How to NOT Provide WiFi for Your Business: 5 Sure-Fire Steps
Let’s pretend it’s Opposite Day, and you’re looking to deploy a slow, spotty, unreliable wireless network for your business or organization.
You’re in luck! There are several common mistakes made by IT management and key decision makers, across all industries, when trying to implement secure WiFi. We’ve narrowed it down to the five worst. (You’re welcome.)
How to NOT Provide Wi-Fi for Your Business: 5 Sure-Fire Steps
Step 1: Use Consumer Networking Gear
Step 2: Partner with a Company that Uses Free Predictive RF Design Tools
Step 3: Ignore Access Point Best Practices
Step 4: Believe You're Done After Deployment
Step 5: Work with an Unqualified or Inadequately Certified Partner
When properly applied, following these five steps will ensure a maddening WiFi experience for your employees, customers, and guests. Your WiFi signal will cut in and out, pages will take forever to load, key business applications won’t work properly, and your business will suffer.
Bonus: this approach will also succeed in draining your company’s IT budget with very little to show for it.
If that all sounds like the type of WiFi network you'd like to provide for your employees, customers or guests, read on!
Step #1: Use Consumer Networking Gear
“I bought a wifi router at Best Buy that works great in my house. Let’s buy the same one for our office!”
Also known as SOHO (Single Office, Home Office) gear, consumer networking gear has come a long way in recent years. It does have some newer features that make it almost look like it could work in an enterprise-grade WiFi scenario. Plus, it’s less expensive than enterprise-grade equipment, which makes it very tempting.
But in every area that matters—capacity, stability, security, and more—consumer networking gear can’t perform at the level required by an enterprise-grade network. It’s just not designed to.
So, by all means, try using equipment designed to support a handful of users on your campus of thousands. This is an important step toward building an awful WiFi network.
Step #2: Partner with a Company that Uses Free Predictive RF Design Tools
“You get what you pay for...so free tools must be super valuable!”
If you choose to ignore Step #1 and actually partner with a company selling enterprise-grade wireless equipment, don’t worry: there’s another misstep you can take here.
Several companies trying to sell you their wireless solution will oftentimes cut corners by using free predictive site survey tools. This type of software has two main flaws.
- It’s made by a manufacturer specifically for their products.
- It’s a marketing tool, not a true WLAN design tool.
What does this mean for your business?
First, it means there is a pretty good chance your network will be either over-engineered or under-engineered. In other words, the design either calls for too many access points or too few, both extremely bad for performance and, in the case of being over-engineered, it’s also bad for your bottom line.
Look at a real-world example below from a customer of ours. On the left is the first solution they were considering, fortunately they also asked for a solution from us. As you can see there was quite a difference between designs.
Second, many of these free tools don’t account for key factors like building materials, the types of devices being used, the number of devices and end users that will need to be supported, and future growth, all of which affect your RF design.
Free RF design software lacks the features and functionalities that can produce an accurate predictive design.
It’s true, highly trained and experienced network engineers could more than likely put together a good wireless network design using free software. However, experts like this aren’t easy to find.
Trusted wireless service providers like SecurEdge will perform an in-depth predictive site survey using advanced software (that in full disclosure is very expensive), and then we will follow that up with an actual physical or on-site wireless site survey.
This step verifies the predictive RF design we created and allows us to make adjustments based on your real-world RF environment.
If the phrase “trusted wireless service provider” makes you flinch because it sounds too reputable, you’ll love our next terrible tip.
Step #3: Ignore Access Point Best Practices
“Because if having too many or too few access points wasn’t bad enough!”
Other than over-engineering and under-engineering your network, as mentioned in Step #2, there are a number of other problems you can run into when it comes to access points.
One is to simply swap out old access points for brand-new ones.
Wait, what? Wouldn’t this be a good thing?
In theory, yes. However, the problem with this is that your new access points in most cases will have new features and performance capabilities that your old ones didn’t, meaning you need to go back and check your design first.
Maybe your new APs are more powerful, so now you have too many in one area and it’s causing interference. Another problem might be using the wrong type of antenna for an application it wasn’t suited for.
Example: using an omni-directional antenna on the ceiling of a warehouse. The tops of your shelves will be covered, but the bottom will not. In this case you would want to use a directional antenna to focus the coverage downwards.
When it comes to access points, there are numerous details that need to be accounted for to achieve the best results. However, if you want a slow WiFi experience, you can just ignore them.
Step #4: Believe You’re Finished After Deployment
“Our network is up and running, so our work here is done! High fives all around!”
Once you’ve deployed your wireless network, if you really want to tank its performance, don’t miss this important step: doing nothing!
That’s right: one of the worst things you can do once your network has been deployed is fail to follow the three Ms: Monitor, Manage, and Measure.
Possibly the most important component of your network is having the right WiFi services process in place. This will allow you to monitor everything you’ve just installed, manage those components (keep things up to date, etc.), and measure the performance of your network from the end users’ perspective.
Everything on your network is alive and every component changes, from the devices accessing your network to the RF environment itself. The reality is, you’re never really done—unless you prefer a network that over time becomes slower, less secure, and finally, obsolete.
Watch the video below to learn why managing your wireless network is so challenging today.
Step #5: Work with an Unqualified or Inadequately Certified Partner
“Anyone with an IT background can set up our enterprise Wi-Fi network.”
Designing and engineering wireless infrastructure is a very complex, very specialized skill set. It takes years of training, vast amounts of certifications, and ultimately experience to both understand how to use the tools required and how to properly design, deploy, and support enterprise-grade wireless networks.
The challenge for most businesses is that WiFi experts are expensive to keep in house and are hard to come by—it’s very competitive with demand so high and supply so low.
When searching for the right partner to work with, there are several important questions to ask. You’ll want to know about their certifications, the tools they plan on using, and how they plan to support your network going forward.
For a list of what certifications to look for and more detailed information on how to choose the right partner, read the article here.
Having terrible WiFi might work great for Opposite Day, but for every other day of the year, your business needs fast, secure WiFi that won’t slow your applications down, threaten the safety of your end users, and flood your IT department with complaints from angry employees, customers, or guests.
With extensive experience building wireless systems and budget-friendly subscription options, delivering the wireless network your business needs is now easier than ever before.
Take a look at our pricing page to get a breakdown of our different packages.
Dana Adams blogs regularly for SecurEdge and other tech companies. She believes technology should serve people, not the other way around. When she's not blogging, you'll find her enjoying the outdoors with her family and two rescue dogs.