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Paving the way for the Wireless Office

Smartphones, tablets and the Internet of Things has created a change in how people work, and with the ever increasing number of devices, businesses need to ensure they can accommodate the demand within their office environment.  Businesses must now accommodate the generation of workers that put mobile devices at the centre of everything they do and ensure that offices do more than just provide hot desking facilities. 

Typically, a Business will implement a wired network within the office environment onto which the computers, printers, telephones, wireless access points and other business systems physically connect. This model has worked well but does not come without some significant and expensive disadvantages and restrictions including:

  • Structured cabling cost – design and deploy a solution to provide the required number of network outlets within the building to satisfy current and future demands.
  • Cabling outlets positions – The cabling design has to accommodate changes in office layout ensuring that network outlets are still available without having to trail patch leads around the office.
  • Network support – moves, adds and changes, providing the ability to add new network outlets to connect additional users or to move existing floorboxes/outlets to accommodate an office layout change. Keeping on top of the associated patching required to connect users back to a known network switch can also become an issue unless strict documentation procedures are followed.

Wireless networks have typically been used as an overlay network – on top of the cabled network infrastructure, to provide a level of flexibility and roaming with the workplace.

With the increase in wireless enabled devices used within today’s business environment – Laptops, Smartphones and tablets and the acceptance and growing use of hosted services such as Office 365 along with the migration of business systems out into the Cloud, the typical network blueprint no longer meets requirements. Mobility, flexibility, scalability and reliability are the key drivers businesses are asking for today, where users expect to be able to work and access data wherever they are, whether that is in the office, at home or at a client site.

The time is right to embrace Wireless

The move to Cloud and the rise in use of hosted services has a dramatic positive effect on the size of a business’s communications rooms and the amount of power used and heat generated. Historically the Comms rooms would have had to accommodate a number of servers and storage devices, network switches, firewall and telephony appliances along with terminating the telecoms services and structured cabling.  These changes result in a more efficient use of space and reduction in power costs.

As a result of the above way IT within a modern business is now implemented, it is a good time to also question whether the wired office should be replaced with the wireless office.

It is important to state right at the beginning, that when we are talking about a wireless office – we don’t mean totally wire – free. There will always be a requirement for a core network with an element of structured cabling:-

  • Connecting network firewalls, routers, core switches and any legacy devices that don’t provide a wireless interface
  • Connecting the Wireless Access Points back to the network core.

As well as connecting computers, the wired office is also used to connect telephone handsets, which could be seen as a reason for retaining a structured cabling solution.  This is no longer a requirement with the advent of modern IP telephony systems. Businesses can subscribe to a hosted telephony service, removing the requirement for a telephony appliance within the Comms room, but more importantly removing the requirement for a hardwired physical handset. Users are provided with a softphone running on their smartphone and computer devices, removing the requirement to connect a physical handset. If a physical handset is required this can connect to the user’s computer via USB.

A wireless office would provide users with the ability to securely connect into the network anywhere within the office environment using whichever wireless enabled device they required, therefore enabling the business to implement a hot-desking policy rather than allocating users with fixed desks. Depending on the business activity this can provide significant savings, enabling an office to accommodate more employees. The wireless network would seamlessly accommodate any increase in users without IT involvement and can also provide the ability to support guest devices or employee personal devices (BYOD) connecting to the Internet whilst ensuring the business data is protected.

Network reliability can also be improved by implementing the wireless office. The wireless network should be designed to ensure that at any one location within the office, two or more Access points can be seen and connected to. As detailed earlier, the access points will be cabled back to the network core, and it is important to ensure they are cabled across different core switches so that if a switch fails wireless connectivity will still be available. The above approach also ensures that failure of a single access point will not affect users connecting to the network. 

Hard wired network connections for end user devices are typically 1Gbps. Until recently wireless network could not compete with this bandwidth. With the advent of access points supporting the latest 802.11n and 802.11ac standards, wireless performance is no longer seen as an issue. 802.11n will support a maximum data rate of 450Mbps and 802.11ac is capable of supporting a maximum data rate of 3.47Gbps, with even faster speeds promised in the future.

Securing your Wireless Network

A wireless network is not physically bounded like a structured cabling network infrastructure and therefore it is important that network security within a wireless network is properly addressed. Most office environments will already operate a wireless overlay network that has security best practice implemented. This can be configured to ensure only approved business devices are allowed to securely connect to the network and with all connections encrypted. Guest or Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) access can also be accommodated, typically by deploying a guest anchor controller 

Summary 

Pinacl believes the time is now right for implementing the wireless office

  • Lower cost to deploy and support
  • Flexible, providing ability to work anywhere within or even outside the office environment
  • Higher network availability with multiple access points
  • Simpler IT support and maintenance – moves, add and changes
  • More efficient use of office space through ability to implement hot desking, re-arrange desk layouts with minimal impact on IT infrastructure

To find out more about how Pinacl's Managed WiFI offering could benefit your organisation visit our Managed WiFi page here or email enquiries@pinaclsolutions.com