Time to review the economy class Wi-Fi?

 

With so many people using wireless devices in their day to day lives, from laptops to phones and iPads, it is surprising that many organisations continue to rely on a Wi-Fi set up that is just not up to the job.

Leading corporate organisations might be deploying advanced networks with integrated security, switching and mobile device management functionality. This provides users with seamless connectivity across the organisation and operational staff with a single pane of glass view when it comes to network management and performance.

>See also: Debunking the 5 myths of Wi-Fi

However, a large number of UK business and organisations are still lagging behind when it comes to developing robust infrastructure and a reliable, secure, Wi-Fi service.

Wi-Fi is no longer-a-nice to have service. A recent survey that highlighted how 49% of business travellers saw access to Wi-Fi as a deciding factor when choosing a hotel is just one example of how our expectation of connectivity has grown.

As a result, businesses need to realise Wi-Fi is no longer simply the concern of an IT department. Long periods of down-time or disruption can have a significant impact across a range of areas. Here we explore some of the basic considerations involved in delivering a first-class Wi-Fi experience.

The wireless workspace

Life was simpler in the 90s. You had your desktop machine connected to the server, corporate network and the internet via an ethernet cable. People had laptops and they too had to be wired into the office cabling if you had any serious work to do. Then came Wi-Fi and broadband and you could use your laptop on a wireless network so long as you didn’t stray too far from the one wireless router.

>See also: Wi-Fi and productivity: redefining the workplace

Now the office along with many others has moved across to an all wireless set up. People must be able to take their connected device into a meeting room or another office without losing their session.

Informal sessions and multiple sites

It’s not just the main office either. While the Wi-Fi there might be OK it’s often not where all the work goes on in modern organisations. People have informal meetings throughout a building, from the reception area to the dining room. With the trend to build open spaces into many new office developments people might also have meetings outside.

An incomplete office Wi-Fi network will mean that people are restricted to formal meeting areas and this, in turn, can impact on productivity. For organisations with multiple branch offices, it is also important to keep Wi-Fi connectivity consistent across locations.

Investing in a simplified branch network set-up can enable greater ease of connectivity and Wi-Fi maintenance, with automatic self-configuring VPN and WAN optimisation creating secure, high-performance links between sites.

Warehouse Wi-Fi

In the logistics sector warehouses rely on a whole array of wireless devices to manage inventory picking and shipping but these devices require strong and consistent Wi-Fi coverage throughout the warehouse.

>See also: Total connection: Singapore’s public Wi-Fi

While this can be challenging there are a number of factors that can be taken into account to ensure a first-class service, including the structure of the warehouse, density of racking and the amount of goods likely to weaken signal and reduce the efficacy of the Wi-Fi network. Careful planning and implementation of access points will avoid black spots and ensure devices are not rendered useless.

Keeping your Wi-Fi customer promise

Public venues like conference centres and sports stadia as well as open air sports or entertainment events increasingly rely on apps to deliver information to the customer, delegate or spectator. If the Wi-Fi coverage isn’t carefully planned and provisioned you and your app are not delivering on the customer promise.

Conferences, for example, often no longer rely on a physical delegate pack to deliver the conference papers; they are all downloadable from the app. Without access to the app from across the venue you have no idea what is going on and no guidance as to which sessions you should attend or how to get to them.

Event apps in general also tend to be part funded by advertising and if these are not visible to the visitor then you are not keeping your part of the bargain with the sponsor and they won’t come back next year.

>See also: What will define the future of Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi can be a central customer promise in other areas too. Connectivity is a high priority in shared offices spaces for example and failing to deliver on this promise can damage reputations.

Security

In a survey by Xirrus, while 91% of users of public Wi-Fi understood that it was not secure, 83% still admitted to continuing to use it for checking email with 43% accessing confidential data, 42% carry out online shopping and 18% happy to log on to banking applications.

Given this level of complacency you need to make sure you prevent both staff and visitors from putting themselves at unnecessary risk by building a secure Wi-Fi network within your building or campus environment.

It is also important when considering Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) users, whose devices may pose a greater security risk. Implementing an Identity and Access Management (IAM) policy, which limits the access certain users have, will help further boost security.

Put yourself in the position of the user

How often have you complained about poor Wi-Fi performance only to be told by the IT department that they cannot see any problems and according to them it should be working fine. Well it should be but you cannot get a signal, you’re in the middle of a presentation and the screen’s gone blank?

>See also: LTE or Wi-Fi? Are either up to standard for stadium connectivity?

Traditionally, it has been difficult to determine what issue a user is experiencing when struggling to connect to a network. However, technological developments are now making it possible to not only see the performance of a physical wireless router but also to replicate what the user is experiencing on their device.

If you are going to take Wi-Fi seriously this is the sort of service level you need as it will help you to resolve issues more quickly and ensure the user you at least understand the nature of the problem they’re experiencing.

Conclusion

With leading businesses investing in multi-site Wi-Fi networks and cloud-based optimisation that allows round-the-clock monitoring to ensure a network is operating at peak performance, those offering an economy-class service will increasingly be left behind as expectations for connectivity continue to grow.

Wireless connectivity has become a must-have service, not only for businesses, but for individuals, and plays an important role in the way we interact with the world around us. The days of economy-class Wi-Fi are over and it really is time to upgrade.

 

Sourced by Gary O’Neil, director at Systal Technology Solutions

 

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is the editor for Information Age. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and cyber security.