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Running head: A PLAN TO IMPROVE PURDUE AIR LINK (PAL) 1

A Plan to Improve Purdue Air Link (PAL)

Grant Goldenberg
ENGL-10600-069
A PLAN TO IMPROVE PURDUE AIR LINK (PAL) 2

A Plan to Improve Purdue Air Link (PAL)

Contents

A Plan to Improve Purdue Air Link (PAL) 2

Paper Layout 2

Background 3

Problem Statement 3

Research Plan 4
Preliminary Research De-briefing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Objectives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Method . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

Impact Statement 7

References 8
A PLAN TO IMPROVE PURDUE AIR LINK (PAL) 3

Background

On the Purdue Information Technology web page, ITAP (Information Technology


at Purdue) sports claims of providing “a fast and secure computing environment for all
wireless users” via their campus-wide wireless network PAL (Purdue Air Link) (Purdue
University, n.d.). However, with increasing class sizes and an ever-expanding campus,
overwhelming traffic on the PAL wireless network has led to noticeably low download
and upload speeds during peak hours and poor wireless network strength in various
locations across campus, and the aggravation of both faculty and students on campus.

Problem Statement

With a total enrollment of 41,573 encompassing students at the undergraduate,


graduate, and professional levels, it is essential that each student have access to the
wide variety of tools and information available online that aids student productivity in
their desired area of study. In addition, with Purdue University digitizing much of the
curriculum of each course with services such as BoilerLink (a service to search for
events, organizations, etc.), Blackboard (a location for faculty and students to upload
course material and make announcements), and LON-CAPA (a tool used by teachers to
assess student knowledge using randomized problem selection) it is increasingly
important that students have access to a fast and secure campus-wide networking
system. To meet the networking needs of the growing student body, ITAP installed a
campus-wide wireless network, PAL, whose focus was to provide increased wireless
internet accessibility to faculty and students across Purdue’s expansive campus.
However, despite ITAP’s valiant effort to provide a well-designed wireless network to
the greater-student, PAL suffers chronically from a great deal of issues. The most
obvious of these issues being download and upload speeds. While having campus-wide
wireless networking is a step in the right direction, this wireless network will only be
considered useful if it facilitates the productivity of its users. In the case of PAL, it is
not uncommon to receive poor to practically unusable download and upload speeds
during peak hours. These peak hours generally span the academic school day as well as
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“internet rush hour,” a period where most internet users are online at the same time
spanning 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM (Lawrence, 2011). Another complication many users
encounter when using PAL is an inability to receive wireless internet service in certain
locations across campus. While Purdue does advertise wireless networking is
“campus-wide” it has come to the attention of many faculty and students that there are
certain locations across campus where a connection to PAL is nonexistent or so weak it
is not fit for use, one example being certain dorms on the 3rd floor of Shreve Hall. Due
to the existing issues with wireless internet networking across the Purdue campus, I
propose to analyze the current issues with the PAL network infrastructure and focus on
hot-fixes, tweaks, and feasible hardware replacement that could improve access, speed,
and security to PAL to propose an optimal solution for Purdue and its continually
growing student body.

Research Plan

Preliminary Research De-briefing

As a new student on Purdue University’s West Lafayette I have probably heard


more complaints regarding access and speed to Purdue Air Link than any other service
or facility on campus. It is not uncommon receive unusable network connection in
high-density locations during peak hours or a weak connection to no connection at all in
other areas due to poor router and access point placement. Simply investigating the
network properties of the PAL network infrastructure using the BASH terminal or
Command Prompt at one’s personal computer can often explain many of the previously
described issues. Upon investigating the network properties of the PAL network, it was
discovered to be using the 802.11n internet protocol, a good choice for high-density
internet traffic in higher education due to its usage of multiple antennae for increased
data rates and updated security standards (Cisco, n.d.). The network makes use of
WPA2-Enterprise encryption, the standard security protocol and certification program
used to secure enterprise-level networks. This is proof that ITAP, is making a valiant
effort to secure campus networking as many institutions still make use of the WEP
A PLAN TO IMPROVE PURDUE AIR LINK (PAL) 5

(Wired Equivalent Privacy) security protocol, which suffers from serious security
weaknesses. PAL is password protected using PEAP (Protected EAP), which
establishes an updated and better protected communications channel than its
antiquated EAP brethren. However, it was found PAL was using the 2.4 GHz band.
While the 2.4 GHz network band is still considered a viable solution for internet
networking the 5.0 GHz band is certainly superior and should be enabled on the router
and access points so that it can be selected by newer computers who support dual band
wireless cards in their personal computers. When completing the research mentioned
above a computer with 5.0 GHz dual band wireless capability was used and set as the
default network band by Windows, however it was concluded PAL must have 5.0 GHz
disabled as it was not provided to the computer used for testing. To make sure 5.0 GHz
network banding was supported a short walk was taken around the facilities on
Purdue’s West Lafayette campus where Cisco Aironet access points were deployed. This
model of Cisco access points supports the 5.0 GHz band (Cisco, n.d.). It was also
discovered that in locations such as dormitories, where outlets may be inconsistently
placed, access points were occasionally placed in student rooms and oriented incorrectly.
Such a solution is inappropriate as access points can be easily tampered with or
damaged by students. Furthermore, some of these access points were incorrectly
oriented or used an incorrect antenna type for their indicated task and this can greatly
decrease the functionality of an Aironet access point. With an ever-increasing presence
of students and faculty on campus PAL is strained daily to simply accommodate the
student body’s networking needs.

Objectives

Armed with information regarding the network infrastructure and its issues, I
constructed two research questions related to improving the PAL network on Purdue’s
West Lafayette campus.

1. How can the issues of low download and upload speeds be combated with software
and limited hardware changes without requiring a complete overhaul of the
A PLAN TO IMPROVE PURDUE AIR LINK (PAL) 6

current PAL network infrastructure?

2. How can better choice and placement of hardware improve connection accessibility
across campus? Provide specifics about hardware and how its design may improve
accessibility.

The first question proposed tackles the consistent issue of poor download and upload
speeds on campus and how specifically designed software or hardware solutions may be
able to salvage a failing network system without complete replacement.
The second question asks how the design and placement of hardware may be able
to improve connection accessibility across campus by tweaking an already ambitious
solution. Specific examples of solutions should be provided and explained why they are
best to address the connection issue at hand.

Method

The method that will be enlisted to answer the first question will primarily be to
analyze current download and upload speeds in different buildings across campus during
peak hours. Depending on the height of traffic at these hours, suggestions regarding
appropriate download and upload speeds from an ISP (Internet Service Provider) at
different time intervals can be proposed. Internet traffic will also be measured based on
the number of users assigned to an access point to determine if there are enough access
points to handle the specific amount of traffic in an area. Information regarding the
nature of internet usage will also be collected for example simple internet browsing vs.
streaming or gaming which consume significantly more bandwidth.
The method that will be enlisted to answer the first question will primarily be to
analyze current download and upload speeds in different buildings across campus during
peak hours. Depending on the height of traffic at these hours, suggestions regarding
appropriate download and upload speeds from an ISP (Internet Service Provider) at
different time intervals can be proposed. Internet traffic will also be measured based on
the number of users assigned to an access point to determine if there are enough access
points to handle the specific amount of traffic in an area. Information regarding the
A PLAN TO IMPROVE PURDUE AIR LINK (PAL) 7

nature of internet usage will also be collected for example simple internet browsing vs.
streaming or gaming which consume significantly more bandwidth.The method that will
be enlisted to answer the first question will primarily be to analyze current download
and upload speeds in different buildings across campus during peak hours. Depending
on the height of traffic at these hours, suggestions regarding appropriate download and
upload speeds from an ISP (Internet Service Provider) at different time intervals can be
proposed. Internet traffic will also be measured based on the number of users assigned
to an access point to determine if there are enough access points to handle the specific
amount of traffic in an area. Information regarding the nature of internet usage will also
be collected for example simple internet browsing vs. streaming or gaming which
consume significantly more bandwidth.

Impact Statement

The proposed research aims to investigate the current state of the PAL wireless
network and plans to make use of existing technologies in information technology and
network design to improve the current wireless networking system for current and
future faculty and students. Such research does not only provide better quality of
service when surfing the web, researching a subject, or making use of a web-streaming
service, encourages and supports the productivity of Purdue faculty and students by
providing them with bleeding edge technology so that they may go out and make the
maximum impact possible in their respective fields of study.
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References

[1] Lawrence, T. (2011, November 16). Evening internet ’rush-hour’ affects Broadband
users. Retrieved from
https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/
evening-internet-rush-hour-affects-broadband-users-6262838.html

[2] Purdue University Office of Admissions. (n.d.). Student Enrollment, Fall 2017.
Retrieved from https://admissions.purdue.edu/academics/enrollment.php

[3] Purdue University Information Technology. (n.d.). Wireless Network FAQ.


Retrieved from https://www.itap.purdue.edu/airlink/help/faq.html

[4] Kevin, B., Davis, P. T., & Akin, K. D. (n.d.). Understanding WEP Weaknesses.
Retrieved from
https://www.dummies.com/programming/networking/understanding-wep-
weaknesses

[5] Cisco. (n.d.). Select the Right Antennas for Cisco Aironet Wi-Fi Access Points.
Retrieved from
https://www.cisco.com/c/dam/en/us/products/collateral/wireless/
aironet-antennas-accessories/solution-overview-c22-734002.pdf