By: Stephen Sedgwick-Williams
Algonquin has more than 8,000 reasons at any given time to keep its wireless Internet services humming along.
Whether it’s for uploading files, researching a topic, doing online tests, downloading assignments, or just for killing time, it’s no wonder that the college relies on a wireless network available to students and staff.
But how much reliance is there?
“Right now we’ve got about 8,000 users at any given time on the wireless network, and we expect that to grow even more as we have more mandatory laptop programs.” said Rod Martin, manager of infrastructure services with Algonquin’s Information Institutional Research and Technical Services.
All three Algonquin campuses have the same type of wireless network with wireless access points located throughout the school, over 1,300 of which are present on the Woodroffe campus. Each access point can connect with two kinds of wireless cards: a 2.4GHz card, which is present in most wireless devices, or a 5GHz card, which are not as common but better at handling larger volumes of devices connecting to a single access point.
That’s not to say the system is problem free.
A major complaint about Algonquin’s network connectivity no matter what campus you are on, that computers can drop off the network.
“When it’s on, it’s working, and it’s just as fast as what I’d get at my own place, what I’m paying for personally.” said Eilish MacDonald, a first year student in the outdoor adventure program at the Pembrooke Campus. “But it just shorts out every so often, and things just won’t load so I have to restart everything all over again.”
“It’s generally pretty good, but it has its spotty moments,” said Aric Bolder, a first year computer systems technician student. “Certain rooms you’ll lose connectivity every now and again so you’ll have to reboot your network card.”
“It tends to happen a lot more with busier rooms where there’s 30-40 people in it, because of all the network activity in one room,” Bolder added.
So why does the network drop devices? In many cases, it’s because the 2.4GHz connections, which are less suited to handling large volumes and by far the more common in mobile devices, are simply overwhelmed.
“Thing is, people don’t realize, when I sit in a classroom it’s not just me, I’ve got my laptop, I’ve got my PDA and I’ve got my tablet in many cases, so we’re having an average of two point something devices per person,” said Martin.
If a device is having issues connecting, drops from the network frequently, or you think that you’ve found a dead spot, there is support available.
“The important thing is to let us know and we’ll get out there and take a look at it and get it fixed if there’s anything that needs to be resolved,” Martin said. “The other thing people should be aware of is we put in a new service this year called AC setup that makes it very easy to configure the network.”
AC setup is an open network on campus that will guide the user through the steps to set up their device and make the process a less painful one for students bringing their new wireless devices to campus.
“We have designed this with the highest level of reliability we can put into it, within reason. Obviously if we had unlimited funds we would build it even more elaborately,” Martin said. “I think we’re on the leading edge of what most colleges in Ontario are doing. In fact I’ve talked to a lot of the colleges and we are doing much more than the other colleges.”