Here in the ADM Technology Department, we’re always looking for ways to improve the network performance we deliver to students and staff members in the district. When we replaced our network in 2012, we moved to a heavily-wireless paradigm, where virtually all computers were connected via wireless connections rather than through physical cables connected to network switches. The motivation for this focus on wireless was twofold: first, connecting a computer via wireless costs us roughly $30 per connected device (to establish capacity), while connecting a computer via a physical connection costs roughly $150 per device (for switch and wall port capacity). Second, with the vast majority of our devices being portable (iPads, Chromebooks, and laptops), a robust wireless system was a must regardless of the approach we chose to take.
We expected, however, that we would end up moving some devices – particularly static devices in high-density environments, like a desktop computer lab – to physical connections, as we analyzed our wireless network utilization statistics. This fine-tuning has been in progress for the past 18 months, and we recently put what appear to be the finishing touches on some significant changes.
This month, we moved 80% of the computers in the high school/middle school media center to wired network connections, in addition to previous changes we made to move computers in the high school technology lab, publishing lab, and the DeSoto Intermediate technology lab to wired connections. These changes have allowed us to keep the load on any particular point in our wireless network below capacity, and have combined to dramatically improve wireless performance throughout the district.
Also this month, we were able to remove two legacy switches that had previously-been key components of our VoIP (phone system) network configuration. Doing so has improved the performance of our phone system in terms of call quality, decreased phone boot times, and (we believe) eliminated a problem where some phones were losing their configuration settings after restarts and power outages.
The quest to improve network performance is never done, but we are happy to be able to report some clear progress in our ongoing network optimization process!