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Managed Wi-Fi

Managed Wi-Fi, also known as Managed Internal Broadband Service (MIBS) in the E-rate program, is a turnkey service that requires much less technical knowledge and effort on your part to implement. Instead of trying to figure out what network equipment you need and how to buy it (and subsequently operating and maintaining the network), you just pay a vendor known as a Managed Service Provider (MSP) to do this. Another way of thinking about it is the same way you think about any other utility such as electricity or Internet service. When your power goes out, you notify the power company and they fix it. It’s not up to you to troubleshoot and repair any electrical equipment. Managed Wi-Fi works the same way. You don’t have to design, troubleshoot, or repair any network equipment. All you have to do is tell a vendor what you need the network to do, notify them something isn’t working, and they handle the rest.

This service is a good option for:

  • Districts with no dedicated technology staff
  • Districts who already pay an external vendor for technology support.
    In this scenario, you are essentially already implementing Managed Wi-Fi services!
  • Districts with limited technology staff but no dedicated network engineers.
    Existing staff in this scenario would be free to focus 100% of their time on areas such as device and application support.

Cost Considerations

The cost of Managed Wi-Fi can vary based upon the services provided and state of existing equipment:

Level of Service Cost Structure Who Owns the Equipment?
Full network design and implementation with leased equipment Higher recurring cost, little to no one-time cost MSP
Management of existing network where some equipment may need to be upgraded or replaced Lower recurring cost, possible one-time costs District
Management of existing network where all equipment is in good working order Lowest recurring cost, little to no one-time cost District

Although you may experience some sticker shock when you are presented with the recurring cost of a Managed Wi-Fi network, you should consider the total cost of ownership of running your own network, including the design and implementation cost and the staff time required to manage and maintain the network over its lifecycle. Sometimes the decision comes down to whether your budget is more friendly toward capital expenditures or operational expenditures


Vendor Relationship is Important!

If you do decide to move forward with a Managed Wi-Fi solution, be sure to spend a lot of time with your MSP to align on mutual expectations, escalation procedures, how much visibility and control you expect to retain, and service level agreements (SLAs). Your are putting a lot of responsibility in the hands of the MSP, so there needs to be trust on both sides of the partnership.