Readers Beware- Not Everything the “Pros” Say Is All That Accurate

Maybe what I’m about to point out can be chalked up to the natural human desire to simplify things. To reduce the complexity of processes and approaches isn’t necessarily bad in and of itself, as that’s where innovation comes from.

At the same time, networking- and wireless networking in particular- is sufficiently nuanced across technologies, environments, and locales that to over-generalize is to risk giving bad advice. This effect is amplified when you have the bully pulpit of publishing in well-read periodicals, and you forward what amounts to  bad or incomplete guidance to lots of readers.

Here are a couple of examples:

Considerations for Wi-Fi deployments in K-12 education settings (Network World)

This is not a bad article in general. At the same time, you have to wonder where the author is coming from with this guidance:

1per

 

The problem here is that every school is different. Many classrooms are different. With varying number of seats, different furnishings and building materials in play, and even which wireless APs you end up with, you may well be shooting yourself in the foot with a strict “1 for 1” philosophy. Some rooms may need more than 1, some may be ridiculously well covered by adjacent rooms.  Only a proper design and survey by a WLAN professional using proper tools will yield an answer to the question of “how many APs and where?”

As a taxpaying parent that has put three kids through K-12, and as one who served on the Technology Committee for our local district, I’ve seen what happens when non-technical administrators spend big money on things they really don’t understand. This is already a hostile enough realm where school districts (meaning you and I at tax time) are taken advantage of. Bad advice is the last thing we need here.

Then there’s this:

Chromecast: At home in the boardroom as well as the living room (PCWorld)

Sweet cheese, just kick me in the groin already… Back to the non-tech-savvy people who read these articles and form expectations based on them. The author ends this piece with:

“That brings us to the part that makes Chromecast a no-brainer business purchase. It’s only $35.  That’s less than it would cost to bring coffee and bagels to the meeting.”

Sounds nice, for sure. Except for the part where it won’t work for most enterprise network environments. Google built in NO enterprise support for Chromecast, and creating new consumer-grade WLAN islands in the middle of business wireless spaces where security is paramount isn’t a popular or wise notion. Read the article- if you see any evidence of the author addressing network requirements and not just being sparkly-eyed by what he was able to do at home, I’d like to know about it. Again- poor advice that leads to bad purchasing decisions and in this case a likely showdown between a non-technical Exec and the network administrator.

I’ll finish with a nod towards the Holy Grail of Bad Wireless Advice. Carumba…

Now, I’m not trashing Network World or PCWorld, or the individual writers as writers and gentlemen. I am saying that if you’re a non-techie, you have to do your homework and get expert help on matters of wireless networking.  If you’re a technical type, you need to be careful about what articles you forward to people, and I’d encourage you to leave comments where appropriate to try to balance bad information. And if you are writing on technical topics, get it right and present the whole story for the benefit of your readers.

 

7 thoughts on “Readers Beware- Not Everything the “Pros” Say Is All That Accurate

  1. Dale Rapp

    I have worked in a K12 environment for 18 years, 17,000+ students with 29 schools, and I first started installing APs in the early 2000’s and eventually designed the first district wide wireless network in 2007. For our buildings (lots of concrete and block walls) one AP per a classroom is not necessary. There are a few areas that can have a greater concentration of APs, library, cafeteria, theater, gym, but in a common classroom wing or area, and with good planning and placement of APs it doesn’t not need a 1 to 1 ratio.

    Reply
    1. wirednot Post author

      Thanks, Dale- is always good to hear from the voice of experience. I’m not sure how “1 AP per classroom” became such a marketing strategy- it basically says you have to do WLAN design for offices, malls, hospitals, hotels, airport lobbies, colleges, the dentist’s office, government facilities, recording studios, the fish market, and the dojo- but for K-12, all you need is 1 AP per classroom, baby.

      Why stop here? Why not 1 AP per _____? We don’t really need design tools, skills, and strategy… if it works in schools this way, why not the rest of the world? It’s not even a creative argument.

      Reply
  2. Tim

    “you have to wonder where the author is coming from with this guidance”

    Here’s the answer: “I had some thoughts about this, but also discussed the topic with Kezia Gollapudi, product marketing manager for K-12 at Aruba Networks.”

    Aruba sells more APs if readers follow that guidance.

    Reply
    1. wirednot Post author

      Aye… sad times for this sort of thing. But hey, we live in a world where “free” really isn’t, nor is “unlimited” and everything is either 2X, 10X, or simply “way” better than everything else in contextless marketing comparisons.

      Reply
  3. Richard Nedwich

    You’re right, the correct answer is ‘it depends’ and it will require time/money/expertise to determine the right answer for each customer.

    However, that doesn’t help a diligent school IT manager doing web research to scope the size and cost of a WLAN project, so people fall back to ‘rules of thumb.’ I think the point here is ‘the rule of thumb has changed’. Why? BYOD and 1:1 deployments in K12 have exploded, applications have gone more multimedia, expectations of users for reliable wireless have increased, and networks designed and deployed a few years ago may be challenged to keep up.

    Reply
    1. wirednot Post author

      Hi Richard,

      Is this to say crappy advice is better than no advice? As much as I don’t care for “One AP = X square feet” rules of thumb, these are better than “1 AP per classroom” guidance. Marketers seem to have locked on to an easy target- uninitiated K-12 administrators and school boards. For K-12, we no longer need Ekahau, AirMagnet, or qualified WLAN designers? It just doesn’t hold water to people actually doing this sort of work.

      Reply
  4. Pingback: Ugh- More Misinformation on 802.11ac | wirednot

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