In the world where network connectivity is the life blood of today's workforce, it is a shame to install and manage a poorly designed wireless WLAN. Not only is it a frustrating and time-consuming ordeal, but it also leads to loss of productivity, irritated employees, dampened and weakened work processes, and an overall sense of displeasure. Doesn't sound very gratifying? Well, the good news is that it doesn't have to be that way.
Consumer grade wireless hardware and software is all good for your Guest networks, but do not opt to go cheap for your enterprise needs where your productivity and growth relies on the quality of your network. Enterprise-class wireless hardware and software has the absolute power and ability to perform to suit your needs - so long as some best practice guidelines are followed, and is designed right.
1. Do not fret to invest
When you need to drive coast to coast with a moving trailer on tow, you do not attempt setting off on a tiny little Beetle, do you? So why even think about installing a consumer grade WiFi solutions when your entire team's productivity and efficiency is dependent on your network's speed and reliability? The different between consumer grade and enterprise grade WiFi solution is dramatic - and while it's true that the latter is far more expensive, the performance and ease of maintenance will be well worth the investment.
2. Do not design solely for coverage
Coverage is often always at the top of the list of what our Enterprise WiFi needs to attain. However, density is also of just as crucial concern now. An average employee owns a minimum of three connected devices - thanks to BYOD and an upsurge in smart gadgets. From laptops to tablets, from work phones to personal mobile phones, from smart watches to fitness trackers - our lives are surrounded by electromagnetic pulses. The density has increased spectacularly and a single AP can only handle so many devices at any one time. Oh, and add the IoT movement on top, which will undoubtedly add more pressure to the wireless density. As important as wall-to-wall coverage is, the capacity also becomes just as crucial, if not more. It is, therefore, pivotal to ensure that the design accurately addresses the needs of enough APs.
3. Do not install and walk away
So you've deployed the wireless infrastructure, tested it for functionality, established that it meets the SLA, and you're done. Sorry to poop your party, but you're not. It's satisfying to successfully complete a project, but it's important to continually perform periodic site surveys to ensure you're ahead of the demand dynamic. Are the locations of deployed access points still optimum? Has the number of users (or their work patterns) changed? Regular site surveys give you much needed visibility - not only in terms of the changing dynamics, but also in terms of signal strength, overlapping signals, interference, etc.
4. Do not think all antennas are made equal
There are plenty of fish in the pond - but which one best feeds the family? Both - in terms of hunger and the palette? There are traditional omni-directional antennas to directional parabolic, yagi, or dish antennas. The choices are abundant. It is a crucial design step to consider the physical environment, capacity requirements, and building dynamics in choosing the right antenna type. Enterprise-class APs do come with built-in antennas, but they are mostly designed for traditional office settings with insignificant obstructions such as drywalls and cubicles. Depending on the type of facility and space, especially in the non-traditional spaces and outdoor areas, it's important to choose the right antenna to ensure an optimal operation and efficiency.
5. Do not overlook the applications
It is certainly not enough to simply incorporate the device count, or to simply get the bandwidth consumption right. What is also just as important, and often gets neglected, is the sound comprehension of the type of applications that are running over the WLAN. Is it mostly data, or are you also running voice/video? If so, what percentage of total bandwidth is used for time-sensitive and critical applications? The identification and insulation of these critical apps from the non-critical ones are crucial and need to be addressed through an implementation of QoS policies.
Connectivity to workforce is like an oxygen to sustenance. Building an Enterprise grade Wi-Fi is only a start, but making sure it's done right is a key to making sure the infrstructure is a joy to manage!