“You can’t handle the truth!” It’s not just a line from a famous movie, it has real-world implications, IF you believe your hospital wireless network is just fine to support initiatives like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) moving into the next generation. The truth is that technology administrators now can further support their BYOD efforts by upgrading to 802.11ac wireless access. However, the full benefits of 802.11ac, and therefore your BYOD initiatives won’t be realized if the infrastructure is not there to support the new technology.
Here are 10 Signs your Hospital Wireless Network Can’t Handle BYOD with 802.11ac:
1. You don’t have the staff - This is a bit of a misguided point, seeing as if you didn’t think you had the staff to support an implementation, you wouldn’t recommend it in the first place. That line of thinking is off with BYOD, because contrary to many opinions, even large organizations can safely, securely and effectively implement BYOD with any sized staff.
2. Too many BYOD devices to “touch” - Not necessarily. Solutions available today have made it easier to push mobile device management applications to those devices that are connected to the wireless network, limiting the number of devices a staff would have to physically touch.
3. You haven’t had a wireless assessment - For a few years, site surveys were the “norm” and then, with various advances in software, there was a shift to more “predictive” site surveys where by taking into consideration a floor plan and building materials, engineers could produce a design that was boasting about 90% accuracy after deployment. Now, especially in healthcare facilities with the number of wireless devices being utilized for patient care, it’s almost imperative to have a wireless assessment. A wireless assessment will take into consideration anything physically that might interfere with connectivity by simply reviewing a floorplan alone.
4. You haven’t done any application testing – Think of all the applications that are currently running on the devices that access your healthcare wireless network. How many of them are “mission-critical”. Obviously, you’d want to prioritize those particular applications over the network - allocating enough bandwidth to make sure those applications function properly. Having a good knowledge about allowed and trusted applications running on the network and validating that those applications are prioritized in your environment are critical.
5. Your edge switching is NOT Gigabit – Phase 1 of 802.11ac is offering 600Mbps to 1.3Ghz bandwidth. Therefore, if the current edge switching infrastructure is 10/100, and attempts are made to introduce the new 802.11ac wireless access points will be met with one word: BOTTLENECK. Factor this upgrade in now as you should any way if you are doing an 802.11n upgrade. 802.11n offers bandwidth to the client up to 600Mbps which means that a 10/100 edge switch port is the bottleneck in your secure wireless network.
6. You don’t have 10Gb from the edge to the core – Uplinks from the edge switches are recommended to now have 10Gb interfaces to your data core switch. At a minimum, be sure that your uplinks support some type of link aggregation protocol like LACP. Aggregating those links to give you 2, 3 or 4Gbps to the core can provide better performance than just one single 1Gb link. With some 802.11ac technology, AP’s are offering anywhere from 600Mbps to 1.3Gbps of bandwidth, therefore having multiple APs on a single switch could potentially oversaturate your link.
7. Your core doesn’t have 10Gb interfaces – Here’s another engineering recommendation regarding aggregated switches, they’ll need to be 10Gb links to accommodate the uplinks from the edge switching. To avoid bottlenecks, core switches will also need 10Gb interfaces. Engineers make this recommendation because core switching will need these high throughput interfaces, not only to support the links from the aggregation switches but also for connectivity with wireless controllers. Manufacturers today are producing wireless controllers that are in support of 802.11ac which have up to four 10Gb interfaces. That can allow for up 40Gbps of throughput to the network.
8. Your switching is NOT PoE+ (802.3at) capable – 802.11n access points use up to 15mw of PoE but 802.11ac access will reportedly be north of that. Some estimates put 802.11ac in the 20-25mw range, which 802.3af (regular PoE switching) will not support. Make sure that your switching can support 802.3at PoE+ (and yes, there really is a “plus” sign after PoE) and that will be another step in the right direction.
9. Your last RF Design didn’t take into account 5Ghz – 802.11ac is only offering the high bandwidth benefits in the 5Ghz spectrum. 2.4Ghz will still be supported on access points, but the speeds won’t be any greater than what we see now with 802.11n. And be careful about density, based on what our engineers have reported in the field. Building materials and attenuation have to be taken into account, as well as the devices currently utilizing and saturating 2.4Ghz. If your last RF design did NOT take into account devices and attenuation of 5Ghz, it would be worth investing in a revised network design.
10. Your BYOD policy hasn’t been updated – In previous blog posts, we’ve discussed how BYOD policy can be shaped and implemented, securely and effectively. If you have read through any of those postings, you’ll realize that the biggest key to successful BYOD is the ability to pivot. Taking a hard line with rapidly advancing technology is dangerous because a new solution could restructure your entire policy. Remember that a little flexibility goes a long way, in healthcare and in wireless.
If your healthcare facility is interested in implementing a BYOD solution with 802.11ac we can help. We are experts in BYOD and 803.11ac. You can contact us here with any questions or a free Wireless Network Analysis of your current wireless nework infrastructure.