Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

ITS improves WiFi system

Some Augustana students may have noticed that the campus’ wireless has been behaving differently lately. The ITS department  implemented a new wireless system, called Ruckus, that was deployed over the course of late October to early November.
According to network manager Scott Dean, the school began encountering problems with the school’s previous Netgear wireless system last year after it was implemented in spring of 2013, and has been in the market for a newer and more accommodating system.
Dean said part of the wireless’ problems are due to a large concentration of people using the wireless in a small area.
While searching for a new vendor, Dean, along with others from the ITS department, focused on sifting through online forums, independent research and communicating with other schools that face similar challenges with WiFi, such as accommodating high density areas of devices and working within a tight budget.
“After doing months and months of testing on various locations on campus, we focused these tests on the Center for Student Life (CSL) and residence halls since those are the biggest demand areas and our most important areas in terms of wireless,” said Dean.
Ultimately, after conducting a series of tests on campus, Dean and his colleagues decided to go with the vendor Ruckus, which outfits other universities, as well as hospitals and hotels with wireless networks.
Ruckus uses a system they call “Smart Wifi technology” which allows for wifi signals to adapt to their surrounding nature and steer signals around obstacles and obstructions that would normally block the internet signals to reaching students computers. the goal being that interfere now be less of a problem. The technology is similar to that of a cell phone tower, with fewer access points and stronger connections.
However, the department met some unexpected challenges this fall after many students, primarily Macintosh users, reported experiencing similar problems with finding and maintaining a wireless connection through the campus.
“My WiFi worked better before (Ruckus), and now it’s very spotty in my dorm,” said first-year John Vaccaro. “I always have to go to other places to make my WiFi work efficiently.”
After working the tech support from Ruckus, ITS found that the software used on the new system had a bug and over fall break, Dean and others worked to upgrade the software and, in turn, eliminate the issues it was causing for students.
Some new features that students may notice with the new wireless changes include fewer networks and, in theory, a more reliable connection. The design of the new system means that the access points, which act similarly to a wireless router, will determine the capabilities of a device and then match it up to an appropriate channel, such as Macintosh users being bumped up to what was previously the 5GHz network.
Currently, the ITS department is still ironing out the new system and its effectiveness within the residence halls and the CSL. Last month, a wireless engineer from Ruckus came to Augustana to help determine the best locations within various buildings on campus for these access points to be placed, which will help to improve the strength and ease of connections.
“We know students have been dissatisfied and we are hoping that it will shortly be resolved,” said Dean.
In the meantime, Dean advises that students who are experiencing problems with connecting to the network reboot their computers or other devices, try disconnecting and then reconnecting to Wi-Fi, or calling the tech support department.
Additional reporting by Ryan Jenkins

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ITS improves WiFi system