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California Schools Deploy Wired/Wireless Solution Cost-Effectively

March 6, 2012
at 9:27 am PST

It’s no secret that K-12 public schools in California are seeing declining state funding. One estimate shows that the state now spends $500 -- $1,000 less per student than it did in 2007 – 2008. The budget shortfalls are making the schools more judicious when they implement new IT technologies for students. Merced County Office of Education (MCOE) in California is one such organization that was recently involved in rolling out a wired/wireless solution.

MCOE works with more than 20 school districts serving more than 60,000 students. The schools needed more bandwidth to support the growing use of mandatory online testing of students. The teachers were also increasing their use of online resources including videos, presentations, and websites.

“The need for technology upgrades is there, but the financial flexibility is often not, because the basic infrastructure is lacking,” says Dr. Steven E. Gomes, superintendent of MCOE. “Many of the smaller rural schools were not wired for Internet connectivity, so we needed a solution that could reliably bring wired and wireless access to schools throughout the county without major investments in physical infrastructure.”

MCOE deployed Cisco Catalyst and Nexus switches, Cisco routers, and Cisco Aironet wireless access points. They leveraged the built-in intelligence of Cisco infrastructure platforms for speedy and easy deployment and management. For example, Power over Ethernet capabilities of Catalyst access switches eliminated the need for pulling wall circuits for wireless access points. Cisco Smart Install enabled MCOE to pre-configure the software images for switches centrally in the lab before sending the switches to the sites for deployment. Now, when new switches are added to the network, those switches are identified automatically, and the correct software image and configuration file are available for downloading.

“Smart Install takes an intricate, multifaceted process and boils it down to a few simple steps,” says Brian Yost, senior network engineer for MCOE.

MCOE also used Cisco Auto Smartport technology to simplify the configuration of end-devices such as IP phones and wireless access points that are plugged into the network. Auto Smartport technology identifies the end-devices and applies the right quality of service policies.

Deploying the Cisco solution enables MCOE to manage network deployments and day-to-day operations from a single location, with a limited staff.

“Cisco Smart Install has enabled us to quickly deploy a large number of switches in schools countywide and support them remotely with fewer resources, reducing the burden on schools,” says Yost.

Upgrading to Cisco Nexus 7000 in the data center and Cisco Catalyst 6500/4500 switches elsewhere in the infrastructure gave schools the bandwidth needed to support streaming video and mobile devices such as Apple iPads on the network.

What are some of the ways your school is coping with new network infrastructure deployments in the face of budget cuts? Do you think intelligent switching platforms with capabilities such as Smart Install and Auto Smartports can help ease your deployment burdens?

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