These essential networking discoveries are boosting schools’ digital equity, capacity and speed

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Choose Your Router Path: Hub or Mesh

A key part of delivering an improved network experience is upgrading your routers at the network layer. Recognizing that there is an increasing number of devices on the network (a trend that is unlikely to reverse), many schools looking to upgrade may want to consider moving from a single-hub router setup to a mesh network.

With a traditional hub router configuration, a single access point serves all devices on that network. The proximity or distance between users and this router can determine the quality of their wireless connection. The main improvement of a mesh approach is that it is decentralized, providing extensive Wi-Fi coverage regardless of distance from the router.

If you’re sticking with a traditional router, you might want to consider the Netgear Nighthawk AC2300 Smart Wi-Fi Router (R7000P). The Nighthawk R7000P offers theoretical speeds of 600 Mbps (2.4 gigahertz band) and 1625 Mbps (5 GHz band). The router’s multi-user, multi-input, multi-output technology allows many devices to connect simultaneously, while Beamforming+ sends a signal directly to the client device. Overall, this router helps deliver a rich Wi-Fi experience to multiple devices.

For schools moving to mesh, see the TP-Link Archer AX10 Router. This cost-effective device will allow your school to provide Wi-Fi 6 functionality over a mesh network using TP-Link’s OneMesh technology. Each device offers theoretical speeds of 300 Mbps (2.4 GHz band) and 1201 Mbps (5 GHz band). Keep in mind that there are always compromises with budget-oriented devices. The AX10 does not support 160 MHz channel bandwidth or WPA3 encryption.

LEARN MORE: Get tips for balancing budgets with pandemic-era funding to support upgrades.

Select the right switch for your network capacity

With more devices needing support, school networks need to be ready for this added capacity, including at the switch data layer. The FCC’s baseline requirements for switches are that the ports must provide 1 gigabit per second connectivity and support Power over Ethernet (PoE). They should also be capable of 10 Gbps fiber optic uplink.

One option to consider is the Extreme Networks Virtual Services Platform 4900 Series Switch. The VS 4900 series offers 24 ports and 10 Gbps connectivity, while supporting network virtualization capabilities from deployment to support. It should be noted that this device uses IEEE 802.1AE MACsec to provide hop-by-hop security, encrypting and decrypting packets between switches or devices.

If you are supporting a network that has not yet invested heavily in virtualization, you may want to consider the budget entry level Juniper Networks EX Series EX2300-24T. Juniper’s EX2300 series supports 1 Gbps on 24 ports and is easy to configure with a simple GUI connection. This series supports PoE+, delivering up to 30 watts of power to connected devices. With Juniper’s virtual chassis setup, your school can connect and manage up to four of these enclosures as a single switch.

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