St. Thomas Aquinas College -
Nestled in the suburbs east of the Hudson River, St. Thomas Aquinas College (STAC) ranks as one of the top private colleges in the New York City area. Its 72-acre campus hosts a student body of nearly 2,000 students and 50+ full-time faculty. Just 45 minutes from New York City, the college was founded in 1952 by the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill and today offers approximately one hundred majors, minors, and specializations.
The reputation and size of St. Thomas Aquinas College has grown over the decades, as have its schools for arts & social sciences, business, education, and STEM. The campus Wi-Fi network, however, has had trouble keeping up with the sharp increase in learning devices, equipment, and users, as well as the subsequent connectivity problems across the campus.
The primary reason for the lack of efficiency was an assortment of legacy and disparate pieces of network equipment (some as old as ten years) that did not work well together, which made for complicated troubleshooting, inefficient communication, and poor coverage.
Furthermore, students and staff alike couldn’t get a steady connection. No one could get efficient throughput due to a combination of limited internet connectivity, and legacy switching fabric and legacy wireless access points. That’s when STAC contacted their local ISP to boost their internet connection to 10 Gbps—a speed they wanted everyone to enjoy throughout the campus.
The absence of a unified, compatible, up-to-date solution prompted Siyong Yu, associate director of the college, and John Hong, network administrator, to reach out to EnGenius Technologies for a system upgrade. They were attracted to the ease of installation, multi-gig switches, powerful Wi-Fi 6 access points, and cloud management solution for remote monitoring and configuring campus networks.
STAC required a way to onboard students and faculty to the network easily, conveniently, and securely. So the STAC team worked with EnGenius PLMs and engineering to implement Google authentication into the system quickly.
But what sealed the deal was how the EnGenius solution allowed STAC to take advantage of the 10 gigabit ISP connection, allowing them to use the latest in Wi-Fi technology and 10 GbE and 2.5GbE switching.
Yu and Hong worked closely with the EnGenius team to review the campus buildings and grounds, select the products, and plan the deployment. To maximize the new internet speeds, Yu and Hong selected the EnGenius cloud-managed ECW230 Wi-Fi 6 4×4 indoor wireless access point and cloud-managed 10 gigabit PoE++ switch with 4 SFP+ ports.
The 72-acre campus is split by a main roadway with a number of administrative and educational buildings, athletic facilities, dining hall, alumni center, and upperclassman dorms to the north and underclassman dorms to the south. The campus is surrounded by dense trees, which are also scattered sparsely about the campus grounds.
Yu and Hong wanted each building to have its own network. That way, if a single network experienced trouble, it could be evaluated and fixed without disrupting any of the other networks. (see below)
Yu and Hong took advantage of EnGenius’s Cloud interface to layout their campus network. They designed each building to be its own network in the cloud to simplify troubleshooting, schedule and roll-out firmware updates, and confine configuration changes for less disruption to the whole network.
Several heatmaps were drawn up to measure signal strength and plan the placement of the access points accounting for building materials, barriers, and trees.
Specifically, the solution included the following devices:
With the help of EnGenius, Yu and Hong with a small team managed to install the entire solution themselves. Cloud allows for a simply onboarding process for access points and switches and mass configurations along with central and remote management.
The STAC team selected one of the most powerful access points in the EnGenius line up—the ECW230—to utilize maximum bandwidth, get better 5GHz Wi-Fi coverage and penetration through walls and floors, and supply many user devices with a greater average speed.
The 270 access points were placed throughout the campus offering the signal strength of four antennas each, capable of providing users with high-density support & maximizing newly-acquired high speed internet.
The uptick in reliable connectivity and download speed was instantaneous. The coverage, performance, and ease-of-management were much better than expected. “I love that we can check the network from anywhere. That’s the first thing,” said Yu. “The Cloud To-Go app allows me to monitor the network at any time, whenever that may be.” The solution freed up the time of in-house IT staff, as Yu and his team were not only responsible for taking care of networking but maintaining all electronic equipment at the college.
Yu was also impressed with the power and scalability of the solution. When asked about the number of users and devices they had on the network, Yu responded, “From our firewall, we see more than 2,000 connections at any given time, which means the students have more than one device connected to the network—laptops, tablets, TVs, PS4s, Apple watches—you name it.”
The solution reduced downtime as well. “We love the notifications and alerts,” added Hong. “When something is down, we get notified right away and can do something about it. We also like the color coding on the switch GUI interface indicating the condition of the ports.”
“It is quite amazing,” said Siyong Yu. “Our students really like it. Our network engineers like it too because of the Google authentication, which is a new tool, ideal for adding an extra layer of security for our students.” The EnGenius Cloud devices were equipped with enterprise-level security with Google LDAP as well, enhancing identity authentication and data encryption while improving wireless network adaptability.
EnGenius Cloud also leveraged big-data storage and analytics technology for the college IT team to make good use of client timestamp analysis, a customizable dashboard, and notifications.
Lastly, for tracking the status of the college network, the IT team will be able to get network reports customized to their needs when the time comes. In just a few steps, they can design the cover, select the content, and schedule the report to be delivered automatically to any recipient.
Overall, the Cloud solution was a tremendous improvement over the previous network, providing St. Thomas Aquinas College with the performance, efficiency, security, and scalability it needs for the long haul.