How to pick a Wi-Fi solution that caters for a BYOD strategy

By Mark Howell, Meru Networks Country Manager, UK & Ireland

How has the introduction of BYOD strategies altered the demands on Wi-Fi networks?

We are seeing BYOD as a key driver for Wi-Fi. But with students and staff now demanding fast, immediate access to high bandwidth voice and video applications, IT departments are having to cope with this increased demand on their networks, many of which are old legacy systems.

With BYOD strategies, the introduction of what are largely consumer-style devices places added burden and design policies on legacy microcell networks. Consumer devices are designed to “stick” to the one wireless router present in the home, however this is the last thing you want to happen in a high density mobile network like a school, where you want devices connecting to the best available wireless access point. ‘Sticky’ devices by their nature of hanging on to an access point have poor connectivity and therefore a poor user experience, and have the knock on effect of slowing other users down on the same access point. 

Meru’s Education-grade (MEG) wireless solution is designed to solve educational institutions’ BYOD issues and demands, helping to improve the teaching and learning experience for all. 

One key consideration is that with more devices to manage there has been an increase in risks and vulnerabilities. How can you help deal with this?

It’s an important consideration, but when it comes to a school’s BYOD strategy, there is no one-size-fits-all policy. Each organisation, whether a school or a global business should look at their own specific needs and how individuals are using their devices, then tailor their security requirements accordingly.

The first step when setting up a wireless network is to ensure secure onboarding (set up) of devices in the first place; second you need to be able to differentiate between permanent users and visitors. Meru can provide secure on-boarding and off-boarding and can also assign set time restrictions for visitors, like a two-hour time window, to stay attached to the network. Finally, you need to educate your users about the security risks of using mobile devices. 

Not every institution’s demands are the same, how much flexibility is there when it comes to network solutions?

Meru has more than 4,000 education customers in the UK and has successfully met the individual demands of each one, whether a primary school, secondary school, or in further or higher education. Every educational establishment has very different needs, whether it’s to support over 20,000 students at the University of Huddersfield, to help Enterprise South Liverpool Academy (ESLA) develop its mobile learning strategy, or to help upgrade an aging network infrastructure at Bradfield College with its buildings dating back over 150 years. However, one requirement is essential for all – a reliable and robust wireless network. 

With budgets stretched more and more, what degree of cost efficiency can you offer?

We regularly review our pricing strategy for education, and we offer big discounts for current customers trading their legacy networks, or customers with competitive networks, for the very latest 802.11ac wireless technology. With over 4,000 schools, and the pace of education customer acquisition every year, the pricing offered to education customers must be right for the quality of solution received.

Where will the technology go next for schools?

Technology is a great leveller helping create equal opportunities for students, regardless of their abilities or strengths. For that reason, many schools today have a vision for mobile learning. Some are well advanced in their plans, others are in the process of implementing it, while others are still developing their mobile learning strategies. Whatever stage they are at, wireless technology will provide the backbone for one of the most important developments in education today.



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