Strong wireless networks are a crucial component of modern education. Powerful network performance is essential in dorms, libraries, and classrooms where students need fast internet for studying and professors integrate online resources into their lessons.
While Ashland University is a historic institution, as they were founded in 1878, they provide modern education to its more than 6,200 students. That means it is pivotal that their modern campus networks are functioning efficiently, quickly, and smoothly. In 2017, administrators took notice that this wasn’t the case. Rather than letting students deal with network elements that weren’t getting the job done, the administration took action.
Identifying that quick and reliable wireless connection is an important part of the campus experience, Ashland University administrators sought a partnership that would provide easy and fast access to effective campus-wide Wi-Fi. In doing research, they uncovered Aruba’s campus network solutions and found out how Laketec helps optimize the use of these solutions.
Below, we’ll explore how Ashland University, Laketec, and Aruba partnered to create a better educational experience for students by improving the campus Wi-Fi and increasing support. We’ll look at the impact of this partnership and why every educational institution can benefit from something similar.
Students value the importance of wireless connectivity very highly. Basic connectivity is important, as is a consistent experience. Fast Wi-Fi has become something the average university-aged adult doesn’t just want but expects. Considering many students are living on-campus and investing heavily to do so, it poses a business risk to educational institutions to not accommodate this demand.
However, meeting the network requirements of a large student body isn’t necessarily easy. If the campus network can’t handle the hundreds, if not thousands, of Wi-Fi users at once, it can pose problems. Students use wireless network connectivity for downtime activities, but it is also an important part of their educational experience. Wi-Fi is used for many aspects of life on campus, from emailing professors and advisors to accessing online school resources.
At Ashland University, a historical and esteemed private university in Ohio, the wireless connectivity was not meeting the demands of staff and students.
“In 2017, we were having some issues with wireless; we were having to either reboot our ClearPass server on a weekly basis or the system was crashing. Of course, that impacted our students severely, as well as our administration and faculty side,” says Benjamin Schwartz, the Director of Security and Infrastructure at Ashland University.
While Ashland aimed to improve their wireless connectivity rapidly, it was also crucial to do so in a cost-effective and long-lasting way. If both students and staff had lodged complaints about the wireless performance, it was clear to the administration that there was a problem.
Transforming a wireless network is a big challenge, particularly when it services such a large number of people. The Ashland University student population is more than 6,000 undergraduates, and this excludes additional people on campus, like the staff. So the focus wasn’t just on improving wireless in dormitories and libraries. The idea was to implement overall campus network solutions that would also create seamless connectivity for teachers and administrators.
In the modern higher education atmosphere, the competition for students is as important as it ever has been. Thousands of universities consistently compete for students around the country, and just because a student enrolls doesn’t mean they will stay. Transfer rates are high across America, and universities must take whatever steps necessary to keep their students happy and engaged. Having a reliable and fast wireless-powered learning environment is a big contributor to this. With many students complaining, the Ashland University administrators knew it was time to take action.
Laketec & Aruba’s Network Solutions
With an eye on change, the Ashland University administration set out to find a way to improve the wireless offerings that they had and upgrade them to better fit the needs of staff and students. They wanted assistance overseeing a wireless network for such a large number of users, and their requirements were clear.
“What we were looking for is somebody to help us out to try to get us to a point where we weren’t having to have these issues on a constant basis. We knew that Aruba was a well-known player out there on the wireless side. So being affordable and reliable was something that is important to us,” says Schwartz.
Ashland University was relying on Aruba’s campus network solution to provide wireless access to the student population, but they had mostly been handling network management themselves. Aruba’s outstanding features and strong customer service are highly valued by Ashland University.
“There are some very good Aruba reps who are always willing to pick up the phone or call us to check in. And they often reply or often show up on-site, do working sessions with us, that was huge for us. And also the ClearPass appliances for us was huge,” explains Schwartz.
But while they liked what Aruba offered, after consulting with Aruba directly, it became clear that they needed to add to their network and reconfigure it to better suit their needs. Aruba advised Ashland University to bring in a vendor that could offer engineering assistance and network support to better meet the specific requirements of their university. As a trusted partner of Aruba, Laketec was recommended as the team to help.
Laketec and Ashland University connected, and it immediately became clear that it was a hand-in-glove fit. Ashland University administrators decided to move forward with the partnership by adding a Laketec on-site engineer to their team. They also implemented their enhanced network on a Network as a Service, or NaaS, basis.
What this means is that Ashland University doesn’t own the hardware. Instead, a service-level agreement between Ashland and Laketec limited any upfront costs and provided the improved network infrastructure they sought.This managed to minimize the impact on their budget while still giving them the added network security, speed, and reliability they’d been hoping for.
The other goal of this partnership was to alleviate some of the work from Ashland’s administrators. By hiring Laketec to aid with network management, Ashland University hoped to free up additional time for their IT team to focus on other tasks rather than worry about rebooting and course-correcting the network.
Network Partnership Results
Laketec’s campus network solutions have been designed to create positive change at higher education institutions of all sizes, and at Ashland University, there have been consistently positive results.
“Laketec has installed many different tools to track performance of the network and make troubleshooting as efficient as possible. The university puts out a survey to students as well to get direct feedback. The network team receives an overall rating based on that survey. That average score has increased each year of this partnership,” says Mike Trappe, the Higher Education Lead at Laketec.
So what about Laketec’s offerings has really resonated with the Ashland University administration? For Schwartz, a big reason for the partnership’s success has stemmed from Laketec’s industry-leading customer service and flexibility.
“They share a lot of the same values that we do as a department and institution, somebody to truly be a partner. From day one they were willing to negotiate, they were willing to hear our story. They were willing to hear our problems. So they were willing to listen, answer the phone… we wanted to get people on the phone and talk to engineers, so there was no middleman,” says Schwartz.
The combination of Laketec’s responsiveness and network expertise created an improved network that aligned with the needs of the modern campus. The NaaS model combined with on-site management gave Ashland University the flexibility it needed without requiring a massive budgetary overhaul. Ashland can use the network infrastructure without the high up-front costs that come from owning it. And having a Laketec engineer on-site means if there are problems, there is someone immediately available to help solve them.
Laketec has a reputation for hiring the best when it comes to its engineer and support team, so our partners can always trust that they are receiving the highest level of expertise possible. And with the NaaS model offering flexible plans, enterprises can scale up and down their plans according to their unique needs.
Overall, the partnership between Ashland University and Laketec has been a significant success. Laketec’s campus network solutions have enabled Ashland University to improve its network without requiring massive upfront investment, providing a better network experience for both staff and students.
“Wireless is very important to what we do here at Ashland, whether it be indoor or outdoor. Now, students, faculty, and staff get connected, and stay connected, which is obviously very important,” says Schwartz. “The partnership has proved to be tremendously valuable.”
For Laketec, the most rewarding aspect of this experience has been giving students the connectivity they need to enhance their learning.