WiFi networks were introduced to provide network coverage in offices and homes. This still requires the use of access points in buildings, and WiFi routers in a domestic setting. Businesses have moved from just using WiFi to access the Internet to accessing the corporate LAN and cloud services. The result of all this is that, as far as business is concerned, WiFi is a business-critical service and with all its added accessibility it becomes a WLAN, i.e. a Wireless Ethernet LAN. Some of the major characteristics of business-critical WLANs are examined below.
WLAN Used in an Office Environment (Pixabay.com)
Planning and Design
Planning and designing an office WLAN system requires specialist knowledge. To migrate from an Ethernet-based network to a WLAN required information that must be collected on the current bandwidth of the backbone network; the expected growth of the network and the bandwidth utilisation in different parts of the company paying specific attention to areas where detailed designs are carried out or where high-bandwidth requirements exist. The design of the WLAN and its WAPs (wireless access points) must also take into account hot desking and the mobile workforce. Placing the WAPs and their antennas in the correct place is important as is deciding on the bandwidth requirement of each area covered by the WAP.
Just as companies have duplicate network elements in their corporate network backbone, so it should be with WAPs where devices must be installed for redundancy. The WLAN infrastructure must be robust and reliable with more than one WAP in site of each member of staff, so that if there is a WAP failure, connectivity by the users will not be lost. Without this redundancy, the company could suffer revenue losses and loss of productivity.
Redundancy builds a robust WLAN infrastructure to prevent major outages. It prevents loss of productivity and loss of potential revenue. It is also necessary to ensure that there are no adverse effects caused by other WLANs in the area.
There have been many instances where company networks have been hacked and information stolen. Whilst these attacks are normally on the corporate backbone where there are servers of information, it is important that rogue users are not able to access the WLAN and get access to company information and files. This is normally achieved by loading specialist software on all company desktops, laptops and mobile devices such that access to the WLAN is impossible for non-corporate devices.
Other steps to ensure security is segmentation, where the WLAN is split into a number of branches each with its own set of authorised users. It is also important that any rogue attempts to access data are quickly identified so the threat can be contained.
In corporate offices today, users have laptops, work mobile phones and maybe work tablets as well, all which will require access to the corporate WLAN. When the mobile carrier signal is low or non-existent, calling from mobile devices is carried out using voiceover-WiFi (VoWiFi). So as to keep corporate business on track, poor WiFi signal must be addressed to improve the user experience.
According to a paper published by Cisco: “Eighty-four percent of the IT leaders say they are seeing bring your own device (BYOD) to work growth in their companies. While IT decision makers have different expectations for the degree of BYOD growth, 84 percent agree that more employees are using their own devices for work purposes. Even in Europe, where the BYOD trend is less prevalent, between 62 percent and 80 percent are witnessing growth. That being said, European IT leaders are clearly seeing less prevalence of BYOD than their counterparts in other countries.”
In the original planning of the WiFi network, all these considerations should have been taken into account or included in future planning. It may be that as VoWiFi is relatively new to some areas that no account was taken of its impact on bandwidth and the user experience. Consequently, an upgrade od the WiFi system and WLAN must be carried out.
The user experience in exhibition halls and conference centres are filled with many people with lots of mobile phones, so a high-performance event WiFi system will be required.
To check that the WLAN is performing correctly, there are a number of metrics that should be checked. There could be complaints from users of poor voice quality or of slow data download, and such complaints should be investigated. As the WLAN service is delivered over WiFi, not only should the corporate network be checked but also the WiFi itself. The packet loss, jitter and latency metrics should be checked to see if they are within limits. These metrics combined are a good measure of the WiFi network data transfer rate and if any one of these metrics is not optimum, poor performance will be the result.
The WiFi RF signal should also be checked, especially the RSSI (which is the received signal strength indicator, and the SNR (which is the signal-to-noise ratio).
WiFi networks and WLANs are getting more complex and handling all forms of data, voice and video. The design of these networks is a specialist area and getting it right will affect the productivity and viability of a company. Getting it wrong will result in user complaints and poor performance so using a company with the applicable knowledge and staff is the only way to achieve a perfect result.