According to Intel Canada, college students are now spending one third of their education time online using new mobile technologies. The survey results showed that among other things, research is conducted online 78% of the time and homework is conducted online 52% of the time.
The most commonly completed tasks online include collaborating with peers (mentioned by 87% of respondents) and communicating with professors and teaching assistants (mentioned by 86%). As a result of increased dependence on the network for learning initiatives and the social experience, it’s not too surprising that 6 in 10 students now identify a slow campus network connection as a top concern.
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The University of Alabama at Birmingham announced that they have increased the speed of its residential network to 250 Mbps in all five residence halls, providing each student with 10 times the bandwidth of a typical VDSL circuit available in many urban markets.
Does this move signal a recognition by some higher education IT leaders that network performance will soon become a deciding factor for students when selecting their school of choice? ACUTA noted that 64% of college students would consider relocating to new housing if their apartment Internet speeds were slower than expected. If you are one of the IT teams faced with solving this growing bandwidth challenge, how do you cope when you are expected to manage more applications, users and devices with less available resources every school year?
Knowledge Is Power
Campus IT departments should begin each school year by developing a culture of understanding resource utilization by user and application. This will allow you to be ahead of the curve in finding problems and resolving them. At Exinda we have seen that schools that have clear insight into their network have better overall user experience scores and generally provide higher network quality at a lower cost.
As services and applications get centralized into public and private cloud data centers, higher education institutions have a unique opportunity to prioritize ‘good’ applications over ‘bad’. Research has shown that reducing or limiting the number of applications and services on the network results in dramatic improvement in network performance. Identifying and grouping ‘bad’ applications and building a list of those applications that consume excess bandwidth is key to reducing security risks and preventing other network issues.
As you examine bringing new applications and services online this school year, the knowledge that a best in class network solution offers can be the key differentiator between success and failure. We have found that the ability to link insight and big data analytics to action such as bandwidth control or fair use policies provides significant advantage by protecting the ‘good’ such as VoIP traffic from the ‘bad’ like BitTorrent.
No technology solution is helpful if it is not used frequently. Having a tool in place that proactively monitors your network and provides automated alerts and recommendations that tell you when a key application is not captured within a policy set or that key resources are contending for bandwidth can help make it easier for your IT team to improve the user experience on campus. When deployed correctly, the use of a WAN Orchestration solution can allow an IT department to provide effective reports to the institution’s governance bodies advising which departments may be lagging in deploying online technologies (which may be key in increasing enrolment in certain programs). They can also ensure that as cost savings measures are deployed, such as a move to VoIP from traditional hard wired phones or from distributed data centers to centralized data centers, that the user impacts can be monitored and reported upon effectively.
How To Achieve Campus Network Success This Year In 5 Simple Steps
1. Assess stakeholder needs across campus
Identifying and assessing the priorities of your students, residents, faculty and staff will help to give you a better understanding of their unique needs and in turn, help you provide a better user experience for everyone this year.
2. Identify the top applications that hurt network performance last year
Depending on your school and what’s popular with students, YouTube, Spotify or Snapchat could all negatively impact network performance without any tools in place to limit the amount of bandwidth these recreational applications can consume.
3. Generate performance reports for your school’s most critical applications
Set up daily and weekly reports on critical applications to measure the quality of user experience and application response time to share with your team internally and with the institution’s key stakeholders.
4. Set policies to control the amount of recreational traffic and to protect key apps
Create usage policies that make sure Netflix and Pandora do not interfere with the performance of your learning management and ERP systems.
5. Fine tune last year’s policies
Leverage automated alerts and recommendations to continuously monitor and fine-tune application and device policies from one year to the next.