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Advancements in Wireless Networking...Not Just for Large Campuses

Academic institutions are at the forefront of wireless adoption. Each year record numbers of laptops and other wireless-enabled devices make a profound impact on school operations and productivity in and around the classrooms of the world's largest colleges and universities. However, some wireless networking vendors are extending these benefits to small and mid-sized schools; offering students, faculty and staff a solution for greater, cost effective mobility.

For instance, Mount Allison University, located in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada, is a small, primarily undergraduate university with a full-time enrollment of 2,250 students. Mount Allison combines the social and natural sciences, humanities and professional disciplines in a liberal education tradition. While the university wanted to deploy a wireless LAN across its 40 building campus, it needed to offer technical superiority to that of larger competing colleges and universities within a limited budget. Mount Allison also has limited resources and had to account for ongoing IT maintenance costs.

Therefore it needed a WLAN solution that offered centralized management for the configuration and monitoring of access points, including software and firmware upgrade management. Another key requirement was wireless security. Mount Allison had to ensure its students, faculty and staff that the wireless network utilized the most advanced security standards on the market. And, since this population would rely on the wireless network to stay connected while moving from building to building and across campus, the solution had to guarantee fast roaming with low-latency hand-offs.

Head of the Class

With Chantry Networks, Mount Allison was able to secure integrated mobility management systems for wireless networking. Other features included:

  • Centralized management
  • Compliance with wireless security standards - WEP, AES encryption, 802.11 authentication, rogue access point detection
  • Seamless IP roaming
  • Standard Layer 3 routing for easy integration with existing network infrastructure of switches from Cisco and Hewlett-Packard, and
  • A reasonable price/performance ratio for a campus-wide wireless

Mount Allison University estimated it needed 175 access points and it was able to perform a full site survey to determine the correct placement of each AP to provide wireless connectivity and Internet access to the entire campus.

Do You Go To School Here?

Academic institutions are often open to the public, leaving campus-wide wireless networks vulnerable to a wide variety of attacks. Because some access points cost less than some textbooks, students, faculty and hackers in general have been known to plug rogue APs into a campus network for free Internet access… or much, much worse.

BeaconWorks meets the latest wireless security standards and can detect and alert administrators to such network intrusions to ensure the highest levels of security. BeaconWorks leverages Chantry's VNSWorks (Virtual Network Services), which supports multiple subnets on one physical wireless network and provides an unprecedented degree of flexibility in managing not only the WLAN infrastructure, but specific users and mobile devices as well. VNSWorks' Captive Portal feature directs unauthenticated users to a Web page so they can provide log-in information prior to receiving authorization to access the University's network.

Mount Allison deployed BeaconWorks across the entire campus, providing approximately 30 different secure virtual subnets for various students, classes, faculty and staff.

When I Grow Up…

Mount Allison University found it was easy to add new access points, or BeaconPoints, to the network by connecting them to any adjacent network that has access to appropriate DHCP server options. All aspects of localized BeaconPoints are controlled and managed from Chantry's centralized BeaconMaster. The BeaconMaster supports Web-based management so that, although all operations are centralized in the BeaconMaster, the school is free to manage the entire system from anywhere.

In additional to meeting its budget constraints, the fundamental architecture of the new network system has the ability to accommodate Mount Allison University's future wireless requirements for a variety of multimedia applications, including voice over wireless. It's a network that will grow with us.

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