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6 Bandwidth Best Practices for Schools To Consider This Year

A graphic showing how bandwidth being used in various ways in a school

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As summer winds down, you’ve likely already started thinking about how to meet your school’s bandwidth needs in the year (and years) to come. Those needs often differ based on your school’s location, number of students, and digital learning curriculum, so it’s useful to start with some broadband best practices as you build your school’s digital future.
Here are six key considerations, based on the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband access recommendations, to bear in mind as you evaluate your school’s needs.

An external Internet connection to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) At least 100 Mbps per 1,000 students/staff At least 1 Gbps per 1,000 students/staff
Internal Wide Area Network (WAN) connections from the district to each connections from the district to each school and among schools within the district At least 1 Gbps per 1,000 students/staff At least 10 Gbps per 1,000 students/staff
  1. Factor in every possible user and location

    Students may account for your school’s primary bandwidth needs, but there will likely be many more users and uses for your network. To make sure your district has sufficient bandwidth to support its entire population, consider the teachers, administrators, and other staff members that may use devices on-site.For many school networks, high-speed Internet is needed not just in classrooms, but in bus barns, workshops, lunchrooms, or even for security cameras.

    “People think of kids with computers
    when they think of a school district network,
    but literally everything runs on the network
    in today’s school district environment.
    Your district network is at the heart of everything.”

    -Network Consultant and Former District Technology Director Coree Kelly

  2. Plan for many students to use the network at once

    In practice, not every student at every school will be on a network at a given time. From a network design perspective, however, the total bandwidth should reflect the number of expected concurrent users on the network rather than the total number of possible users.
    The more advanced your Internet needs, the higher your bandwidth should be.

    TECHNOLOGY USE Individual Classroom 1:1 Campus-Wide Media-Rich
    BANDWIDTH NEEDS Moderate High Very High
  3. Build with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in mind

    BYOD policies allow schools to cut down on individual device costs, but all of those devices can put a strain on your network’s bandwidth.If students, educators, and administrators are using multiple devices during the day, your network may need to have additional bandwidth to handle this traffic.

  4. Size for bandwidth peaks, not averages

    In order to run your digital curriculum effectively, make sure you have enough bandwidth to handle “peak” events–the times everyone wants to use learning tools simultaneously. Doing so will help you avoid slow-downs when, for example, one classroom needs to download PDFs and another needs to play videos.We also recommend adding a 20% bandwidth buffer to your peak demand estimate to cover usage of other applications that may also be in use during those peak times.

  5. Plan for the future

    Bandwidth growth is projected to increase 50% year over year, which is consistent with increasing demand as schools embrace digital learning. It’s critical to think about the total bandwidth you will need over the lifetime of the multi-year contract with your service provider – and make sure that your service provider can help you cost-effectively scale over time.

  6. Monitor your network

    The best way to understand if your network is both functional and cost-effective is to assess how much it is being used. Simply by monitoring your network,  you can make sure that you’re not over or under-provisioning.

Upgrading your school’s network takes time, but by following these best practices you can make sure that the time you invest leads to greater learning opportunities for students and teachers. For more suggestions about how to cost-effectively meet your school’s technology needs, take a look at our tools and resources.

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