Given that the typical worker uses three computing devices, it’s no surprise that many wireless networks are strained to the breaking point by the vast proliferation of tablets, smartphones and notebooks. The emergence of wearable devices and connected objects only makes the situation more challenging.
While the rapid advance of bring-your-own-device programs empowers workers, it also puts a strain on IT departments trying to keep pace with demand as hundreds of additional devices join the network. Bandwidth-hungry applications such as streaming media, Voice over IP phone calls and video conferencing have become the norm. And mobile devices such as smartphones generally require higher signal strength than notebooks, which further taxes access points (APs). The result is server and network latency, or worse, dropped connections.
That just won’t do for staff who expect and require seamless connectivity to do their jobs and collaborate. To improve the user experience, states and localities must start with the network. An increasingly mobile workforce demands ubiquitous, fast wireless access at all times.
Many organizations looking to upgrade their wireless LANs are now evaluating the performance gains of 802.11ac, the latest wireless standard with products available on the market.
Offered in nearly every smartphone, tablet, notebook and desktop, 802.11ac provides throughput exceeding 1 gigabit per second. The standard operates on the 5-gigahertz band in up to eight spatial streams and uses beamforming technology to direct signal transmission or reception. These enhancements result in speeds up to three times faster than 802.11n gear.
To support fast wireless data rates, organizations will need uplinks of at least a gigabit and wired networks that are up to snuff by placing 1Gbps switches at the edge and 1Gbps or 10Gbps switches at aggregation points or the core. IT departments will also need CAT 5e or better cabling, with at least one run per AP. Because 802.11ac also requires more power, organizations may need to increase wattage to deploy the latest 802.3at Power over Ethernet switches.
The evolution of wireless has gone from centralized networks with so-called dumb APs to a decentralized architecture of intelligent APs. These devices handle tasks such as forwarding decisions, policy enforcement and power control.
Consider sending wireless management to the cloud. Lopez Research defines cloud-managed Wi-Fi as subscription-based wireless LAN virtual controllers and management software that’s hosted in the cloud. These services provide a single point of administration for provisioning, troubleshooting, configuration and firmware management.
Benefits of cloud Wi-Fi include enterprise management, greater scalability, zero-touch provisioning, consistent policy enforcement and reduced costs.
Other best practices include segmenting the network to accommodate staff, contractors, guests with different levels of access and bandwidth, as well as prioritizing network traffic. Latency-sensitive applications such as collaboration should take priority over viewing web pages. Overhauling wireless networks to improve reliability and robustness is an investment that will pay dividends by giving today’s mobile users the Wi-Fi performance they need to remain productive.