iPads – What Now?

You may have read our previous blog post on iPads – the Next Step and since then, Apple tablets have become even more popular in education. With the rapid rate of deployment, fresh challenges appear.

OmniCom have worked with iPads for a number of years now, and have encountered many of the challenges that come with using the devices. We’ve also picked up on the demands that Apps (such as Lexia etc) can place on a schools infrastructure so have zeroed in on the 3 main problem areas and ways in which these can be overcome.

Typically, problems begin to arise when a school deploys 30+ iPads, and if the network infrastructure is quite poor then problems can arise with any number of device. Problems that we have consistently experienced have been monitored closely and we’ve trialled solutions that have eliminated those bottlenecks.ipad updated

The main areas we have identified are:-

  • Broadband. When you’re running iPads that are constantly accessing Cloud based (off school) services, you really need a fit for purpose broadband. We’ve seen many schools that have a constant 10Mb broadband that has been saturated by a combination of iPad access and updates. Prior to 1st April, we’re working on upgrading every school where we supply broadband. This will take the form of fibre upgrades with either Virgin or BT (where available) and multiple ADSL lines (bonded) where fibre isn’t available. Our aim is to perform all upgrades at zero cost wherever possible.

 

  • Wireless. We installed our first wireless networks around 10 to 12 years ago, and our first ‘heavy duty’ Cisco Wi-Fi network about 8 years ago. The Cisco Wi-Fi networks are still going strong but are in need of a revamp. Wireless standards and performance levels have changed dramatically over the course of the last decade and their usage has changed correspondingly. When we first installed these Wi-Fi networks, most schools told us that ‘at most’ 10-15 teachers would be using the network with their laptops – now, we have some schools with over 150 wireless devices using the network.

Our first wireless networks where ‘B’ standard running at 11Mb, then we progressed to ‘A’ at 54Mb and for most schools, they have ‘G’ standard still running at 54Mb, but with a better coverage and increased capacity. Nowadays, we’re installing ‘N’ standard which is up to 300Mbit wireless and 1000Mb connection back to the schools network.

The other major change is that a ‘G’ standard Access Point can support approximately 20 to 25 wireless devices reliably, whereas a new ‘N’ standard can support over 50 devices. It’s easy to do the maths, if you have 150 devices it’s going to make wireless connectivity extremely difficult especially if they’re in a concentrated area.

To address this issue we’ve formulated a Wi-Fi Renew service where we audit existing Wi-Fi, address any issues found and then formulate a new enhanced network design if one is required. The good news is that typically we can retain all of your existing wireless devices and only need to add 2 or 3 new devices to significantly enhance your Wi-Fi network and make it fit for purpose. This service is entirely free of charge for all Complete School Support customers with the only costs being for any new kit/installation required.

 

  • AppleServ. As previously mentioned, the biggest issue most schools have is the volume of updates that Apps require. This can saturate an older Wi-Fi network whilst completely saturating broadband. We’ve worked on this issue for some time and have resolved by the use of an Apple Server, or more accurately an Apple Mac OS X virtual server. This gets loaded onto your existing Curriculum server or any basic specification PC. The Apple Server receives all requests for App updates and either downloads new ones from the internet or issues existing ones directly to the iPad requesting it. This means that in a school with 30 iPads, only one App download will ever go on the internet and the remaining 29 will be issued from the Apple Server over the school’s own network. This has the effect of massively reducing broadband traffic whilst optimising internal Wi-Fi traffic. We’re offering this AppleServ service at an annual charge of £350 to our existing Complete School Support customers which includes supply, installation and maintenance of the Apple Server.

 

iPad’s are an extremely valuable device that can be used for many educational purposes, so it’s key for them to be kept well maintained and we want to ensure you make the most out of your investment. For more details on any of the services mentioned above, feel free to Request a Quotation, give us a ring on (0191) 375 1973 or you can even drop us a quick message on Facebook or Twitter, too