Old Wi-Fi servers sit in the Makerspace after the recent equipment upgrade. (Photo by Elise Sommerhaug)

New Wi-Fi system installed as first phase of three-step improvement plan

During the mid-winter break, Country Day refreshed its infrastructure to improve the Wi-Fi. New servers were installed, switches were replaced, and 47 access points were added to seven rooms around campus.

Director of technology Shelley Hinson contacted Eclipse Integrated Systems Inc., a networking company in Parsippany N.J., to fix the unstable and slow Wi-Fi around campus. Hinson said she had met the CEO when she worked in New Jersey and trusted the company.

Hinson asked Eclipse to come in October and analyze the school’s system.

“We were able to locate the different servers around campus, and the analysis helped us understand what equipment we needed to connect (the servers) together,” she said.

According to Hinson, the school ordered the equipment from Cisco Systems in December, but Eclipse needed to program the system in relation to the school’s setup before installing it. The equipment now connects to one main server.

“The portable classrooms had the worst Wi-Fi because servers were connected to each other,” she said. “By the time the Wi-Fi went through the servers and reached those rooms, there was barely any service for those rooms to connect to.”

According to assistant director of technology Fred Jaravata, the Wi-Fi equipment was originally consumer grade, which is used in houses. It couldn’t support many devices, so students’ laptops were constantly being kicked off the Wi-Fi. The school has upgraded to an industrial-level system, which is used by most companies.

Hinson said the installation was just phase one of a three-step plan.

“The Wi-Fi is much better after the new equipment was added, but there are always things to make the Wi-Fi easier to access,” she said.

“Phase two is rewiring the connectors back to my office. Right now, we have to connect the wires through routers in rooms, especially (in the) lower school, which is hard to keep track of. We are not using the full capacity of our servers right now, so hopefully, by rewiring it, more devices get the full span of the server.”

Step three, Hinson said, is downloading software into the server for easier access. According to Hinson, access points choose certain laptops that can connect to them.

“Right now, I can see which access points are being used, but I don’t have the software to make laptops connect to the closest access point for stronger Wi-Fi,” she said. “Eclipse has control over the distribution of Wi-Fi among laptops but doesn’t interfere unless there is a problem.”

Hinson hopes that phases two and three can be completed by the end of the summer, but she doubts that the school will have enough money for it.

“One main reason we had to wait for new equipment was because it was expensive,” she said. “Phases two and three are about the same price. I don’t think the school can raise more money in a short amount of time because the funds (for the first phase) came from the STEM part of the strategic plan.”

The cost of the Wi-Fi was not available.

—By Sanjana Anand

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