Small NC Campuses Gain Wireless with Meraki Hardware
- By Dian Schaffhauser
North Carolina's James Sprunt Community College and Nash Community College have implemented new wireless deployments that use Meraki gear. In both cases, the colleges had small budgets and needed to outfit campuses where buildings were widely spread.
James Sprunt, located in Kenansville, wanted a wireless network that was segmented from its core in-house network to alleviate security concerns. After several site surveys by integrators using equipment from Colubris Networks (now part of HP) and Cisco, the institution discovered that covering the campus, spread across 50-plus acres, was going to be fairly expensive. Jason Ginn, James Sprunt's network administrator, worked with Epproach Communications, which suggested the use of Meraki equipment.
A challenge posed by the project was that Epproach couldn't use the existing Ethernet line connecting each building, and most of the buildings were too far apart for most Meraki units to mesh together. Epproach finally integrated specialty 5 GHz backhaul links from Deliberant to tie the buildings together, allowing all but two of the Meraki units to act as gateways.
"The students are very happy now, as are a lot of the staff who also utilize our new wireless Internet network," said Ginn, "It has allowed for a great deal of flexibility for the student body and for campus visitors as well as for faculty and staff. I am happy as I have complete control over the network through the Meraki dashboard, which is an invaluable tool."
The initial deployment consists of eight outdoor Meraki units. The network was deployed in three days at less than half the cost quoted by the other providers, Ginn said.
Nash Community College in Rocky Mount had looked into a Cisco solution to expand its wireless coverage on campus. Budget restrictions and maintenance issues restrained the school from moving forward with the project. Then James Sprunt's Ginn recommended Epproach's services to Nash network administrator Mitch Evans.
Epproach did a campus site survey. The primary challenge was connecting several buildings spread out across campus onto a single wireless network. Epproach accomplished this by using several 5 GHz backhaul links combined with Meraki access points. With the wireless network terminating at a cable modem, all of the wireless access traffic was also kept off of the core school network, while providing centralized control through Meraki's dashboard feature.
"Our campus went from 'not hot spot' to 'hot spot' in less than three days," said Evans. The Meraki solution has not only been very cost effective, but it has taken a lot of stress off of our primary campus network."
The deployment consists of 27 outdoor Meraki units and one indoor unit.
Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @schaffhauser.