A successful wireless local area network (WLAN) installation for a small or medium sized business requires a thorough site assessment to determine the benefits a WLAN can afford your personnel and your guests, including partners, suppliers or contractors. This isn’t just a stroll around your facilities

with an indistinct eye toward where you might set up your equipment. And your WLAN decision shouldn’t ignore the cost factor nor security concerns.

You must first determine whether or not there are business benefits to offering wireless connectivity to your users. Mobility and productivity benefits will often provide immediate validation for the project for management, but be certain this is true for you.

If your company believes that a WLAN clearly makes sense, these steps must be taken to prepare for implementation of the technology.

  1. Find a trusted advisor. This could be a reseller partner, wireless product manufacturer — even the in-house IT person.
  2. Assess the scope of the wireless deployment. Do you want coverage in the office? Boardrooms? The warehouse? Everywhere?
  3. Determine who should have access, and just as importantly, who should not.
  4. Security, security, security. Everyone should have a minimum of secure access associated with their wireless LAN deployment, regardless of budget or technical expertise. Multi-tenant buildings are highly susceptible to unauthorized wireless access from intruders that may or may not have malicious intentions. Determine your security options and err on the side of caution.
  5. Through your trusted advisor, a physical site survey may be required, depending on environmental factors such as building layout, range, ambient signals and devices, and performance requirements.

Also, avoid these common pitfalls:

  • Lack of security and unauthorized access: Most “”retail”” access points have less than stringent security protocols that are generally disabled by default.
  • Poor access point placement.
  • Forgetting about upgrades: Most enterprise or commercial class access points offer a firmware or software load for upgrades. Make sure they are constantly kept up to date. Just as you add patches and fixes to operating systems, applications and PC hardware, it’s important to monitor any updates that your access point vendor offers. Often SMBs experience repeated IT-related annoyances that can be fixed simply by updating (for free) the code on their hardware.
  • Selecting products not based on open standards: When you limit your choices to one or a small number of vendors, you may no longer have the flexibility to select the best products. Don’t get caught without an upgrade path.

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