Wireless Networks – Position Statement

Wireless Networks – Position Statement
Document Version :
1.4
ISSUE 1
Issue Date :
05 May 2009
Document Valid Until :
04 May 2010
Document Owner
Product Development Manager (Technical)
© 2009 Education ICT, Hampshire County Council. All rights reserved.
Summary
This Document is intended to clarify EdICT’s position on wireless access within schools.
Wireless technology has improved significantly over the last few years. However, it is still true to
say that the most appropriate networking solution for any school will be “hard wiring”, i.e. cabling
as opposed to a full wireless solution. This is because this solution is more reliable and secure;
assuming the appropriate level of security is applied to the domain.
In certain circumstances wireless may be appropriate to provide connectivity where cabling is not
suitable (e.g. laptop trolleys & mobile devices). EdICT supports the use of wireless in these
situations. Schools should carefully consider their requirements in detail to establish whether
wireless is the most appropriate and cost effective solution for them.
Schools wishing to investigate the use of a wireless solution and wishing to seek help from EdICT
should contact the IT Help Desk for more information. Schools purchasing wireless networks
from a third party supplier should seek assurances from their provider that the standards set out
in this document will be in place.
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Wireless Networks – Position Statement ISSUE 2
Health & Safety
There is continuing national debate regarding health and safety issues and wireless networks.
EdICT continues to review the information carefully and will follow Government guidelines but we
are not able to provide further specific guidance as to the safety aspects of wireless networks.
School must consider all options with regard to networking requirements at the school in making
their decisions about the most appropriate solution to implement. As detailed above, where
“hard wiring” can be adopted, this will always be the preferred solution.
For information & guidance on using wireless networks, please refer to the official government
guidance located at the link below:
http://www.hpa.org.uk/web/HPAweb&HPAwebStandard/HPAweb_C/1195733779274
Security
Security on wireless networks is of paramount importance, particularly where users are working
on data or documentation of a sensitive nature. The wireless network should be installed with
wireless access points appropriately located in the school, utilising the highest level of security
available. Some older Wi-fi equipment will only function with a less secure encryption protocol
called Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP). However, it is generally accepted that WEP is inadequate,
with tools freely available in the Internet that have been demonstrated to crack WEP protection in
only three minutes. EdICT strongly recommends upgrading any hardware that is only capable of
WEP encryption to that capable of Wi-fi Protected Access (WPA and WPA2). WPA and WPA2
are considered secure if a strong enough password or passphrase is used, containing 15 or more
alphanumeric characters and symbols.
Performance
One wireless access point can typically communicate with up to 20-30 client systems located
within a radius of 100 metres. However, the actual range of communication can vary significantly,
depending on such variables as indoor or outdoor placement, height above ground, nearby
obstructions (such as walls or ceilings, especially those containing metals), type of antenna and the
power output of devices.
Wireless networking lags behind wired networking in terms of increasing bandwidth and
throughput. While typical wireless devices can reach speeds of 11 Mbit/s (megabits per second)
(802.11b) or 54 Mbit/s (802.11a, IEEE 802.11g), wired hardware can reach up to 1000 Mbit/s
(Gigabit Ethernet). One impediment to increasing the speed of wireless communications comes
from Wi-Fi's use of a shared communications medium, so a wireless access point is only able to
use somewhat less than half the actual over-the-air rate for data throughput. Thus, a typical 54
MBit/s wireless connection actually carries network data at 20 to 25 Mbit/s. When accessing
multimedia resources online or locally users may experience reduced performance (e.g. videos
skipping or buffering frequently) if many clients are concurrently connected to a single wireless
access point.
Version 1.3, valid until 19/03/2009
© 2009 Education ICT, Hampshire County Council.
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Wireless Networks – Position Statement ISSUE 2
Certified Hardware
There are currently two wireless access points that EdICT install when implementing wireless
networks:
•
D-Link DWL-7100AP 802.11g 108Mbps Wireless Access Point
•
D-Link DWL-2100AP 802.11g 108Mbps Wireless Access Point
For an EdICT installed wireless network, wireless access points are installed and configured
according to EdICT standards following a wireless survey. This procedure allows for a consistent,
managed approach to the deployment of Wireless Access Points within schools.
EdICT follow standard procedures for the configuration of wireless security, access point naming,
channel selection and IP addressing. This creates a consistent format for both security and access
protocols that can be easily recorded and amended if required.
Wireless Deployment
EdICT will assess school requirements by carrying out an initial suitability survey. This is required
to ascertain what equipment is required, and give an indication of the overall cost. The amount of
access points required will be decided on a site by site basis. In most cases, a pre-installation
survey with an EdICT Consultant to plan the wireless network design is sufficient. As part of the
installation process, EdICT will conduct a signal strength test to ensure that the final solution is fit
for purpose and access points are located in the most effective positions to ensure wide scale
coverage, while eliminating or minimising interference.
Installation will also involve the configuration of wireless hardware (Laptops) to allow them to
connect to the wireless network.
Existing Networks
Some schools that have recently come under the umbrella of EdICT support services may already
have an existing wireless solution. If this solution is fit for purpose, it is EdICT policy to leave it in
place, with the addition of extra access points if required. However the hardware will, if possible
be configured according to the EdICT standards to minimize the risk of conflicts between old and
new hardware, and to maintain a consistent and documented approach to configuring Wireless
Access Points in EdICT supported environments.
SIMS
EdICT support using SIMS in a wireless environment, providing it meets the standards outlined in
this document. The SQL database that supports SIMS will not become corrupt if connectivity to
the network is lost, however any changes documents or records open in SIMS may not be saved.
Version 1.3, valid until 19/03/2009
© 2009 Education ICT, Hampshire County Council.
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