Although Wi-Fi technology has become part and parcel of the average office’s connectivity, only a select few are able to distinguish a good router from the bad. Plugging a standard, off-shelf router into your office connection might provide access – but not security or reliable quality. Surveys have shown that 32% of employees globally rely on more than one device during the average working day, which means that Wi-Fi connectivity could either hinder or enable employee productivity.
Standard Wi-Fi routers, designed for home use, are simply not suited to the office environment. They are not secured and aren’t managed by IT, which can leave your network vulnerable. Increasingly, corporates find that they have to rely on a managed service provider to implement their Wi-Fi network in order to curb abuse or prevent security breaches.
Whereas most of us are used to the “plug-and-play” scenario where we set up our home routers in the most convenient spot, an enterprise environment is much more complex. There are numerous devices that can interfere with your Wi-Fi signal and cause the system to shut down or drop in quality – not just smart devices with their own 3G connection, but also run-of-the-mill appliances such as microwaves. A managed service provider can prevent these lapses by conducting a thorough, physical frequency planning audit across the campus of the company.
The provider can also assist the company with managing the connectivity of all devices. A standard router can only reliably support about 10 simultaneous connections – a managed Wi-Fi solution will allow extensive connections, so that connectivity is reliable.
It has been said that employees working on their own devices are more productive. A survey by Cisco has shown that the average employee gains more than 35 minutes per week when they switch from company devices to their personal devices – but in order to draw the benefit, the connection has to be constant. By placing intelligent access points across different buildings on an enterprise campus, workers can move between office buildings and remain on the same network, without having to constantly log into their network.
Device management for new employees are also more efficient when using a managed service, as the IT department is enable to automatically provision devices with wireless, wired and VPN settings, download certificate and trust details – making it simple to handle large-scale mobile device deployments.
It is also improves visitor management – employees can easily and quickly create controlled temporary guest accounts for visitors, as opposed to simply sharing passwords which could lead to security breaches. A network management system employs a user-centric approach, identifying who is on the network, where they are accessing the network, the mobile devices they are using, and how much bandwidth is being consumed by specific devices. Real-time monitoring, proactive alerts, reporting and troubleshooting can also assist companies with planning capacity, performance and identifying application issues.
Off-the-shelf routers might work well at home, but companies cannot afford the risk that comes with it. In order to draw the full productivity benefits from Wi-Fi, it should not be bought as a product, but as a service.
Shane Chorley, Vox Telecom: Executive Head of Network and Operations