Wireless Campus

Richard Scaletti

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Lessons Learned

Multi-Vendor Solutions
If you run a multi-vendor solution ensure that the two vendors can co-exist. For example, we implemented both a Cisco and Avaya solution. Even though each of these solutions met the 802.11b standard the individual PC wireless network cards would not work with the other vendors access points. Prior to purchasing the Avaya solution we tested the compatibility between the two vendors. Only after working with the companies for a couple of months and after installing newer firmware were we able to achieve the required transparent access between the Cisco and Avaya hardware.

Placement of Access Points
The placement of access points and antennas hallways and classrooms is very important to prevent damage to the equipment. Access points were installed above the ceilings or high up on walls to prevent tampering. New electrical outlets needed to be installed to support some of the access point locations.

Hide your Antennas
Originally the antennas from the Avaya Orinoco solution extended 8 inches down from the ceiling. We discovered that our taller students loved to attempt to test their jumping abilities and two antennas were destroyed. We later moved the antennas so that only one inch of the antenna hung below the ceiling tiles, and the connections worked fine.

Do a Site Survey
It is important to do a site survey prior to the purchase and installation of the equipment. Test the signal strength from planned access point locations to the furthest area that you want the wireless signal to transmit. The number and type of walls (concrete or drywall) makes a difference and the site survey will ensure your assumptions will work.

Expansion is Relatively Easy
Once wireless access points are connected to your network you can double the available Bandwidth (11MB) by simply adding another card into the Avaya Orinoco solution. Further expansion can be accomplished by adding additional access points.

Security
There are concerns with security especially with the recent announcements regarding the potential loopholes with the WEP protocol. When implementing this solution we weighed both the positive advantages vs. the associated risks. To date we have implemented the following measures:

  • Assigned permanent IP Addresses to each access point.
  • Assigned SSID's to each access point.
  • We do not regularly use the wireless solution for communicating with our core administrative database.
  • When students are regularly using their own laptops to access campus resources we will implement the WEP protocol.
  • We will continue to monitor this situation closely.