Small City, Big Learning
The Beaufort County School District prepares students to compete and succeed in an ever-changing global society and career marketplace through a personalized learning approach. This large 5.5 million square foot school district is composed of 21 elementary schools, two pre-K-8 schools, one K-8 school, seven middle schools, and nine high schools. The second-oldest city in South Carolina, the small city of Beaufort was recently voted the south’s best small town by Southern Living.
To ensure students perform at an internationally competitive level in a learning environment that is safe, nurturing, and engaging, the school district recently installed an Extreme Networks wired and wireless network to seamlessly support their 1:1 program for 22,000 wireless devices.
Putting a Device in Every Students’ Hands
By moving to a 1:1 initiative, Beaufort County School District gave every student in grades K through 12 a device. Unfortunately, their existing network struggled to handle the load of 22,000 wireless devices on the network. Security was another issue with the middle and high school students trying to find ways around security and content filtering to get to social media apps and movie downloads.
As they looked to upgrade their network to address the issues of network speed and security in their 37 buildings, they kept in mind the new solution would need to support an entire classroom of 30 devices, each running at least 1 MB/s of throughput for video. Since every student now has a device, it is important to have visibility into the application layer and the ability to prioritize bandwidth to critical education-related apps such as Rosetta Stone, Compass Learning, and Edmundo.
Single Pane of Glass Puts Extreme at the Head of the Class
After undergoing an exhaustive wireless network challenge, Beaufort selected a total solution from Extreme Networks that consists of edge, core, and data center switching, wireless, access control, management, and analytics. “The biggest thing that drove our decision to go with Extreme was the single pane of glass. Having our switching network and wireless network management in the same view gives us a better vision of what’s going on in the network,” said Mark Chauhan, technology services officer. From one dashboard, the Beaufort IT team is able to glance into the network and all applications from one location. This has greatly simplified network management for the team of five.
Another factor was cost. “As a struggling school district, money is always a key consideration,” said Dave Falls, network engineer. “With one AP in every classroom; cost per AP was a big factor in our decision. Not only was Extreme less costly than the competition, but they also met our criteria of providing fast, simultaneous access for 30 devices per classroom.”
The IT staff at Beaufort is excited that the new network can support and enable emerging technology and new styles of learning. They performed a couple of virtual reality pilots in the elementary classrooms where they utilized Google Cardboard with older iPhones. “It’s been pretty amazing and we anticipate that this will allow us to save money with virtual field trips. Instead of traveling to remote locations, the students take a virtual tour,” said Chauhan. The network will also support online testing, motion sensing smart lighting in hallways and classrooms, wired-in RFID style locks in data closets and server areas, and video surveillance cameras.
Even though the new network was only installed for a couple of weeks before the school year ended, Beaufort has already experienced cost savings on the replacement costs for the APs. According to Falls, “Going with Extreme has already saved the school district a ton because of the Limited Lifetime Warranty for all the edge switches. If a switch goes bad, we get a replacement in a few days. No other vendor provides that kind of service and we are extremely happy with that.”
Extreme Service that Knows No Limits
The IT team loves the fact that they only have one support center to call for all issues, which on the technical side is a huge time saver. Falls recounted a story of a switch issue at one of the schools, when they had to take it o the network for a while. “Everyone from the sales staff
to the technical staff bent over backwards for us to solve the problem, which ended up being the fault of our Ethernet broadband provider. Extreme spent hours with us analyzing, troubleshooting, and finding a solution to make the products work correctly. For any problem we have, it’s the same thing.”
The IT team at Beaufort County is looking forward to kicking off the new school year this fall and realizing the benefits of the analytics solution. “With Extreme Analytics we will be able to identify bandwidth utilization of the separate buildings, which will help us future-proof the network and give us a heads up when we need to start increasing the pipes going out to the schools,” said Chauhan.
The new network will support the school districts plans by improving the technology at the schools to provide better learning experiences for students. One of the biggest things they plan to tackle is moving to a single sign-on. “With so many different apps, all having different sign-ons, students often forget their passwords, which leads to wasted classroom time,” said Falls. “Single sign-on will allow students to simply click an icon that will enable all network credentials to take place on the back end.” By making device connectivity and sign on easier for students, class time will be maximized. Simple, safe, and secure…. Now that’s an Extreme network at work!