Wireless Network Upgrade Project
To improve campus wireless coverage.
With the amount of mobile devices on campus demanding high-speed service, a robust wireless network is an important component of any learning institution’s information technology infrastructure. This campus is no exception; our wireless network provides a critical link between our students and our instructors – allowing access to Angel, email, podcasts, streaming video, and other materials during or in-between classes. In preparation for the increasing demand, the ITS team launched this project to increase and enhance wireless coverage on campus. This project’s scope includes replacing older wireless access points, adding new access points, and repositioning existing locations to create consistent, higher quality, and more efficient coverage for students, faculty, and staff alike.
About the Project
To date, the campus employs approximately 80 wireless access points, located in all major campus buildings, including the Nursing Building, the Academic Center, the Health Sciences Building, the Phase I Classroom Building, and the South Campus Facilities Building. Access points are concentrated in central student gathering areas, such as lobbies, hallways, meeting rooms, and classrooms. However, many of these aging access points were unable to take advantage of new wireless technology. Some were restricted to a single band, reducing their ability to compensate for interference. Others were simply no longer powerful or fast enough to cope with demand during peak hours in large areas.
The ITS team focused not only on creating a stronger wireless connection for our users, but also a more efficient and resilient system overall. To replace our older access points, new devices were selected with the end-user’s experience in mind. Traditional access points simply broadcast a signal in an omni-directional pattern and are unable to adapt to changes in the locations of their clients. Newer access points, including those added to our network, are able to adjust their outgoing signal on the fly to create an optimum pattern for groups of devices they are serving. By constantly adjusting the signal strength of their transceivers, they can adapt to changing conditions in their location and the locations of the laptops, smartphones, or tablets that are receiving their signal.
In addition to adding newer access points to increase coverage and average signal strength, the ITS team also took steps to improve the network behind the scenes. The previous wireless network was controlled by a single device. It will be replaced with two dedicated controllers with built-in redundancy. In the event that the primary controller fails, the secondary will immediately intervene and begin providing wireless service within milliseconds; a single point of failure will no longer threaten the wireless network’s capability.
An important component to the wireless network upgrade project was the addition of outdoor wireless access points. For the first time, students, faculty, and staff will be able to connect wirelessly on our campus walkways and gathering areas. The first wave of outdoor access points will be mounted between the Health Sciences Building and the Academic Center, near the Phase I Classroom Building, and in the common area between the Nursing and Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences buildings.
When all phases of the expansion project are completed Fall 2013, including the controller upgrade and the access point upgrades, additions, and repositioning – the campus will enjoy wireless coverage that will surpass our current service in every aspect: speed, coverage, efficiency, and resiliency.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How many access points are in each classroom now?
A: Most classrooms and auditoriums feature one to two access points to cope with the amount of wireless devices that may connect at any one time. In a class of fifty students, there may be 100 wireless devices; each student likely possessing two or more – a smartphone and a laptop or tablet. Upgrading wireless service in these areas will allow for faster connections to larger amounts of users, removing potential bottlenecks caused by slower and inefficient access points.
Q: Will the network login steps change?
A: No. Although much of the equipment will change, including the access points and controllers, the network itself will remain the same. Users will continue to log in to Campus WiFi or Campus Guest depending on whether they are students, faculty, and staff, or visiting instructors and lecturers.
Q: After this project is over, how will ITS make sure that wireless service continues to improve?
A: After the installation phase is complete, the ITS team will continue to monitor wireless network performance and service to ensure that coverage gaps are minimized and network configuration is optimal; individual access point locations will be fine-tuned and additional access points may be added if needed. Plans for the future also include the relocation of the secondary controller as part of our network redundancy plan and the evaluation and potential expansion of our outdoor access points.
For more information
To learn more about the wireless network upgrade project, contact the IT specialists in the Technical Support Center at 358-7748 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences Building Audiovisual Design
The ITS team designs and builds the next generation of audiovisual systems.
While Information Technology Services is primarily responsible for supporting and maintaining existing audiovisual systems, the ITS team also plays a key role in researching, identifying, and implementing new audiovisual systems in the classroom. And because the campus is deeply rooted in a curriculum that features distance-learning, audiovisual systems play an important role in the success of our instructors. Since the completion of the Nursing Building in 2009, instructional and audiovisual technology has undergone significant change; ITS was charged with the responsibility to design systems for the Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences Building that would represent Washington State University’s continued commitment toward creating a world-class learning environment.
About the Project
Planning for the Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences Building’s complex audiovisual systems began in the fall of 2011. While able to draw on their experience with existing audiovisual systems, working with a completely new facility gave ITS an opportunity to create an audiovisual system from the ground up based largely on instructor feedback – emphasizing increased interactivity and ease of use. To provide technical tools and solutions for our instructors, the ITS team began researching and testing multiple design options; many were customized in-house for their application in the classroom.
The ITS philosophy behind the audiovisual design became centered on providing the best possible student and faculty experience; the highest quality and most reliable display and control systems were chosen. To provide the highest value, ITS team members tested as many different systems as possible. To ensure reliability, the ITS team simplified components that were behind the scenes to eliminate and reduce potential points of failure.
To increase interactivity and collaboration, several new audiovisual products were added during the project. By creating entire whiteboard surfaces instead of installing traditional whiteboards, painted whiteboards were an elegant and simple solution for both interactivity and collaboration. Painted whiteboards also allowed projectors to easily display almost any size image directly onto a surface without resizing the image to fit the whiteboard’s size constraints. Projecting onto a nearly limitless surface was the perfect blend of low-tech and high-tech learning tools – making it possible for instructors to quickly annotate, highlight, or emphasize their presentations in response to questions without slowing the presentation or pausing to edit.
To address efficiency, the ITS team introduced short throw projectors. Unlike traditional ceiling-mounted projectors, short throw projectors are less bulky and less expensive. They also require a much lower level of lamp brightness as they are wall-mounted much closer to the screen. The switch is estimated to reduce projector costs by 47% and reduce the campus’ lamp replacement costs by over 60%.
The team added automatic tracking conferencing room cameras to improve both efficiency and interactivity. These cameras, unlike fixed or technician-controlled cameras, can automatically track and zoom in on both instructors and students. This fluid and seamless video transitioning creates a true learning environment across classrooms, sharing the presentation experience instead of transmitting a single-wide angle view or relying on a technician to operate the camera.
Verdiem Power Management Implementation
To reduce the campus’ overall IT energy consumption while minimizing the effect on maintenance or updating software, the ITS team began researching strategies to employ a true power management system in 2008, eventually partnering with Verdiem to employ their Surveyor software as a solution for the entire PC workstation fleet. Surveyor allows WSU Spokane ITS to manage workstation power states centrally, making conservation simple and easy for our staff and faculty while allowing ITS to ensure workstations are available for critical updates and software patches. Additionally, the Verdiem Surveyor software also allows our remote access users the ability to locate, wake, and connect to their workstations while off-campus.
About the Project
Starting in 2010, Campus ITS identified the need for PC power management. As the workstation fleet increased, energy costs rose considerably. Two years previous, the Nursing Building had already increased the amount of workstations needed on campus. The Veterinary Specialty Teaching Clinic opened in 2010, and the Biomedical & Health Sciences Building was expected to be completed in 2013. With so many active and incoming workstations, an unmanaged power demand was no longer acceptable.
The campus community needed a power management solution to apply to all workstations across campus while at the same time allowing for patches, updates, and upgrades to take place during off-peak hours. Additionally, any software solution would need to interface with the remote access service, ensuring that off-campus users would be able to activate and use their on-campus workstations unimpeded.
Measurable cost savings and energy conservation would need to be reported and documented, both for internal management as well as to apply for any incentives offered by electrical utility companies.
The 2010 Verdiem Baseline Energy Comparison found that the Surveyor power management system was reducing overall IT energy consumption on campus by 38.8%, saving 115,214 kWh and 103,923 lbs. of greenhouse gas emissions annually. For our remote access users, ITS added Verdiem’s “Wake-on-LAN” technology – eventually updating to the current Surveyor Wake for Remote Access feature.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why are we using Verdiem Surveyor power management software when our computers already turn off automatically?
A: While the Windows operating system has a built-in power management options, these are not as efficient or effective as a true power management system. Client-based power management needs to be set up on each individual workstation and has no reporting ability to ensure that each workstation has been properly configured. Also, operating system power management has no way to predict when users might be at their workstations during normal business hours and cannot be changed to meet users’ work patterns.
Centrally managed power management can address all of these issues. Additionally, it can be integrated into our remote access service, allowing remote users to locate, wake, and connect to their workstations at any time – without having to manually wake their computers or keep them running continuously.
Q: How much energy do computers use and how much will the campus save?
A: Workstations on the campus use quite a bit of the total energy consumed by WSU Spokane. As of 2010, the campus had a fleet of 773 PCs, consuming 384 kWh on average, and costing about $26 a year to run. After Verdiem Surveyor was installed and began managing IT energy costs, those same PCs consumed 234kWh and cost about $16 a year to run. If you apply that cost savings to each PC in the fleet, the campus saved nearly $8,000 in energy costs – all from simply managing our workstation energy consumption. As our PC fleet and energy needs increase, prudent conservation and power management efforts only become more crucial.
Q: Can I adjust my computer’s energy management?
A: Yes. While you won’t be able to make changes using your workstations power settings directly, we can remove your workstation from the power management system. This is important for users or departments responsible for research, which often involves continuous uninterrupted computing. If you would like to remove your workstation from the Verdiem power management system, contact the Technical Support Center at 358-7748 or email@example.com.
For more information
To learn more about Verdiem Surveyor energy management, contact the Technical Support Center at 358-7748 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Verdiem’s power management solutions, visit the Verdiem’s website at www.verdiem.com.
TECHNICAL SUPPORT CENTER
STUDENT HELP DESK
Monday – Thursday
1:00 PM – 8:00 PM
1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Weekly system maintenance occurs Thursdays from 6:00 AM - 7:00 AM