Why Would An Organization Outsource Its Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi is not something I care deeply about. I look at it the same way I look at electricity: I love what it enables me to do, but I don’t particularly worry about the nuances of it. I just expect Wi-Fi to work (and so does everyone else) like when I flip on a light switch. I don’t get hung up on tinkering with radio profiles to squeeze every last ounce of speed. I buy the best equipment I can afford, follow the recommendations of the vendors for setup, and then let the products do their job.
As a school IT director, I am responsible for everything from the fiber line coming in, to every end user device. My job, like many in my line of work, has evolved from a network administrator job into network administrator, iOS expert, Mac expert, ChromeOS expert, Windows expert, security expert, internet safety expert, technology integration expert, online admissions coordinator, database manager, website developer … and Wi-Fi engineer.
Being a one-person department with this growing list of responsibilities means I need help. However, I have never – and probably won’t ever – advocated for adding another person to my department. My strategy has always been to figure out how I can eliminate tasks that I can hire vendors for by outsourcing the job, and often the equipment, to experts.
For example, when I was hired I realized that managing a PBX phone system isn’t a core strength of mine. So I hired a company to handle all of the maintenance and programming of our system. When I have a PBX-related request come in, I simply forward it to our account manager with a requested completion date.
Looking ahead, I can see a day where I choose to outsource the installation and management of our networking gear – this would include our Wi-Fi.
As networking (switches, firewalls, servers, and Wi-Fi) has matured, implementations have become more standardized. At the same time, Wi-Fi is also very dependent on the environment (RF, building design, etc), users, and organizational goals.
By relying on an expert to handle everything from the initial design to the ongoing management, I am creating a situation where my Wi-Fi is on par with a utility. Just as I don’t think about if the water is going to come out of the faucets, I don’t have to worry about if the Wi-Fi is operating at full capacity each and every morning. I’ve removed the stress of managing a Wi-Fi network to simply managing a vendor relationship.
What will I do with all that spare time?
Long term, this frees me up to do what’s most valuable at our school, and what best uses my skillset. Instead of tinkering with radio profiles, I am helping teachers design digitally integrated lessons. Instead of applying firmware upgrades, I am helping new families work through our online enrollment process. Instead of researching the best content-filtering settings, I am helping to host Google Expeditions field trips.
One of the projects I took on this year was researching and deploying an online application, admissions, and enrollment system for our families. This project took months to see from start to up-and-running, and it’s something that I am continuing to manage. I was only able to take this on because I had thought ahead years ago, and began analyzing which aspects of my job I could outsource to vendors (email server, PBX, web hosting, etc).
For me, the future is clear: hire more help or outsource aspects of my job? Long term, outsourcing network management is going to be a lot cheaper than hiring someone, and we will likely have a better network as a bonus.
By looking at what else I can outsource today, I will be ready for what’s coming in the years to come.