Posted at 11 a.m. Feb. 6, 2017

Wi-Fi: Connect, communicate, collaborate

“The further away you are from the access point, the weaker your connection gets.”

Chad Marley

Chief Technology officer

The processes that go into logging into the campus Wi-Fi are more intricate than signing in and clicking connect. Knowing how the Wi-Fi works can maximize the use of the network without hindering its performance.

Laramie County Community College is connected to the state of Wyoming unified network, WUN. WUN is the service provided for K-12 and community colleges in the state.

“We have what we feel like is coverage all over campus based on the number of devices that we have,” Chad Marley, chief technology officer, said. 

There are 136 access points on campus. Each access point can have different settings. If a student signed into the Wi-Fi in one building moves to another their sign in time could be affected.

“You would be in a different subnet,” Marley said. “Every building has its own subnet. If you’re within that same subnet moving from access point to access point, you’d have no problem. But if you’re in Fine Arts and move into the Administration building, you’re on a different subnet and it doesn’t carry over. You’d have to login again.”

“It used to be that if you changed buildings (subnets or Access Points) that it would log you off the wireless.  However, that should not be the case any longer. You should only be disconnected if you are no longer in a Wi-Fi coverage area, such as walking outside between buildings,” Marley said.

“The further away you are from an access point, the weaker your connection gets,” Marley said. “We have a lot of places on campus, especially the dorms, with a construction of the building being concrete and steel that makes it really hard.”

There were changes made to the residence halls wireless access points to solve this issue. “When we did the upgrade in the residence hall this past fall, we created coverage to hopefully get all the corners of all the rooms,” Marley said.

Around campus, the system is designed to overlap access points. “Sometimes we get an issue where we have too many devices on one access point. If they can only handle 25 different kinds of devices connected, then we run into issues,” Marley said.

This issue is not very common because of the overlap system in place on campus.

“If an access point is full, then it will go over to the next access point,” Marley said.

Students and staff have a hand in maximizing their use of the Wi-Fi as well as hindering its performance.

“The timeout for wi-fi is set at 2 hours. If there is no activity after 2 hours, then the person is logged off,” Marley said. “If there is activity, the 2-hour clock restarts each time.  After the hardware change during Thanksgiving, the initial timeout was shorter, so we corrected the setting about 1.5 weeks after the hardware change.”

“Sometimes we have people with multiple devices on themselves,” Marley said. “If you have them (devices) automatically detecting and logging in, you’re probably not using three of four devices at one time.”

“For instance, we had 564 devices connected at one time and 102 devices that were trying to act as their own access points.” This means that people’s phones or tablets were set to having other people connect to their network. “That creates issues on our network in doing that,” Marley said.

“When this occurs, it creates conflicts within our policies on our network. Our networks are trying to fend off those access points that are not valid within our system,” Marley said. “All 136 access points that we have are registered within the network are ready to accept devices. If we have rogue ones, they’re trying to continually bat them down and make sure that they don’t get onto our network and do it themselves.”

By making sure you have only one device connected to the Wi-Fi, it helps other devices’ performances while using the school’s Wi-Fi.

“In December, we had to upgrade the wireless access controller, which is the central hardware that allows us to control all the devices,” Marley said. “One of the reasons we had to do that was because of the expansion of one of the residence halls plus the two new buildings that we’ve brought online with Pathfinder.”

“Our old one didn’t have the capacity to handle all those access points. One of the things that we were working through was the configuration of the new access controller,” Marley said.

If people are running into issues, it would be beneficial for Marley and the IT department to hear about them. By reporting issues and where they’re occurring at the Help Desk, they check out what’s happening and provide solutions.