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Gwynedd Mercy College Upgrades Wireless Network

Gwynedd-Mercy College in Philadelphia has replaced its legacy wireless local area network (WLAN) with a new system to provide students, faculty, staff, and guests with reliable Wi-Fi access across all four of its campuses.

The college's legacy WLAN used technology from Proxim and Cisco, but according to John Reilly, associate director of enterprise systems for the college, it "simply couldn't keep up with demand" and the college "received many complaints of poor connectivity, dead spots, and dropped connections," he said.

The college reviewed potential replacement solutions from Cisco, Meru Networks, and Aruba Networks. After conducting a "bake-off" between the three solutions, the college selected the Aruba Networks WLAN solution and employed Comm Solutions, a Pennsylvania-based solutions provider, to manage the deployment. According to the company, the Gwynedd-Mercy College chose the Aruba solution for its cost-effectiveness and unique ability to support role-based access and manage multiple devices with one controller.

The new Aruba WLAN includes Aruba AP-105 access points (APs), Aruba mobility controllers, and the Aruba AirWave Network Management System. The college is also piloting Aruba's ClearPass Access Management System and expects to fully deploy it later this year. Since implementing the solution, the college has not received any complaints about Wi-Fi performance and people are "thrilled with the level of connectivity they can enjoy from anywhere on campus," said Reilly.

Students at the college use the WLAN for both academic and personal reasons, and the Aruba network supports numerous initiatives at the college, including the iPads it recently issued to some faculty members and graduate students doing fieldwork. The college also uses the WLAN to support its Blackboard learning management system (LMS), emerging eText program, and its Ellucian PowerCampus student information system, which lets students access maps, directions, grades, course schedules, tuition invoices, and other information from their smartphone. The WLAN also supports the college's Hobbit House pre-kindergarten program, which purchased 33 iPads and installed interactive projectors on sliding rails, so children can roll the projectors to floor level and faculty members can use the iPads to control what the children watch.

The college is in the process of constructing a new 50,000 square foot academic building for its School of Business and School of Education. When it opens in January, the building's classrooms, community spaces, and auditorium will use 30 Aruba AP-135 access points to maximize mobile device performance in the high density Wi-Fi environment.

Gwynedd-Mercy College is a Catholic liberal arts college with four campuses in the Philadelphia, PA, area. It serves 2,700 students and employs 81 full-time faculty members.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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