user won’t have to log in to the WiFi more than once.

The first piece of advice I would give is to not worry too much about knowing what to do! Setting up WiFi is an area where expertise is needed. I’ll come back to this. The second piece of advice I would give is to not be tempted to go down a cheap workaround route. There are ways to have WiFi in the school on the cheap but unless you’re completely broke, I wouldn’t do this. The final piece of advice I would give is to find a company that is local and specialises in wireless networking. Your local IT guy will only have so much knowledge.

A network specialist should be able to come to your school to develop a “heat map” of areas of your school where you’ll need a WiFi signal. After that (s)he’ll plan the number of access points you’ll need. Then you’ll get a quote. Ballpark figures for a 16-classroom school for a good network are between €10k and €16k.

Ultimately, the reason for getting an expert in is that (s)he’ll be able to do all the techie stuff and give you a quote and should be able to do all of this for free. The WiFi network that should be set up should have the capability to know when to transfer its resources according to the demand rather than spreading everything out evenly.

There are several companies out there and several brands too and all of them are much of a muchness. However, a good rule of thumb about price is if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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