Network Yoga: PE for your school’s infrastructure

Many schools and colleges have yet to make the leap to a fully connected environment, says NETGEAR’s Tris Simmons

The IT landscape in schools and colleges has changed dramatically over the past 10 years. Once confined to a few desktop PCs in the reception and library, staff and pupils alike now demand instant connectivity throughout the school across a plethora of devices.

However, many schools and colleges have yet to make the leap to a fully connected environment, often constrained by concerns around increased IT support and inflexible network structures. Yet, in reality there’s never been a better time for them to embrace a fully connected environment to benefit both staff and students. 

At the same time, as the number of devices connected to the network continues to increase, so do the headaches associated with managing these devices and the network infrastructure. Many schools are burdened by an eclectic mix of network ports of varying speeds and density at the access layer that is often compounded with a not very capable core. Thus, many operate three-tier networks, or even more, which are not only difficult to manage and leverage, but upgrades are difficult and maintenance is costly. 

With both the number of devices and power and networking infrastructure requirements showing no sign of slowing down, building a flexible infrastructure that time-sapped managers won’t need to rip and replace in a matter of months is key.

The move towards network flexibility is not as daunting as previously considered. Chassis-based network design was historically only the playground for large enterprises due to the high capital expenditure required. However, the emergence of flexible networking systems is set to revolutionise how schools can deploy high performance, highly resilient, fully redundant and future proofed switched networks from the Core to the Edge.

‘A dependable network design that is based on the concept of ‘Network Yoga’ mandates an architecture that can both scale as a network grows and be flexible enough to provide support for ever faster server and storage connections needs.’ 

This flexible approach to networking is not just cost-effective, but imperative in improving network resilience and availability too. The alternative, traditional ‘rip and replace’ practice associated with inflexible networks can result in a period of uncertain downtime. Flexible chassis-based network designs ensure the entire network remains operational, even when network improvements are being made.

One NETGEAR customer to benefit from the change is Birkenhead Sixth Form College. The college actively encourages students to use their own devices. However, with more than 1,500 devices and counting, many of which would simultaneously log on at peak times (such as the start of lessons), the college’s network was placed under significant pressure.

With IT being a key component of everyday college life, it was important the network could keep pace with the users’ growing demands. This, coupled with the addition of new buildings requiring connectivity, prompted a review of the existing network infrastructure.

While the college’s existing infrastructure was seen to offer a good network backbone, it did not provide the required resilience, speed, performance and capacity to support increasing demand. By upgrading its entire infrastructure at the core to facilitate a 10GbE environment, the bandwidth capacity has quadrupled. Staff and students at Birkenhead now have a fast, resilient network which can not only provide essential support to key services running across it, but grow with future demands and ensure that BYOD remains an integral part of both teaching and learning.

A dependable network design that is based on the concept of ‘Network Yoga’ mandates an architecture that can both scale as a network grows and be flexible enough to provide support for ever faster server and storage connections needs. As schools produce and consume more data, it’s time to let go of the traditional restricted infrastructure, and embrace a flexible network infrastructure that can ensure their networks are able to support the demands of not just today, but the next generation’s too.

The demand for affordable and efficient technology has never been greater. Schools and colleges face unique challenges, such as extensive grounds, multiple buildings and numerous users that change annually. With the BYOD trend growing increasingly more popular, it’s more important to have a reliable and efficient IT infrastructure in place – can your network support these issues? 

Tris Simmons, Senior Product Marketing Manager at NETGEAR.

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NETGEAR is offering Education Technology readers a FREE, no obligation on-site networking survey, assessing wireless and storage needs, aiming to solve network issues or improve the infrastructure. If you are interested in having a free networking survey at your site, please contact us at sitesurveys-uk@netgear.com, go to www.netgear.co.uk/networksurvey or give us a call on +44(0) 1344 458200.

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