28 Sep 2011
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Bucklands Beach Intermediate School uses BeamFlex

Ruckus BeamFlex technology blanketed Bucklands Beach campus with half the amount of Wi-Fi access points. Service blackspots had been reduced to zero.

Empowering students to be participants of their learning, rather than mere recipients, is a fundamental approach towards education at Bucklands Beach Intermediate School. The seven-hundred-and-seventy students at the co-educational intermediate school in Auckland, New Zealand, enjoy a breadth of subjects and activities on offer due to the availability of facilities such as a television studio, specialist rooms for music, art and design, as well as sporting fields and an outdoor challenge course.

Lenva Shearing, Deputy Principal of Bucklands Beach Intermediate School (BBI) comments, "It’s a necessity that the school’s resources support us in our goal of developing truly independent learners”.

One of the requirements the school identified a few years ago was a campus wide wireless network to allow for learning beyond a traditional classroom environment. The school selected Apple Airports for the network, but it became evident from the frequency of staff and student complaints that opportunities for learning were in fact being hampered by the product.

As BBI’s Deputy Principal, Shearing also carries responsibility for the delivery of e-learning initiatives in the school as well as management of the ICT budget and strategy. Shearing reflects, "With the wireless coverage levels varying between area to area and from day to day, frustration levels amongst the users rose. So we decided to find an alternative”.

The school replaced the Apple Airports wireless local area network (WLAN) with a product from D-Link. But the school was once again looking for a replacement WLAN when a number of access-points (APs) failed and had to be replaced, as well as the central controller on more than one occasion. Moreover, the APs could only be powered over Ethernet, result¬ing in power and Wi-Fi disconnecting whenever an Ethernet data port went down.

Fortunately BBI’s ICT Technician, Stephen Moran, had recently seen the range of wireless networking solutions from Ruckus at a technology trade show. Moran got in touch with the school’s solution provider, Cable and Data, to discuss the suitability of Ruckus Wireless for the school.

Moran comments, "Cable and Data were great because they were able to loan some gear to us for a trial. We didn’t want to commit to anything until we were sure the product was going to work as we wanted it to.” 

With Cable and Data’s assistance, a Ruckus ZoneFlex 7942 Smart Wi-Fi system was trialled for a two-week period in four of the school’s classrooms, with central management provided by a ZoneDirector Smart Wireless LAN controller.

As the trial continued, other benefits of a Ruckus Wi-Fi network began to identify themselves. The Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi system provided the option of being powered over Ethernet or by power pack, which resolved the school’s issue with loss of con¬nectivity and power due to Ethernet data port failures.

Additional connectivity redundancy was also provided by Smart Mesh Networking, a standard feature for ZoneFlex Smart Wi-Fi systems. If an AP lost connectivity an automatic connection via RF would be created with its nearest AP, providing a seamless continuity of service without the user noticing any difference in performance.

A wireless site survey had also confirmed that the school would only need ten Ruckus ZoneFlex APs to provide campus wide wireless access, which was half the amount demanded by the D-Link product. The improvement in range and reliability was due to Ruckus’s BeamFlex technology, which automatically routes Wi-Fi signals to the best performing signal paths.  Stephen Moran comments, "The trial confirmed that Ruckus was able to provide us with exactly what we wanted; stable Wi-Fi access to all parts of the school with a product that’s easy to manage. When we saw how attractive the price point was as well there was no other decision to make except to replace the existing WLAN with Ruckus”.

Installation of the new Ruckus system was a quick and simple process in itself. Even with Cable and Data replacing each D-Link AP one by one to ensure continuity of service, installation and configuration only took four hours. At which point stable wireless access had been enabled for all of the school, Wi-Fi service blackspots had been reduced to zero, and complaints about the wireless network had stopped.

Lenva Shearing, BBI’s Deputy Principal concludes, "It’s clear our Ruckus wireless network supports the school’s goal of developing independent learners. Feedback from students and staff has been very positive, and they are all benefitting from working and learning wirelessly without having to compromise on stability, security or reliability”.

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