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Forecast 2014: Boost your mobile bandwidth

Sandra Gittlen | Sept. 24, 2013
Wireless networks rule, but wired systems will still have an important place in the hierarchy in the coming year.

In addition to access point frustrations, Horn has experienced Internet connectivity strains and network security requirements that forced him to separate public and clinical Wi-Fi traffic, and to bump up capacity.

For instance, Horn assigns public traffic — which can be generated by patients or family members streaming video and other bandwidth-intensive applications — a lower class of service than he does the mission-critical hospital traffic. At the same time, he asked his Internet service provider to expand the Internet pipe from 100Mbps to 500Mbps with headroom to hit 1Gbps, which he expects to need within the year. He credits lower prices from ISPs for making this option possible.

BYOT = Bandwidth Vampire
Horn may currently have the luxury of restricting wireless installations, but Bailey Mitchell, chief information and technology officer at Forsyth County Schools in Cumming, Ga., doesn't.

The school district, which has 36 schools, has publicly announced that it is committed to a "bring your own technology" (BYOT) program. One of the top strategic goals for the next three years is to leverage student-owned technology to redefine the district's technology platform.

Computer labs for middle and high schools are coming back into play with increased online testing requirements, and all the schools need more wireless capacity. "We try to keep up, but readily admit it has been difficult with more limited budget resources and the lack of regular upgrades needed because of the overall situation many school systems continue to grapple with," Mitchell says.

The initial demand for Internet access actually caused an alarming connectivity dearth. "Four years ago, we ran low on much-needed bandwidth for Internet-based resources — it really snuck up on us. We realized we had no quick fix and ended up throttling some services and vowed to never have that happen again," Mitchell says.

The situation resulted in an end-to-end revamp of the district's network. To start, Mitchell and his team studied the uptick in usage. Last year, Forsyth's BYOT program grew 80%. Where once IT had expected to need bandwidth for 6,000 to 7,000 devices, suddenly an average of 24,000 devices were knocking at the network door. "We only have 41,000 students, so almost half were bringing their devices," he says.

Do you have a formal mobile device management policy?

  • Yes 55%
  • No 41%
  • Don't know 5%

Source: Computerworld Forecast survey; base: 221 IT executive respondents; June 2013

More importantly, participation stretched across all schools, meaning the access points, network switches, pipes between buildings and Internet connectivity had to be at the ready.

Teachers, students and administrators depend on access to internal and cloud-based resources, including email, a learning management system and supplementary educational programs that can include bandwidth-intense video.


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