Your organization depends on reliable WiFi. But does your WiFi meet the needs of your staff and guests?

Technology is always advancing, changing, and improving. It seems that every day we wake up to some sort of new technology that did not exist yesterday.

As WiFi technology has progressed, have you:
1. Updated your WiFi infrastructure to accommodate the advancements in application performance?
2. How reliable is your current WiFi solution and is it meeting the needs of your staff and guests?

If you have not upgraded your wireless in the past three years, you are likely missing out on some of the advancements today’s WiFi solutions offer.

For many organizations, WiFi has become a critical service that companies have become dependent on for their daily operations.

It is no longer a “nice to have” luxury simply to provide to employees or guests, but rather is now part of your mission-critical network infrastructure. Taking the time to understand the impact that WiFi has on your organization is a great place to start before investing in any further.

  • What will the WiFi be used for?
  • Is it for general connectivity around the office to enable higher productivity and mobility?
  • Or is it more focused such as for using a barcode scanning device?

Some organizations have embraced voice over IP (VOiP) which may require WiFi enabled telephony. Understanding what the WiFi will be used for helps in planning to ensure the delivery of a robust and reliable connection that is optimized for the intended purpose. Many organizations have deployed some sort of WiFi solution or access points, but far too often these are deployed incorrectly resulting in poor performance and coverage. If your organization has become dependent on WiFi operating correctly and optimally, take the time to regularly provide it the proper care and feeding it needs.

Care and Feeding: The WiFi Audit.

Believe it or not, WiFi is not a turn it on, set it, and forget it technology. Just because it works at home doesn’t mean that will work in a business environment. WiFi performance and characteristics are impacted by environmental variables within a building. Think about a warehouse for example. How often is equipment moving through it and large volumes of materials entering and exiting the space? These could have an impact on the WiFi performance and should be considered when planning a WiFi solution.

A WiFi Audit is designed to review the physical and logical characteristics of a WiFi solution. This audit looks at the physical aspects of a deployment as well as the configuration and orientation of existing access points and the supporting infrastructure in the existing design. The WiFi Audit also produces a report and heat-map indicating where access points are located, along with their coverage areas, and the quality of signals found throughout a facility. You will quickly be able to identify where areas are the weakest and identify steps to improve and optimize your WiFi network.

 

What might I be missing? What’s new?

The current generation of wireless technology that is in wide spread use is 802.11ac. An even newer technology standard that is in the very early stages is 802.11ax which promises to offer increased performance and efficiency for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. Should you rush out and pick up the latest access point offering 802.11ax? No, not necessarily. It will take some time for devices to hit the market that can take full advantage of this new standard and its performance enhancements. It’s 2018 and we’re still seeing 802.11ac devices finally hitting a wider broad spread range of devices on the market. For now, look for 802.11ac for both devices and access points.

Battle of the bands:

More and more devices are being released that utilize the 5GHz spectrum band for WiFi. For a very short time, it was thought that the 2.4GHz spectrum band would see its demise as the clear winner for performance and that the optimal signal quality would be 5GHz. However, 2.4GHz is still holding on strong. The Internet of Things (IoT) is creeping up on us and we’re starting to see more devices being released on 2.4GHz only. We need to be able to manage the devices that are connecting to our WiFi solutions. Most business class WiFi support having a single WiFi network (SSID) operate on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz at the same time. Generally speaking, you may want to push or steer devices to the 5GHz band for best performance. Newer WiFi solutions provide the ability to help push devices that might want to connect to 2.4GHz to the 5GHz network if they’re capable. This is called “Band Steering”.

The 5GHz frequency may be faster but it also broadcasts in a smaller circumference from each access point. This requires that your wireless network and access point placement be designed properly for the 5GHz spectrum to ensure proper coverage, overlap, and reliability.
Aging networks that were designed with 2.4GHz only in mind may not be properly positioned for a transition to 5GHz. If placement of the access points was done at a time when only 2.4GHz band was taken into consideration then you may have some challenges supporting 5GHz and likely find deficiencies in reliability when upgrading. These deficiencies may not be quickly evident, but the symptoms will be unreliable connectivity. You will then need to complete a WiFi Audit to help in identifying the correct placement of the access points.

 

How can I provide secure Guest Wifi?

When configured correctly, you can set up and provide secure guest WiFi that makes it easy for guests to connect while protecting your network resources. Here are some of the key questions and ideas to keep in mind as you configure your WiFi for Guest access:

Is your guest wireless using a pre-shared key that you have posted in plain sight? Is that password changed at any regular interval to ensure outside users cannot continue to utilize your WiFi network and internet when you are not aware?

Some WiFi solutions also have ways of providing secure Guest access that automatically expires after a pre-set and configurable amount of time. For example, by using Aerohive’s Private Pre-Shared Key (PPSK) technology, access can be granted to guests that expire after 8 hours. You can also set up a kiosk to allow guests to request access and obtain their unique passphrase to access the network. This will guarantee that your guest network is only available for a set period of time and that any future request will have to be specifically reauthorized.

There are still a lot of other details to consider such as: Do I give guests access to my wireless, and if so, will they have access to my production network? How can I ensure that access to my internal resources are protected? Are there single points of failure?

The Walker Group can help you design a dependable wireless solution that is specifically tailored to your business needs. Contact The Walker Group to start the conversation about a WiFi Audit today.