It’s 11 a.m. - Do you know where your internet bandwidth is?

Understanding Your Network Performance

November 07, 2016

You know the drill. As teachers, students and administrators find more ways to use their computers and tablets, more and more mysterious issues crop up. “Dead spots” appear and disappear. Educational videos that play well one minute stutter and jutter the next. And the responsiveness of cloud-based supplemental learning software and student assessments becomes a hit-or-miss proposition.

It used to be that the job of school Information Technology staff was keeping everything connected running. Now, we’re being asked to keep it running WELL, and ALL THE TIME. Because responsive connection to the internet is becoming critically important to teaching and learning.

As more services become cloud-based, the efficiency of your internal network will become more important, not less. Network performance will soon become the main concern of school IT departments. And it’s an area few schools really know about.

The reason is simple. Most schools are run as if they use networks and bandwidth the way businesses do—in a relatively static manner, with few peaks and valleys over a day or a week. Today’s schools are dramatically different. Network usage is extremely peaky and very dynamic. It changes hour-to-hour and day-to-day. Especially in High Schools and Middle Schools where students change classes every hour. And we haven't even talked about the cafeteria at lunchtime.

The way school networks are typically designed isn’t helping. Most schools give equal access to each classroom. In reality, the bandwidth needs of a classroom vary depending on what subject is taught in the room and what the instructional style of the teacher is. The needs of a language arts room where the teacher uses a lot of video is going to be different from a science room where the teacher relies on hands-on experimentation.

Add in the fact that all the science rooms are in one part of the building and all the Language Arts rooms are in another, and you can see where a design that gives equal access to bandwidth can have unintended consequences for network performance.

The good news is that this is all “fixable”. The bad news is that this is all complex and a configuration change designed to fix one problem can have negative consequences in another area. Most times it’s hard to tell where to start. And it’s not a good idea to guess.

The best news is that now All Covered is offering a Network Performance Mapping assessment that tells you exactly what’s going on with your network over the course of a typical week.

For a fee based on the size of the school or district, we’ll do the following:

  1. Map your network devices, including switches, routers, access points, etc. This gives you a detailed inventory of what you have, which ports are used and how everything is connected. Device-by-device, port-by-port.

  2. We will develop a map of traffic flow over time for all these devices. This will highlight bottlenecks that appear at certain times of the day and/or at certain points on the network. 

  3. We will benchmark the devices you have and how they are performing. This will highlight problem equipment before it fails.

The end result is a dynamic snapshot of how your network is configured, and how it is performing. This gives you a clear picture of where your weak spots are, and actionable data that you can use for planning improvements.

 

There are two important elements to this. First, we will be able to identify weak spots where either reconfiguration of additional equipment may be required.

 

But more important, we will be able to identify areas of strength. We will find devices on the network that have unused capacity.

 

Overall, it will tell you exactly what’s going on, and help you intelligently plan for how to make improvements. Aren’t you tired listening to complaints and guessing?

Posted by Ed Joras, All Covered Education National Solutions Manager