Five Ways to Improve Internet Performance for Tablet Schemes

As more tablet devices are deployed in schools and colleges to support teaching and learning, schools internet connections are becoming “mission critical”, but providing sufficient bandwidth can be impossible, or expensive.

We provide five tips to improve internet performance.

1) Use Less Internet.

Obvious, but how do we do it without defeating the object!

Deploy Local Cloud Storage

Netbooks used local Microsoft servers for their storage. Tablets use cloud storage, such as Google Drive, Office 365 and DropBox. This means that every time students open or save work, the data goes through the internet pipe. When this activity is co-ordinated by a school timetable and teachers issuing the instruction “save your work now” the internet connection can be swamped by all the devices opening or saving work at the same time.

Solutions such as Foldr, from British company Minnow IT, enable the Microsoft servers already owned by schools to be deployed as local cloud storage. Tablets get access to shares on local servers so opening and saving files does not involve the internet connection. They can even cache work on the device enabling home working without internet connection. Open and save can occur direct from the application.

Cache Apps For Deployment

If you are deploying (or upgrading) one app to one hundred devices that app is downloaded 100 times. If it were for example MS Powerpoint that is 205MB x 100. With dedicated use of a 10Mb/s line this would take more than 6 hours.

Apples new Mavericks server with Caching Server 2 enables anything from the App Store, iTunes Store, iTunes U and iBooks Store to be cached locally before deployment.

2) Use what internet bandwidth you have better.

The internet is a resource which you may never have enough of, so the key is to make sure that what you have got is used to meet your goals, not provide it “on-demand”.

Devices such as the Cyberoam Next Generation Firewall enable you to decide how your internet bandwidth is used, allocating to meet your requirements. Schools can define a traffic policy, ie set priorities based on user identity, user group, and application. For example:

  • Reserve bandwidth for teachers or exams
    Every teacher always has for example 200kbps available to them. Enough to open web resources. Every student doing an exam has reserved bandwidth.
  • Prioritise teachers over pupils
    If teachers need more bandwidth then their traffic can take priority over student traffic
  • Restrict access to social media
    Block all access to social media, except at lunch time. Then only allow users to view, not post.
  • Prioritise educational traffic
    Prioritise access to the VLE, or other educational resources over other traffic.

3) Get More Internet

Getting more internet does not have to be expensive. Check out services such as BT Infinity (Fibre to the cabinet) this provides high speed at low cost.

These services can be managed by internet load balancers (Cyberoam again) so they can be deployed as “top-up” in addition to existing connections.

4) Make sure your wireless is fit for purpose

Your problem may be the wireless not the internet. Tablets bring new challenges to wireless. These include:

Device mobility and not roaming – Tablets are often carried around the school by students, not returned to the laptop trolley after lessons. The tablets decide which wireless access point to connect to and when to change. They make this decision badly, so often your tablet may be connected to the wrong AP. This can make the difference between being connected at 300Mb/s and being connected at 1Mb/s.

Some wireless solutions, such as Meru wireless, put the network in charge of that decision, making sure every device is always connected to the right AP.

More can be less

As more people use more wi-fi in more places the tendency is to put more access points in. This can be counter productive. Access points can interfere with each other, reducing rather than increasing performance and reliability. When your supplier designs the network ask them to show the connection speed they will achieve, and the expected signal-to-noise ratio. These taken together will give a good guide to performance. You are looking for connection speed of 300Mb/s for a dual stream 802.11n device, with a SNR better than 25, with a network load exceeding 20%

5) Control Air Print and Air Play on your wireless

These zero-config services are very noisy on the network. As you get more Apple TVs, and Apple printers they can flood the network with broadcast traffic.

Consider Service Control technology (Meru again) This enables the broadcast traffic caused by Airprint and Airplay services to be controlled.