How Beaufort and McMinn School Systems Went Extreme and Upgraded Wi-Fi Campus-Wide

September 1, 2017 Lisa Yeaton

Students and faculty heading back to Beaufort County Schools and McMinn County School System are noticing some big changes in their Wi-Fi connectivity this year. Both districts tackled a total network refresh during the end of school year 2017 and throughout the summer. The IT teams are thrilled with the installations and can’t wait to see the students and teachers’ reactions to the new network. Here’s a look at how Beaufort County Schools and McMinn County School System transformed their classrooms.

Beaufort County Schools Puts a Device in Every Students’ Hands

In South Carolina, Beaufort County Schools made the decision to move to a 1:1 initiative that would give every student a device to enable a better personalized learning experience. The challenge was that the older network infrastructure was already under pressure from handling the current load of 22,000 wireless devices. To move forward they needed to invest in a new wireless and wired network to meet the increased demand.

Beaufort evaluated vendors and set goals for the new network. Besides enabling the 1:1 initiative and BYOD program, the solution needed to be capable of managing both the wired and wireless connections effectively at lower costs, while increasing digital learning and virtualization for the district. Network speed and security were also important, because the network is present in the 37 buildings across the district’s 5.5 million square feet. After an exhaustive search, Beaufort County Schools selected Extreme Networks as their single network solution provider.

The total network solution Beaufort purchased included ExtremeWirelessExtremeSwitchingExtreme Management CenterExtremeControl, and ExtremeAnalytics. According to Mark Chauhan, the technology services officer for Beaufort County Schools, “The biggest thing that drove our decision to go with Extreme was the single pane of glass. Managing our switching network and wireless network with the same view gives us a better vision of what’s going on in the network.” This greatly simplified network management for the IT department. In addition to supporting the students’ needs and simplifying network management, the network also supports online testing, motion-sensing smart lighting, wired-in RFID-style locks in data closets and server areas, and video surveillance cameras.

“With ExtremeAnalytics 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,” Mark Chauhan, Technology Service Officer, Beaufort County Schools

McMinn County School System Reduces Network Complexity and Total Cost of Ownership

For the IT team and entire school district of McMinn County School System there are visible returns on investment from the newly-deployed wired and wireless network infrastructure. McMinn went all purple and reduced the network complexity and total cost of ownership with a complete network solution from Extreme Networks. The IT department at McMinn did not make this decision lightly, they had important goals for the network and completed a lengthy search for the right vendor. Some of the goals the district had for the network were to:

  • Provide adequate wireless bandwidth and reliability
  • Support the BYOD and 1:1 computing initiatives effectively
  • Reduce wireless complaints and TCO
  • Increase redundancy, throughput, and access to the network
  • Minimize network downtime

For schools, seamless roaming access from AP-to-AP is very important. One of the benefits of the new infrastructure was the increase in throughput and access by about 70%. In addition, McMinn County School System CTO Jill Pierce says, “In just one month after installing the total solution from Extreme, we saw immediate improvement in connections, accessibility, and reliability. We cut down 97% of Wi-Fi issues and saved $15-20,000 in summer labor alone.” The increased redundancy makes it possible for the IT team to have the network back up and running within 30 minutes if something were to go down, unless it’s a power outage.  

The new network enables the McMinn IT team to spend their time on other projects like upgrading all of the classrooms with touch panels and doing more with programming, gamification, VR, robotics, outdoor wireless, and 4k video. The district has implemented a resilient and reliable network to maximize student and teacher productivity and minimize network downtime very much to the liking of the IT team.

“We went with a total solution for our networking needs because I think it’s the only way to go. When vendors fight about problems on the network, time and money is wasted and it impacts classroom learning because students can’t connect to the network for enhanced learning. By going all purple, these issues are eliminated and we spend less time managing the network which brings us huge savings.” Jill Pierce, CTO, McMinn County School System

 “The BYOD program is much easier to manage with the ability to track users and support more users per access point, enabling us to meet these students’ connectivity needs and enable better learning experiences.” Jill Pierce, CTO, McMinn County School System

Growing Momentum in the Education Market

At Extreme, we are committed to ensuring schools have the top-notch network solutions needed to foster engaging learning environments that are both easy to manage and highly secure. Our laser focus on providing tailored network infrastructure to address the specific needs of individual school districts and colleges has led to consistent growth across our education business. Here are free resources to help your school district improve educational outcomes:

About the Author

Lisa Yeaton

Lisa Yeaton is a Digital Content & Communications Marketing Specialist at Extreme Networks. Lisa was previously an intern on the Vertical Solutions Marketing Team. Lisa earned her BSBA and MBA with concentrations in management and marketing from the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

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