Case Study

Fashion Retail Academy boosts Wi-Fi with Networks First

Jennifer Scott

The Fashion Retail Academy (FRA) has worked with Networks First to bring improved Wi-Fi connectivity to its staff and students.

The London-based college provides courses for those wanting to make a name for themselves in high street fashion, so deals with a large number of creative students, looking to be connected all the time.

The FRA has had a Wi-Fi network for a number of years, but it used a pre-shared key. This meant students had to go to IT every time they wanted to connect to the wireless, inconveniencing both groups and using up a huge amount of the IT team’s time.

“It was a huge drain on our resources on the old wireless network to have to provide a single password for students when they brought a device to the helpdesk to be added,” said Brendan Kearney, senior manager of IT systems and e-learning at the FRA.

It approached Networks First with this problem and the company, which provides network infrastructure and services to a number of colleges and public sector organisations, began surveying the college’s property to work out what was need to optimise a Wi-Fi network for the 700 students.

After three months of planning, deciding where was best for the access points to provide strong signal and deal with peak-time traffic across the building’s five floors, Networks First deployed it in just one month using hardware from Aruba Networks. It also signed a deal with the college to manage the network going forward on a 24/7 basis.

“We’re a small, internal team and so the involvement of Networks First as an extra pairs of hands in assessing the network, upgrading the academy and then working alongside us managing this aspect of the network and the security is invaluable to my team,” added Kearney.

Users now have their own individual credentials for their devices that don’t have to be manually signed off by IT, and the network can handle up to 1,000 mobiles and tablets at any one time.

“The new service means that students are able to access the network using their individual login [and] it also means that students will have one login for all systems at FRA, such as the Wi-Fi network and Moodle – the virtual learning environment.”

The college has future plans to make a guest Wi-Fi network available so visitors to the site can take advantage of their connectivity, as well as their sponsors and partners, which include Arcadia, Marks & Spencer and even business application specialists Oracle.

“Access is so much easier for all parties and is less of a burden for IT,” concluded Kearney.


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