This is a little bit outside my normal bailiwick, but, I do some work at a local private school directing the educational technology program. One of my goals was to look at their wireless network and see how to make it better. Without going into too much detail, we can say it was spread over 2 buildings (even though they are wired together) with 5 different access points broadcasting 6 different wireless networks and old hardware that had to be restarted daily. I spoke with a local networking consultant about creating a single roaming network and he said it couldn’t be done without spending a LOT of money and creating a system that you might see in a hospital or large office building. Well, needless to say, I didn’t like that answer so I started doing some research about Airport networks and found a lot of information about it.
The goal was to have one, single wireless network and using Apple’s Airports were by far the easiest and simplest way to do this. Essentially, I created a roaming wireless network built off the wired backbone. So, I used one Airport extreme at the router and immediately after the internet filter. Quickly configured it for security and access via the airport utility on my iPad. Then, I took 4 Airport expresses and 1 Extremes and plugged them in one by one to configure them.
This is where the “easy” part comes in. Each time I plugged one in, my iPad recognized it and asked me if I wanted to extend the main network. I click “yes” and wait about 30-40 seconds for it to restart and BAM! it’s done. Then, I move them to different parts of the 2 buildings and within about an hour, I have a solid, roaming wireless network between the 2 buildings. The best part is, there’s virtually no loss of speed anywhere and in fact, the signal is much stronger and easily reaches the corners of the property when it didn’t before.
Well, that’s not actually the best part, the really best part is that I can now manage every device from anywhere with my iPad or iPhone. It looks like this:
I know that the Airports aren’t cheap, but they are amazingly easy to set up.