At least among IT professionals, it’s no big secret that public WiFi networks are not safe places. A quick search on Google, or simply skimming through your news feed or social media feed, will almost certainly turn up headlines such as “All Wi-Fi networks are vulnerable to hacking, security expert discovers” from the Guardian and “Why You Really Need to Stop Using Public Wi-Fi” from Harvard Business Review.
So what should business executives and IT managers, that are weighing their options, be thinking about when it comes to improving network security for their own provided WiFi service?
The first reality that you need to confront: You don’t know what you don’t know. And when it comes to your WiFi service, complacency and denial can make your network security an accident waiting to happen. So unless you plan on rolling your company back to the 1990s, along with dial-up modems and dot matrix printers, you can’t bury your head in the sand.
In this post, you’ll learn about what you can do to improve the security of your WiFi service dramatically -- and how SecurEdge WiFi as a Service (SecurEdge WaaS) provides business executives and IT managers with six significant security benefits:
1) Pre-Scheduled Hardware Refreshes
People don’t tend to replace their desktop PCs or notebooks quite as frequently as they used to. During the 1990s and early 2000s, hardware refresh cycles often ran in parallel with big operating systems updates from Microsoft and corresponding microprocessor performance innovations from Intel. With the consumerization of IT and the mass adoption of mobile computing and cloud computing, companies are holding onto their fleets of hardware longer.
However, that same kind of thinking can be quite dangerous when it comes to the hardware that runs your WiFi networks. By merely looking at the sheer number of WiFi-connected devices that each person in your company now brings with them, can your current access point really keep up with an average person connecting their notebook, tablet, smartphone, and smartwatch? Second, consider how many users on your WiFi network are either streaming video or music -- pretty much all day long.
Then consider all of the environmental abuse that your WiFi hardware gets: dust, heat, and humidity and all the normal utility power fluctuations like spikes, surges, sags, and brownouts.
When your company is so highly dependent on the availability of its WiFi service, pre-scheduled hardware refreshes, as part of your SecurEdge WaaS investment, ensure that your hardware is upgraded about every 48 months. This keeps your network up to date, makes sure that your WiFi hardware isn’t being stretched way beyond its intended serviceable life, prevents emergency downtime, and makes for easier budgeting when your capital expenditures can be rolled into your IT operating expenses.
2) Ongoing Software Updates
In a perfect world, malicious hackers would never try to break into your network, you’d never have disgruntled ex-employees, utility power would be 100% consistent and reliable, and new IT vulnerabilities wouldn’t be created and discovered at dizzying speeds.
But your company, and especially your WiFi service, don’t live in a hermetically sealed bubble. So like any other business executive or IT manager, you need to think about your responsibilities to keep your network security, and more broadly your IT infrastructure, safe.
One of the most important ways to do this is by applying ongoing software updates that improve performance and address newly discovered vulnerabilities. Anyone that uses a desktop PC, notebook, or smartphone is very familiar with the regular cadence of updates pushed out to their devices.
It’s just as important to apply the same kind of update vigilance to your WiFi networking hardware. For many, however, this is often pushed to the back burner, over and over again, until that procrastination opens the door to the bad guys -- to barge right in, exploit your WiFi weaknesses, and sabotage your company’s productivity.
When you invest in SecurEdge WiFi as a Service, all ongoing software updates are tested and automatically installed to your WiFi hardware so you don’t have to worry that falling behind could cause you to experience severe performance degradation or emergency downtime at the worst possible time.
3) Managed Network Services
In most small businesses, owners have talked about the idea of wearing lots of “hats” -- at any given time taking on the roles of sales manager, HR director, accounting manager, office manager, customer service representative, and IT person. As that company grows and gains the luxury of hiring specialized talent into each of the roles, that kind of chaos does eventually slow down -- of course, replaced by a myriad of other sources of chaos.
But even in companies that have well-staffed IT teams, every employee is almost always being asked to do more than ever, with less time available. And the pace of change is just mind-numbing. These challenges become especially daunting when you think about staying on top of your company’s WiFi security.
For those companies that don’t have the luxury of a deep bench of IT talent, at each physical location, managed network services like SecurEdge WiFi can make a lot of sense. This way, WiFi experts can make sure that your network security bases are covered on an ongoing basis. And from a financial standpoint, managed network services are almost always far more cost effective than hiring a WiFi infrastructure expert for each of your physical locations.
4) Expert WiFi Design
In contrast to the sales copy that you read on the retail packaging of a wireless router at a big box retail store, designing high-performance wireless networks is not easy once you get beyond a small single room and a handful of devices.
Just like buying an elliptical machine for your home gym is entirely different than ensuring that your entire family adopts a fitness regimen that works for each person, every wireless network implementation is different.
Facility size, walls, the composition of the walls, environmental interference, device types, and application usage (to name a few) are all factors that need to be considered when it comes to a designing a stable, secure, high-performance wireless network.
In much the same way that people turn to personal trainers to optimize their fitness plans, and architects to plan their building design, and accountants to optimize their financial strategy, your company almost certainly needs expert WiFi design if it’s even remotely dependent on its wireless network.
And the more mission critical WiFi service is to you and your employees’ daily routines, the more your company likely needs both the expert design and the security benefits of SecurEdge WiFi.
5) SecurEdge Cloud Network Management
You’re pretty serious about having reliable WiFi service at your company. So far, you’ve checked the boxes for keeping your hardware current, applying software patches, ongoing day-to-day management, and building on top of expert WiFi design. What else should you be concerned about?
How will you, as the responsible business manager or IT manager, know that everything is working as expected on your wireless network? If only there was a simple, easy-to-understand software tool, that you could log in to from anywhere, that showed you the health of your wireless network in real time, helped you troubleshoot problems, and easily onboard new members?
The good news? Now there is one single tool that helps you do precisely that: SecurEdge Cloud, available exclusively to SecurEdge WaaS customers, is built on top of Aruba Airwave. It pulls data and analytics from your network and reports this information on a customizable dashboard.
SecurEdge Cloud is built to be user-friendly enough for non-technical business managers, yet powerful enough to stay on top of what matters most for keeping your WiFi secure. Just as important, you can access SecurEdge Cloud from anywhere.
6) IoT Performance Sensors
When weighing your options for managing your WiFi service, there’s one more technology to ask about: performance sensors.
While the Internet of Things (IoT) is still a relatively new concept, it’s already gained traction in a number of industries and business applications.
But the core idea has been around for a while. Dating back to 2011, when the first generation Nest Learning Thermostat was released, the general public was waking up -- quite literally -- to the home automation benefits of the next generation of programmable, self-learning, WiFi-enabled thermostats.
In much the same way, when applied strategically, IoT performance sensors can take your WiFi network monitoring and management to the next level. The basic idea is simple: By placing performance sensors in areas of your facility where WiFi users or other devices need reliable, secure wireless networking, SecurEdge WaaS can more rapidly pinpoint and resolve application performance issues and user complaints.
The Bottom Line
Your company is growing a lot more dependent on its wireless network as more users, devices, and applications are layered on top of what may already be fragile infrastructure.
Can you really afford to take a chance that your WiFi service experiences degraded performance, a security breach, or emergency downtime at the worst possible moment?
Make no mistake: It can be difficult to truly get your mind around all that’s needed to keep your wireless network secure and reliable. And that’s all the more reason why it makes sense to turn to the experts for ensuring that this vital resource performs as expected for your company.