Many Wi-Fi networks were introduced as a convenience that enabled employees to work from their laptops without being chained to their desks. As mobile devices grew from simple communications tools to do-everything tools, the Wi-Fi network shifted from a nice-to-have amenity to a must-have delivery mechanism for business services.
Wi-Fi improves user productivity by providing on-demand access to applications and data. Beyond phone and email, Wi-Fi enables users to take advantage of real-time communications capabilities such as text, video and instant messaging. This improves the quality and speed of collaboration, which enables faster decision-making. Wi-Fi also makes it possible for organizations to deliver a better customer experience and quickly respond to customer needs.
However, many legacy networks were not built with these business needs in mind. To provide employees and guests with basic wireless connectivity, many small to midsize businesses (SMBs) have deployed consumer-grade Wi-Fi routers and access points. Although the price point may be attractive, consumer-grade technology can’t deliver the performance, reliability, built-in features and scalability of business-grade equipment.
As we’ve discussed in a previous post, consumer-grade routers, for example, offer parental controls and built-in servers that support gaming and video streaming. Business-grade routers focus on security and performance optimization, which are far more valuable in a business environment. Business-grade Wi-Fi technology also simplifies management and provides traffic analytics that allow you to better understand user and customer behavior.
Before investing in Wi-Fi technology, organizations should understand the various network types: 802.11b, g, n and ac. These letters indicate the wireless communication standard of the equipment. 802.11b and g are outdated, and should be upgraded to 802.11ac or n.
The 802.11ac standard is the current state-of-the-art, delivering the fastest speeds and supporting the highest density of users. 802.11ac also makes use of the 5GHz wireless spectrum so you can offload some traffic from the crowded 2.4GHz band.
The 802.11n network type found in most SMBs is still very viable technology. However, most newer laptops and mobile devices support the 802.11ac wireless standard, and can reach their full performance potential if your Wi-Fi network includes 802.11ac equipment. The 802.11ac standard is also backward compatible with older standards, providing you with investment protection.
When evaluating Wi-Fi equipment, look for Quality of Service capabilities and advanced security features. Quality of Service allows administrators to control bandwidth allocation at the device level and limit or block certain types of traffic. Keep in mind that WEP and WPA encryption standards are considered highly vulnerable. Look for WPA2 with AES encryption and enterprise as well as personal modes.
Traditionally, Wi-Fi networks were designed to provide basic coverage and connectivity in a way that minimized gaps in service. However, because more users and devices are connecting to the network, often using bandwidth-hungry applications such as video, organizations are now focusing on capacity when designing Wi-Fi networks. In other words, make sure the network provides adequate bandwidth capacity and performance for business applications in a high-density environment.
Before you go shopping for Wi-Fi network equipment at a big box store, think about the downsides and consider the future needs of individual users and the organization as a whole. Let SSD help you design a Wi-Fi network that is capable of supporting a higher density of users and devices, sophisticated applications, robust security tools, and advanced Quality of Service controls.