Connecting Devices to the Network
Smart Education Networks by Design (SEND)
With a secure wireless network is available to students, how can one smoothly manage a hardware influx? While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, smart designs include deploying some management tools.
- Bandwidth management - Is there a particular application or site consuming an inordinate amount of bandwidth? Block it with common filtering tools, but some legitimate education-related content may become inaccessible. A better solution would be to limit the amount of traffic that can flow to and from the bandwidth hog and establish priority for critical traffic such as email, and online testing. Newer-generation filters and firewalls easily do this, often providing significant bandwidth savings.
- Mobile device management (MDM) - Part of an overall strategy to manage all network devices, MDM solutions are very useful, giving districts granular control over a user’s device, from granting access to the district’s network to location tracking and camera access. They can also assist in software installations including license management and security.
- Technical support of personally-owned devices -How much time, effort and manpower are you willing to dedicate to student-supplied devices? Does your district have the capability, or desire, to provide support for hundreds if not thousands of disparate device types? Are you ready to be responsible for any user-supplied hardware problems if, for example, they are in any way related to district staff performed work? Given costs implicit in a high-support model for user-owned devices, a thoughtful approach may be to leave support for any BYOT/BYOD hardware to the end user.
- Responsible and appropriate content management is another important consideration in network design and is a constant challenge for network managers. Compliance strategies exist both for student protection and legal necessity. In wireless settings in which BYOD is encouraged, it is important that the school continue to ensure personally-owned devices using school-provided Internet service only be allowed to access content deemed appropriate by the school. This may require additional technology or orchestration of other directory and filtering strategies, but it is wise to prevent students from accessing inappropriate content in all settings, not just while on the district’s network.