Nearly every organization is now using wireless technology in their network. Here are some tips on how to do it safely and get great results.
Step 1 – Stay away from retail store products. The simple fact is that the $30 wireless router at Staples or Best Buy isn’t what you want. In fact, you almost certainly don’t want a router anyway – you want a Wireless Access Point (AP). And you want one that supports the latest 802.11ac standard. Consumer products at retail stores don’t have much horsepower and will just disappoint you in a business environment with multiple simultaneous users.
Business-class products support more simultaneous users, seamless roaming from one AP to another, and centralized management. One favorite of ours is the recently released HP M330 dual radio access point. We have special pricing on these if you’re interested – contact us.
Step 2 – Perform at least a basic wireless audit. Unless you have a one-room office with just a couple of people, you need to do some planning to make sure you cover all the work areas in your organization and also that you have enough capacity for the number of devices you’ll be supporting. Wireless signals don’t like metal and mass. Modern construction with steel stud walls as well as old buildings with brick and foil-backed insulation all greatly reduce wireless signal strength. There are low cost/free apps you can get for a tablet or smartphone that, while not true scientific tools, will allow you to observe wireless signal strength fluctuations as you walk through throughout your office. This will give you a basic idea of how far a wireless signal is likely to reach.
For capacity, a good rule of thumb with a decent quality AP is that it can support about 8 devices at a time.
And be realistic about the number of devices you’ll be supporting. In addition to the notebooks and laptops in your organization, what about everyone’s smartphones? And what about guests? There’s nothing worse that rolling out a new wireless network and finding out it’s maxed out on the first day.
Step 3 – plan. So once you’ve determined how many AP’s you’ll need, don’t forget that each one needs to be connected to a network jack. And each will need power. Some models have a plug-in wall transformer but many utilize Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) which requires adding a special type of network switch to your network.
Step 4 – Don’t forget security! Even the most casual non-techie knows that it’s important to secure wireless networks properly. Use at least WPA encryption, put guest wireless networks on a separate subnet, and consider using MAC address filtering. And if your organization is subject to HIPAA, CMR17, or a variety of other compliance laws, you have to get it right. If there’s any part of this you don’t understand, it’s worth getting an expert to help you.