University takes closer look at traffic in wired residences

A liberal arts university associated with the University of Waterloo is fine-tuning a wireless network that is increasing Internet access and campus information at student residences.

Officials with St. Jerome’s University Thursday said that when students return to the school this fall they

will be putting more technology in place to monitor the traffic generated by the nine wireless access points in the hallways of each of its residences. These access points, built on Avaya Canada’s Wireless LAN products, transmit frequencies to desktops and laptops using wireless PC cards.

“”Right now (monitoring traffic) is kind of haphazard,”” said Richard Crispin, St. Jerome’s information systems manager. “”We’re also repositioning a few of the antennae to get slightly better coverage.””

Monitoring traffic is important to St. Jerome’s because students don’t have unlimited usage to the network. You have to negotiate it separately from the line. The residence network included a 10 Mbps line when it was installed a year ago, but the amount of traffic students generate dictate costs, said Darren Becks, director of residences and facility operations.

“”That’s why we had to put limits on it. An unlimited 10 Mbps line would have put our costs right through the roof,”” he said. “”We’ve been able to provide the students with much faster access than they would have gotten if we would have connected to any of the options available to us.””

John Williams, Avaya Canada’s director of distribution sales, said traffic monitoring often takes a priority once an installation has been up and running for a while.

“”Pre-planning is something that always can be done,”” he said. “”In reality, I think what ends up happening in most cases is similar to this. Once they get a feel for the traffic type and the traffic pattern is probably the most important thing — there may be requirements to shape that traffic to ensure that the core business element is taken care of.””

The thick concrete walls that enclose St. Jerome’s older buildings posed a challenge when the school decided it wanted to extend access to its network beyond the computer labs. A traditional cable local area network, Beck said, was out of the question.

“”The amount of time it would have taken to hard-wire both of our facilities would have put us virtually out of commission for several months, which we just couldn’t afford to do,”” he said. “”We were looking all kinds of aesthetic issues with cable trays, location of wiring closets, having to drop ceilings on entire floors to hide substantial amounts of cable to each of the rooms.””

When the school originally set the system up, St. Jerome’s used PCI adapter cards, then wireless cards, Crispin said. “”Now we have USB solutions, so as time goes on, we want to replace most of the PCI adapter/wireless card solutions with a USB solution, simply because it’s the easiest and fastest and the least hassle to install,”” he said.

— with files from Greg Meckbach


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