Enterprise WiFi? What? Why?
It’s no secret that WiFi – and wireless connectivity in general – has taken on a life of it’s own. Gartner projects that by 2020 there will be over 38 billion wireless devices in operation thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT). As a result, someone, and something has to support the connectivity to these devices.
What is enterprise WiFi, and how does it differ from the WiFi my ISP provides?
Enterprise grade WiFi (as opposed to consumer grade) has no single definition, but can be summed up as follows:
It can be centrally managed by a controller (physical, virtual or cloud)
Provides roaming capability throughout the Enterprise – that is there’s no loss of connectivity or service degradation when you move from one access point to another, this should be seamless for a user
It supports Enterprise Grade WPA – with user/certificate authentication and EAP derivatives. Usually this is done with a radius server integration
Those are 3 features that are common in an enterprise WiFi solution. Note other features may be present in yours, we’re just talking about what most users expect when they pay for a solution.
Also, with an enterprise solution, there are a few assumptions:
No deadspots, 100% coverage is assumed. Why spend all that money in this day and age if you aren’t going to plan to eliminate deadspots?
Performance, while most your users understand it won’t work as fast as a wired connection, there is an expectation that performance should be reasonable. 100 MB file transfers shouldn’t take 10 minutes over a wireless connection today
It just works, your users don’t care how, only that it does.
With the above, if you can say your system provides all of these features and assumptions, then you have an Enterprise Grade WiFi solution.
How is this different from my all in one router at home or ISP WiFi?
Two words performance & capacity. In home solutions, or those provided by the cable modem your ISP provides, work great in a small space, with less than 12-15 devices, also most of the consumer technologies you use at home (Streaming video, music, browser based games) rely on you having buffered a portion of the media you’re consuming – it’s downloading some of it ahead of time, and continues to download as you play.
As you get further away from your in-home router, your speed decreases, this is due free space path loss – the main cause of signal loss – ultimately resulting in poor service or a deadspot. Traditionally, you would add a range extender, and it would allow signal to reach these areas, but with that comes a cost, your effective bandwidth – speed – is cut in half.
With an enterprise grade solution, you can add additional access points to these areas, improving overall coverage, without compromising the speed, since it’s hardwired into your network. Additionally, unlike just adding another router, your controller would influence your devices to select the stronger signal.
Do I need an enterprise grade WiFi system?
An enterprise grade system isn’t for everyone, consider these factors:
Is your business location 1500 sqft or more?
Does your business rely on tablets or laptops for day to day operations?
Have you or your staff experienced decreased wireless performance at busy times or in certain locations within your business?
Does your current solution provide guest access?
If you answer yes to any of 1,2 or 3, and no to 4, you may benefit from considering an enterprise solution. Additional benefits include:
Reliability – Enterprise systems are more reliable
Support & Service – You can call for help in the event of an issue
Simplified and Centralized management – Manage your entire network from a central location, with an easy to use interface
User and data analytics – many retail, restaurants, and other businesses can use this information to improve services, offerings, and gain insight on customer patterns
The takeaway? Using consumer grade WiFi for your business is appealing due to the low cost of entry, but will inevitably cost more in reliability, support, and productivity. In other words, you run the risk of being “a penny wise, and a pound foolish”.
Want to know more about enterprise grade WiFi? Ultraviolet Networks can help! Ask us about our ViFi complete wireless solution.