What have we learnt from BETT 2017?

So the BETT show has now been and gone and it has left many of us wandering, what did we learn this year. Sure, BETT was filled with all sorts of innovations in terms of intelligent classroom furniture and platforms for improving student education, but what were the key takeaways from this year’s show regarding networking.

1. More people need to be made aware of just how easy and affordable upgrading to 802.11ac Wave 2 can be!

With the release of the 802.11ac Wave 2 ratification fresh in the industry, wireless technology has reached unprecedented heights in dealing with coverage and capacity. Of course, we are certainly aware of just how restrictive budgets within education have become over the last few years and the obvious difficulties that this can cause with a full WLAN refresh, however there are now many affordable avenues available to make this a possibility. These avenues can range from differing procurement offerings such as interest free credit and network subscriptions. To keep discounts being applied by manufacturers to encourage you to upgrade.

It doesn't have to be difficult to upgrade either. All of the networks that we design can be fully compatible with your other network infrastructures as well as client devices, and unnecessary down time can be avoided by professional project coordination.

There will always be a number of factors which determine whether your establishment is ready/able to perform and upgrade, but not knowing what is available to you should never be a good reason to stick with an antiquated 802.11g/n network.

2. The importance of the Prevent Duty and how to be compliant

OK, so this isn't necessarily something that we learnt this year at BETT, however what we did learn is that many IT Managers and School leaders alike are aware of the Prevent Duty, but there is some uncertainty as to how you can be compliant with it.

For those of you who aren't aware yet, the Prevent Duty is; the duty in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 on specified authorities, in the exercise of their functions, to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.

In order for schools and childcare providers to fulfil the Prevent duty, it is essential that staff are able to identify children who may be vulnerable to radicalisation, and know what to do when they are identified.

So how can this be achieved?

Well firstly, we as network providers need to be able to protect the users of that network, from being able to access inappropriate content. By enforcing regulatory compliance, web security has evolved beyond traditional URL filtering to granular management of social media, Google services, applications and SSL traffic inspection.

This is a good start, however what happens if a user is attempting to or is able to access this material? In depth reporting on each network user, including Web activity, application use, bandwidth consumption, data loss risks and more should be compiled, and if a particular user is found to be 'high risk' this should be highlighted to the duty officer.

Of course, the Prevent Duty itself lacks a definitive list of requirements that must be fulfilled in order to be 'compliant', however there are a number of recommended solutions available which are confirmed to be 'Prevent suitable'. For further information, please get in touch with one of our education specialists.

3. Unsecure BYOD and corporate device onboarding is still to go the way of the dinosaur, unfortunately!

One other thing that we became more aware of during the BETT show, is just how many schools are continuing to on board BYOD, Corporate and guest devices via unsecured methods, whether it be a simple Pre-Shared key authentication or even open access. This can cause any number of issues including; resetting the Pre-Shared key on each device should it become known to unauthorised users, unmonitored/managed access on open networks for guests, and restricting learning opportunities for students/staff by not offering BYOD privileges. So how can you secure devices on the network, without having to necessarily overhaul your network infrastructure?

Fortunately, this is where CloudPath by Ruckus Wireless steps in. CloudPath provides certificate based authentication for Corporate, BYOD and Guest devices with WPA2 Enterprise encryption. More information can be found on the solution via one of our early blogs below;

Thank you for taking the time to read through what we found important to discuss following the show, and of course please get in contact should you wish to discuss any of the above further.