Over the past few years, Wi-Fi has grown in importance, outranking even that of the wired network, when it comes to working, shopping, learning, and living. A fast and reliable Wi-Fi connection is now a business-essential for any organisation looking to stay ahead in the modern connected world. As such a crucial part of your company’s infrastructure, there are a number of factors that bear consideration when managing your Wi-Fi network.
Wi-Fi: From ‘nice to have’ to ‘must have’
Historically, Wi-Fi was an addition to the wired network, while maintaining a solid and reliable wired network was the IT department’s priority. Wi-Fi was considered a ‘nice-to-have’ rather than a business-necessity, and did not receive significant focus from businesses. However, over the past number of years, the importance of Wi-Fi has grown significantly and is slowly becoming the primary network used in many organisations. Wi-Fi is no longer seen as a helpful addition to the IT infrastructure, but rather as a key enabler to achieve business goals.
The increased importance of the mobile workforce is one of the main driving factors behind the development of Wi-Fi. Staff want to be productive regardless of their location; whether at their desk or in the cafeteria, they expect to be able to get work done. As such, Wi-Fi is expected to deliver the same characteristics as a wired network, including the speed, security, resilience, and consistency that wired networks are renowned for.
Applying the helpful tips below will ensure that your SMB gets the most out of its Wi-Fi network.
1. Take time to understand the applications that run on your network.
To provide users with the best possible experience it is important that your network has a high level of applications awareness. Ideally the network will automatically detect applications, and tune settings to optimise the user experience. For example, the implementation of QoS (quality of service) can help to prioritise traffic depending on the level of importance. Voice traffic over the wireless network generally should be given the highest priority as it is very sensitive to congestion or latency. It’s also important to pay particular attention to mobile applications, i.e. point of sale.
2. Consider bandwidth and plan 3-5 years out when choosing an access point model.
As mobile continues to grow in strength, network traffic is likely to increase significantly. The density of wireless users in different physical locations within the business and how usage heavy they are is also particularly important to understand. Different performance levels of access points can be chosen depending on bandwidth requirements and user density.
When viewing a wireless hardware provider’s website, there will be various access point models and it can be difficult to make the decision on the right one. The price differences generally relate to the wireless standard supported and the performance available. The decision on the right model for certain physical locations can depend heavily on bandwidth requirements. Higher performance wireless access points will distinguish between faster and slower devices, sending slower devices to a separate radio to avoid everyone running at lowest common dominator speeds.
Wireless AC Wave 2 is currently the highest available standard pushing multi-gigabit speeds with Wave 1 below gigabit and the older Wireless N technology available for budget conscious or low density areas.
3. Choose the design that’s right for your organisation.
There are two popular wireless network designs to choose from. The first is the traditional controller model – a physical device within the business that manages wireless access points. This type of controller is particularly suitable for big organisations (i.e. universities) with thousands of network users. The other option is a cloud based management solution which doesn’t require any physical on-site controllers and offers the ability to start small and scale up without the initial large investment of the controller. This is very popular when the number of access points is less than 100. Both options can be perfectly valid but conducting a requirements assessment of features and functionality, as well as an investigation of the number of potential users, is also very important.
4. Be security savvy.
Security considerations are paramount when building out your Wi-Fi network, as large quantities of sensitive business information will pass through the network every day. As such, as well as making sure that the network is fully secure, it is important to fully understand and comply with the relevant regulatory requirements.
5. Be a good host.
Many organisations today provide guest Wi-Fi. If you are one of them, be sure to deliver a great user experience. Monitor devices that connect to your network, analyse their behaviour and learn from it.
As mobile adoption and growth continues, it is expected that organisations will need to manage 3-5 times more devices in the next five years. Wi-Fi networks will need to support this change. As such, Wi-Fi should be considered as a strategic asset, and a source of competitive advantage.
For information on what Datapac can do to help your business make the most of its Wi-Fi network, contact us today.
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