Like many IT professionals, you are probably evaluating your wireless network's ability to support new applications and meet user expectations for mobility and BYOD. As more organizations move toward implementing a BYOD policy, legacy wireless networks will struggle to keep up. Here are some insights and steps you can take to prepare for the influx of mobile devices that place increasing demands on your wireless network, while keeping everything secure.
Not Just One Notebook Anymore
Back in the day, employees used to have one corporate-sponsored notebook, and the organization knew everything about that device. Now, organizations, for productivity reasons - and making employees happier - are allowing people to bring in multiple devices, such as tablets and smartphones. Now for each employee, where you might have had one device hitting your WiFi network, you might have three, for, or even more, especially in places like universities, where students bring in an unbelievable amount of mobile devices. And the other thing to consider is that everything is moving toward the Internet, so things you might not associated with WiFi capabilities today are going to be connected to the Internet in some way. It's expected that the number of WiFi devices will significantly surpass the number of people on earth in the near future, and a lot of these devices will end up hitting corporate networks.
Device Volume Isn't Your Network's Only Challenge
Besides just the sheer amount of devices that are and will be connecting to your network, you'll need to look at what people are using the devices for. For example, streaming video on a tablet is a significant bandwidth hog - using up nearly 100x the amount of bandwidth as simple Web browsing, so you need to make sure your network is ready to handle the heavy-bandwidth applications. And of course, you have to figure out how to make this network as secure as possible. You want to allow your users, guests, and contractors to connect to your network, but you also have to decide to what degree do you want to allow them to connect into corporate reasons while they're on their personal devices. There are tradeoffs in regards to enhancing productivity vs. ensuring the right security protocols are being taken care of when they allow all these devices on the network.
It's Time to Invest in a Network Upgrade
We've been seeing significant increases in employee productivity if they have a device that they really feel comfortable using. They'll stay connected with work and with customers more and more. And if you're also doing whatever you can to make sure guests (contract employees, vendors, consultants) are able to seamlessly access the Internet and gain access to the appropriate level of information that they need to do their work, that has big impacts on productivity as well - across your organization. You need a network that can supply that kind of easy access.
Time to Plan
A lot of legacy networks weren't really designed with smartphones and tablets in mind. Most of these networks were not done with adequate WiFi planning and the understanding of the traffic load for particular users in particular areas of the organization. Working with a strong partner to go ahead and plan out the layout of your WiFi network to support all these devices is extremely critical. A best effort sort of WiFi network is no longer going to cut it. What we need now is a wireless network that mimics the productivity and efficiency of a wired network. Your users are going to be using that network to do their jobs, after all.
Lock It Up and Give the Right People the Keys
– Every good IT admin has them, so you're probably thinking about what's appropriate for people to be able to access on their mobile devices, in certain situations. The technology is there to push this information to people no matter where they are or what device they're using, but organizations need to know the risks associated with that. Your job is to make sure that you can leverage technology to make users as productive as possible while complying with the organization's security plans and any regulatory rules, such as Sarbanes-Oxley or HIPAA.
Performance, Management, Security
So in the end you want a network that can handle all the devices thrown at it, but that is easy to manage and secure. Here's where Cisco can help. On the performance end of things, Cisco has been forming technologies to allow you to take advantage of the most advanced wireless standards. With 802.11n, you can have multiple signals coming off your access point, and moving devices from the 2.4GHz spectrum onto the 5.0GHz spectrum, where there's less signal disturbance. Cisco is also futureproofing its access points. The latest wireless standard, 802.11ac, will be ratified soon, so the Cisco 3600 access point is being shipped today with the ability to add expansion modules to take advantage of the newest standard, as soon as it's available. So as even more devices start hitting your network, you're already prepared.
As for management, Cisco has been looking to merge the management of wired, wireless, and VPN connectivity so that your IT staff only has to manage one network, instead of keeping tabs on three separate networks. Cisco's Prime Infrastructure allows you to manage these different access methods whether they're on-site, off-site, or on a carrier network through one interface.
And of course: security. Cisco's Identity Services Engine really simplifies setting up multiple policies for each individual user. Before, trying to set up different rules and responsibilities for each individual user would have been too cumbersome from a management perspective, but that's a thing of the past. Now, you can establish access rules based on how each individual user fits across certain parameters, so your network and your information stay secure no matter what devices are connecting to the network or where they are when they access our organization's data.
Connection and Cisco are ready to help you enhance your network today. Give us a call.