Know your clients when upgrading your WLAN

With the recent additions to E-Rate and the demand for wireless availability throughout K – 12 education more institutions are upgrading their WLANs.  When upgrading the WLAN, having the latest and greatest wireless infrastructure is sometimes the main focus.

Typical Focus for a new WLAN

Will an AP per classroom be needed? Should 802.11ac wave 1 APs or 802.11ac wave 2 APs be used?  Do I need dual 5 GHz capable APs? Cloud management or controller?  We need a certain amount of bandwidth for each device. These are all typical questions I see when a new WLAN is in the beginning stages. Very few times do I here questions about existing clients or questions about purchasing new clients.

802.11ac Access points

When looking at upgrading the existing WLAN infrastructure the most common access points right now are 802.11ac access points.  802.11ac has added some great features, MU-MIMO, 256 QAM, 80 MHz and 160 MHz channel bonding, and the fact that 802.11ac only operates in the 5GHz spectrum, all help deal with the demands of high density areas and one-to-one initiative that is growing throughout the K – 12 environment. Taking full advantage of these features will definitely make the WLAN upgrade worth the time and money.

Knowing your Clients

With all the new features of 802.11ac and the focus of faster speeds and better throughput, what is the point of purchasing new 802.11ac access points if your clients cannot support most or any of the features? Knowing what your current clients can and cannot support will save you and your end users time, money, and a lot of frustration.  Having a mixture of clients is something that just happens.  Some devices are purchased with grant money or budgeted money and are mixed in with older clients.  With the purchase of a new WLAN the variety of clients are often overlooked. Knowing the model of all the different client types and what technology they support with make purchasing a new WLAN more awarding.  Being able to budget in a new WLAN and updating clients will take the WLAN to the next level.