Education networks are feeling the bandwidth pinch ; Here’s how 3 are fighting the squeeze

By Paul Southwell.

Today’s K-12 learning environment includes a robust array of Internet-based learning tools, accessed by thousands of children, teachers and administrators every day via laptops, desktop computers, tablets, or mobile phones. Network servers are put to the test on a daily basis, especially with long-form video services, enhanced graphics sources, music, and other on-demand applications. These traffic burdens can take up to 70 percent of a district’s network bandwidth, causing lag times, decreases in quality, slow service and other issues.

Beyond K-12, Higher education is also challenged by bandwidth bottlenecks. Universities are also adding more online classes each semester and academic programs are beginning to use more varied media such as streaming video as part of the curriculum. College students have become power network users and connect to the Internet using a proliferation of devices including laptops, smartphones, tablets, e-readers, game consoles, televisions, and streaming media devices. They are also the first demographic to be fully “broadband first”: looking first to video and audio sourced on the Internet, versus using traditional broadcast television and radio.

Local content delivery – moving the most used content closer to the end users to augment delivery speed and lower costs – is helping education networks deal with traffic growth.  Let’s take a look at three great examples.

Broward Country – K-12

The Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) in Florida is the sixth largest public school system in the United States with 270 separate locations including schools, technology centers and administration buildings. The district also has an advanced network that is used by 225,000 students and nearly 32,000 employees. As such a large and technically advanced district, BCPS saw the benefits of caching early on, deploying 270 separate appliances to support individual schools, and also to support the demand generated from their move to personalized learning and an overall shift from printed to digital instructional material. And yet, their bandwidth and network congestion problems persisted, leading them to seek a different approach.

After just 3 weeks of using PeerApp’s UltraBand local content delivery platform, BCPS reported Internet bandwidth consumption reductions of one-third. Speed of content delivery to end-users increased dramatically. At its peak, UltraBand is accelerating content delivery to Broward users 200-times faster than delivery direct from the Internet. Click here to learn more about Broward County’s decision to deploy local content caching.

St Thomas University

After winter break, Eric Tornoe, IT Operations Manager and Enterprise Architect at St. Thomas University in St. Paul, Minnesota saw a significant increase in the number of students complaining that the network was slow.

Tornoe quickly learned that the network slowdown was primarily caused by residential students returning to school after the holiday break with new gaming consoles. Gaming has shifted from being localized, in dorm room gaming with a few players, to online gaming in real time with players anywhere in the world. Active gamers in the dorms were eating up bandwidth and it was impacting the responsiveness of the network for rest of the student population.

The school decided to implement local content caching in their network. The results were immediate. With up to one-third of traffic to the St. Thomas community being delivered from within the St. Thomas network (not from the wider internet), quality of service was considerably improved and the need for an immediate network upgrade was avoided. In fact, PeerApp’s local approach is delivering content up to 32 times faster than content delivered directly from the Internet!

The biggest surprise was that software updates went from taking days to just minutes.

To learn more about how St. Thomas University solved their bandwidth challenge, click here.

Abeline Christian University

Abilene Christian University (ACU) recently required all incoming freshmen to bring a smart device (phone or tablet) to campus. Smart devices represent 60 percent of the electronics connected to the university’s network, and more than 85 percent are Apple iPhones or iPads. In the evenings, the helpdesk received a significant increase in calls complaining that the network was slow. When Apple released its iOS 7 update, the IT staff found that the Internet traffic was fully congested for 36 hours after the update was released. ASU’s IT department turned to their CDN for help; however, the tools were not in place to allow them to better manage and cache the software updates.

After implementing local content delivery, software upgrades went smoothly. When Apple released iOS 8, the campus saw a dramatic difference from the problems they experienced with the iOS 7 release. Users only experienced broadband congestion for an hour instead of the 36 hours of congestion they had after the release of iOS 7.

To learn more about ABU’s bandwidth challenges, click here.

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