How Do You Understand The Overall Cost of WLAN Deployments?

The majority of this cost section is dedicated to the consideration of initial deployment and installation of a Wi-Fi solution, as well as to the cost of its day-to-day management. This is because at the end of the day, what you spend on access points for your WLAN may not turn out to be where the bulk of your budget goes. When considering Wi-Fi networking, the deployment, installation, and ongoing maintenance costs must be weighed heavily. Costs should include both initial setup and deployment of the system, as well as the day-to-day issues of management in both the central office and in the schools. This problem looms large for IT leaders in the education space; the  2017 Consortium of School Networking IT Leadership Study quantifies this intuitive truth, saying,

“The increasing challenges of managing modern infrastructure, including the demands of 24/7 learning environments and the complexity of keeping systems secure, are not being met by increasing budgets to handle such demands.”

The same study goes on to say that 43 percent of respondents report that budgets are not adequate to meet all the technology needs in a school district. Now more than ever, districts need to understand the true cost of new initiatives and be able to plan for initial expenses and ongoing costs. It has long been accepted wisdom in the networking world that branch offices— which could be likened to school buildings or campuses—require only a small percentage of your budget to purchase, but the lion’s share to deploy, install, and manage.

In order to find a Wi-Fi solution that you can afford to own, you must understand:

  • What is needed to configure devices, and where is this activity done?
  • What is required to install the Wi-Fi network?
  • Can installation be done by a non-technical employee? If the vendor answers yes to this question, ask exactly how it might be done.
  • How and where are day-to-day management activities handled?

These issues can also depend upon the overall WLAN architecture. As discussed above, different WLAN approaches have different implications on how data forwarding and control traffic are handled. The impact of how the architecture is implemented can quickly increase the cost of deployment and maintenance. Some vendors offer as many as three different architectures: centralized controller, virtual controller, or distributed control. The problem is that the cost of implementation and maintenance varies based on the size and geographic location of each site.

Which do I use where? Controller? Virtual Controller? How large a controller to buy?

If each site has a different architecture, what will licenses cost at each site? When the IT administrators troubleshoot a problem at a site, the same questions must be asked at every site, because each architecture will require a different methodology for problem isolation and resolution.

All posts in this series:

1) Education Wi-Fi Buyers Guide For 2018

2) Looking Back At The 802.11 Standard – Wi-Fi Basics

3) The Ratification of 802.11ac, and Its Use Cases

4) How To Pick Which Access Point Is Best For Your Network

5) Understanding RF Interference In Wi-Fi Deployments

6) How Can You Avoid RF Interference in Wi-Fi Deployments?

7) Does Wi-Fi Architecture Matter In 2018?

8) If Wi-Fi Networks Can Operate Without Controllers, Why Do Companies Still Use Them?

9) What Role Does BYOD Play In K-12 Deployments?

10) Network Security Questions To Answer Before Considering BYOD

11) Security Concerns for K-12 Networks

12) What is Application Visibility and Control?

13) Other Considerations With AVC

14) How Do You Understand The Overall Cost of WLAN Deployments?

15) Ongoing Management and Troubleshooting Of Enterprise Wi-Fi Networks


Alexandra Gates is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Aerohive Networks, where she helps define market strategy and vision for the cloud and WLAN products. She is a CWNA with a comprehensive background in wireless technology, including capacity and management planning, RF design, network implementation, and general industry knowledge.

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