Canford School is an independent boarding school based in Dorset with 650 students aged 13-18 and 100 teachers. Set in a historic 300 acre estate, the site consists of 28 buildings, including a Grade I listed 19th Century manor house and 10 boarding houses requiring internet access both day and night. The IT requirements are managed by a team of two full and one part time staff.
The Challenge - wireless network across a 300 acre estate
Although Canford School completely rebuilt its local area network from the ground up in 2011, it found its wireless system (WLAN) was unable to cope with the difficulties the estate presented. Two feet wide internal stone walls and large expanses of cricket and football pitches posed significant complications.
In recent years an influx of more than 500 personal smart devices owned by students and teachers had also proved too much for the existing wireless deployment.
Ben Walters, Canford’s new ICT and services manager, said: “When I began working at Canford we had a network that was performing well but the wireless simply couldn’t meet demand.
“We had people turning up with new phones, tablets and laptops by the day, but limited coverage and poor bandwidth meant users started turning off as the service was poor.
“We needed a solution that would unlock network and internet access estate-wide and cope with further growth in mobile devices. As we have 450 boarders we also needed a solution that could cope with recreational requirements, such as watching online movies in the evenings.”
After a series of site surveys, Probrand recommended a managed wireless solution from market leading manufacturer, Ruckus. Further to supporting multiple mobile devices used across the campus, the Ruckus product set delivers excellent data throughput and levels of coverage. Externally mounted access points extend wireless coverage to communal areas and sporting facilities including cricket and football pitches.
Two ‘ZoneDirector’ management appliances operate as an active high availability pair installed at the heart of the network. They support load balancing and continuity of service in the unlikely event of hardware failure. In addition to providing resilience, the ZoneDirectors support an array of administration tools delivered via an intuitive interface, providing IT staff with an instant, real-time view of the wireless estate’s health.
The Ruckus solution has been seamlessly integrated with the schools expansive HP switching and VLAN infrastructure, delivering multiple, secure SSID’s catering for Guests, Staff and ‘Bring Your Own Devices’.
With minimal disruption to the school, the entire deployment of 150 wireless access points was completed over 5 days during the summer holidays. Throughout the planning and installation process, Probrand remained sympathetic to the fact that a number of buildings were of listed status.
The Benefits - high speed internet on the estate securely
Students and teachers can now access high speed internet on any smart device anywhere on the estate securely.
Ben Walters said: “The Ruckus wireless solution presents us with an unprecedented level of flexibility in the classroom. Utilising class sets of devices, students are able to work in groups to complete projects, watch online broadcasts, or deliver presentations. The physical restrictions presented by desktop technologies no longer exist.
“We now have a consistent, secure and reliable wireless network that has little interference and superb coverage. Put simply, great performance in a demanding environment at an affordable price.
“User experience is the ultimate litmus test and I’ve been told someone has actually walked from one side of the site to the other watching a Netflix film and not had any issues.
“The main thing for us is that the students are happy and for us that involves providing wireless internet access that is as good as, if not better, than anything they can get at home.
“The demand is constant and growing but students are now able to go online, watch movies and play games on the internet, wherever they are without any problems. The solution we now have is easily scaled up to meet future demand as the wave of mobile device adoption in and out of the classroom continues.”