For most workplaces, wireless networking (WiFi) is as important as utility power, air conditioning, heating, and running water. Because of this, many kinds of companies invest in standby power generators to largely eliminate the business interruption from a loss of utility power.
In much the same way that your employees and customers would get super-cranky if your location lost its air conditioning or heating for several hours at an inopportune time, it’s entirely possible that your company has become way more WiFi-dependent than it realizes.
The challenge, however, is that for many, digital transformation has snuck up on us over the past few years. It used to be that if your Internet Service Provider (ISP) connection went down, employees were highly likely to be sitting on their hands as so much of what was needed for productivity comes from cloud-based applications.
In a mobile-first world, there are even more devices that need fast, reliable, and secure connectivity. Is your company keeping up with this demand? Or is your outdated wireless network making it nearly impossible to onboard new devices?
In this article, we’ll look at when it’s time to update legacy devices on a wireless network, how to find the best balance between monitoring and preparing for growing capacity needs, and how to design a reliable network that’s ready for emerging technology.
When to Update Legacy Devices on Your Outdated Wireless Network
A few years back, many people would upgrade their Android or iOS smartphone every one to two years. Why?
In some cases, the devices weren’t all that sturdy. Other people wanted more robust hardware to run newer mobile operating systems and apps. More speed. More storage. Better cameras. Longer battery life. Or just a desire to “be cool.”
However, when it comes to your company’s wireless network, one thing’s for sure. Newer smartphones with newer operating systems and newer apps need more network bandwidth -- in many cases, a lot more throughput with a lot less latency.
So if your company’s wireless network was installed more than a few years ago and hasn’t been incrementally upgraded more recently, your legacy devices for network infrastructure may be causing a lot more problems and end-user complaints than you likely realize.
How do you know if your company’s wireless network is outdated? From the standpoint of your mobile users, take time to understand which smartphones and smartphone operating systems are in use on your network. Between your company’s hardware asset inventory, conversations with users, help desk tickets, user surveys, and even network monitoring software, you’ll want to get an idea of the how current your end users’ smartphones are.
At the risk of oversimplifying, if your end users insist on regularly upgrading their smartphone hardware, OS’s, and apps to the latest and greatest, chances are your WiFi hardware will also need a more aggressive upgrade and replacement cycle.
Tip: When inventorying your company’s mobile device usage and patterns, focus on the number of devices rather than the number of users. Why? When you’re designing your wireless network, you need to take into account both coverage area and network infrastructure capacity. This becomes very difficult to accomplish without knowing the device counts.
Balancing Between Monitoring and Preparing for Growing Capacity Needs with Managed WiFi
Unless your company has the luxury of a large in-house IT organization, it’s unlikely that you have 24/7 access to advanced, enterprise wireless networking expertise. What’s a lot more likely is that your IT support team, either in-house or outsourced, dabbles in WiFi. Yes, sure a family medicine doctor could likely be a lifesaver if a baby had to be delivered in a remote area that’s 200 miles from the nearest hospital. But if you have a high-risk pregnancy or the mother has any serious health conditions, obstetricians and other specialists would be far more reasonable choices.
Ten years ago, when smartphones and tablets were still a rarity, and the Internet of Things (IoT) was barely a blip in the IT industry, wireless networking wasn’t quite as mainstream or mission critical. Today's businesses on the other hand now demand unprecedented levels of performance, reliability, and security from their WiFi infrastructure. Most small IT teams, and even small integrators, VARs, and managed service providers (MSPs) can’t deliver on enterprise WiFi needs for design, installation, monitoring, and ongoing support.
As a result, a subset of managed services has emerged in recent years known as managed WiFi.
Much like other popular managed services such as managed desktop support, managed backup, and managed hosting, managed WiFi provides an all in one solution that includes needs assessment, hardware, installation, optimization, maintenance, monitoring, and support.
With wireless networking infrastructure, monitoring is especially important for environments where IT and company management never really know ahead of time how many users and devices will be on the WiFi at any given time -- and just as important, which kinds of applications and bandwidth demands will be taxing and straining the network infrastructure.
By measuring WiFi performance, you’ll get a much better handle on performance at the device level and WiFi visibility. In a modern enterprise WiFi environment, companies can even deploy IoT-based sensors to monitor real-time analytics.
To prepare for growing capacity, make sure that your managed WiFi provider can help you plan for the future, secure against potential threats, assess cloud storage needs, scale for additional employees and locations, monitor utilization, and manage network connectivity.
Designing a Reliable Network That’s Ready for Emerging Technology
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, network engineers got good at designing and maintaining reliable local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs).
However, by the late 2000s and into the 2010s, IT professionals now had a host of emerging technologies that each had their unique network infrastructure demands.
Mobile devices, cloud computing, the consumerization of IT, software as a service (SaaS), voice over IP (VoIP), streaming video, video conferencing, IoT, and social media are just a few of the many reasons why it’s so challenging to design a reliable wireless network that’s ready today, and will be ready tomorrow, for all the emerging technology that’s inflicted upon it.
And that’s the real challenge: As much as network architects and IT leaders try to predict the future, it’s very challenging to make sound investments in WiFi infrastructure today that will still be relevant and cutting-edge in 12 to 24 months from now.
How WiFi as a Service (WaaS) Helps
And that’s the reason why WiFi as a Service (WaaS), as a more specifically packaged and bundled kind of managed WiFi, makes so much sense for companies that struggle to onboard new mobile devices on outdated wireless networks.
Especially valuable for businesses that need to support an ever-increasing amount of mobile devices, cloud-based software, and increasing user expectations, WiFi as a Service makes wireless networking as simple as purchasing a utility or a subscription.
Without this approach, WiFi tends to be rather complicated and risky. Enterprise IT departments with a WiFi-savvy arm of engineers will develop a services process and solution stack to provide great WiFi for their organization. Without this talent, however, this kind of methodology and professional approach is virtually non-existent -- unless you have a WiFi as a Service subscription agreement.
Another barrier to maintaining a high-performing wireless network stems from financial issues. So what inevitably ends up happening: procrastination, competing priorities, and limited IT hardware budgets leave outdated wireless networking hardware in place way past their service life. A WiFi as a Service subscription addresses all of these WiFi performance barriers by allowing companies to purchase their WiFi in a way that helps them onboard the new devices that they have to support.
SecurEdge WiFi as a Service makes it easy for you to get an all-in-one program, with a simple monthly subscription, that covers all of your WiFi hardware, software, and managed WiFi needs. No ifs, ands, or buts!
The Bottom Line on Onboarding New Devices on an Outdated Wireless Network
A few years back, the IT world was scrambling to figure out how to support their company’s bring your own device (BYOD) policies. While this asset management philosophy is widely accepted now, when I worked in enterprise IT in the 1990s, sneaking your own hardware devices onto the company’s network could get an employee anywhere from an HR reprimand to terminated for insubordination.
Household names like iPhone, Salesforce, and Dropbox, ushered in by the consumerization of IT, changed all of that. And along with these extreme end-user freedoms and shifts of power away from centralized IT, onboarding devices become way more challenging and risky.
But IT teams and their outsourced equivalent eventually caught up -- until along came digital transformation and a mobile-first world. By never really knowing for sure how many mobile devices will show up on the company’s WiFi at any given time, and how the devices will be used, this is the mother of all monkey wrenches that brings so many well-intentioned but severely outmatched and outdated wireless networks to their knees.
Fortunately, there is a better way to (a) help your WiFi-dependent end users stay productive and happy, (b) keep your network fast enough for bandwidth-intensive applications, (c) maintain a secure environment that keeps the bad actors out, including both internal and external would-be saboteurs.
To learn how you can make worries and uncertainty around onboarding mobile devices a thing of the past, take the first step when you request a design consultation from SecurEdge Networks.