Today’s users don’t sit still for long. And, when on the move, they expect to have connectivity to whatever resources they need to do their jobs.
The old-fashioned fixed wired network connection just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Users are mobile and even the devices many use when in the office are those that allow them to be productive and efficient from wherever they happen to be – at the office or at a remote location. The ability to share data and create their own workgroups can inspire employees to new levels of productivity.
Most of today’s laptops sold don’t even have an Ethernet port, and require dongle cables or a docking station to connect to wired networks. Users of mobile phones and tablets don’t use cable connections at all, unless tethered to another Internet device via a cellular link.
And desk phones? How last century these have become!
But cutting the cord isn’t as simple as adding additional WiFi access points. A wireless network needs an approach different from a typical wired network. Here are some factors to consider before making that final snip.
Design: Designing a wireless network isn’t a simple task. It requires all of the skills used to configure a wired network, and more. Networking professionals have learned the hard way how complex it can be to design a wireless network that provides a strong signal, and adequate bandwidth, everywhere throughout an office. You need to consider where people will be working with their devices, and what’s inside the walls at those locations that could block or divert wireless signals.
Management: The tools that manage a wired network are inadequate to corral the additional requirements placed on a wireless network, especially when mobile devices communicate through cellular and WiFi technologies. Both the network and devices must be monitored and secured.
Cost: New mobility options come with a price tag, well beyond the cost of new equipment and technologies. An implementation budget will be required, the development of management processes will eat budget and staff time will be required for training to ensure the maximum collaborative benefits are obtained. Still, wireless networks are relatively cheaper to set up than cable-heavy wired networks, and lower long-term costs are comparatively lower because less equipment means less maintenance. Wireless network equipment is typically plug-and-play, which helps reduce the additional cost of vendor installation.
Security: It is the number one consideration for most businesses. Security is never easy, but there’s little question Wi-Fi security requires more tools, management function and skill than what’s needed to protect wired systems. As soon as users go wireless, the perimeter created by cabled networks disappears and a world of potential intrusion points opens up. A wireless network can extend beyond a company’s physical walls and suddenly someone sitting in a parking lot might easily intercept corporate traffic. An improperly secured wirelessly-connected point-of-sale system at retailer TJ Maxx recently made possible a data breach that cost the company millions of dollars and a damaged reputation – hardly the kind of notoriety any business wants. Mobile phones add a further layer of complexity, since these can operate on several networks simultaneously. What’s required is a whole new range of expertise to secure corporate traffic and ensure it cannot be intercepted, or that lost or stolen devices don’t become vulnerable entry points.
Challenges arise with the evolution of every new idea, forcing companies to weigh the inconveniences and risks versus the potential advantages. Wireless offers advantages of versatility, cost effectiveness and the ability to please and power a mobile workforce. These are compelling, but IT managers would be wise to ensure they understand all the implications of their decision before cutting the cord.