Wireless network not performing as well as you’d like and thinking of upgrading? Wireless network infrastructure is now one of the most important ways to keep productivity high. When performance deteriorates or breaks down, the impact is felt quickly.
Employee engagement is also impacted. Forbes recently noted that access to actionable data is one of three ways technology is changing company culture and employee engagement. This is facilitated in real-time by the power of the wireless network. Employee expectations are high and will only increase as more Wi-Fi 6 is implemented in the workplace.
Executives considering a wireless refresh or upgrade should prepare and consider many factors that impact both the immediate performance of an upgraded wireless infrastructure but also ensure the ability to adapt as technology advances.
Here are things to consider when upgrading or refreshing wireless in the workplace:
Is your workforce growing or contracting? The number of people accessing your wireless network is important to consider. Planned company headcount should be reviewed and built into the wireless infrastructure plans. Further, COVID-19 has dramatically impacted the way we work. If fewer people are going to be in the office permanently, it reduces the potential capacity needed. The number of visitors and guests onsite should also be taken into consideration as they will often need to join guest networks.
2. Employee Devices
The number and types of devices employees use have grown considerably in recent years including both company-owned and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) that access wireless networks. In total, this will exponentially increase the consumption of data on the wireless network. BYOD inherently ushers in multi-generation devices which adds layers of complexity to manage and increases channel interference.
Further, now these devices are becoming more intelligent and utilize far more data than in the past with improved capabilities. Video devices, for example, will continue to expand data usage dramatically. It’s pretty standard for individuals to have a laptop, smartwatch, tablet, and a mobile device – this includes individuals even just visiting your location. Cisco estimates that the average number of devices per capita in the U.S will be at 13.4 by 2023.
3. Machine to Machine Device Growth
Not only are individuals utilizing more devices but now Internet of Things (IoT) devices that communicate machine to machine (M2M) are on the rise. M2M connections will grow 2.4-fold, from 6.1 billion in 2018 to 14.7 billion by 2023 IoT provides critical data to support the entire business with numerous use cases in everything from retail to manufacturing to supply chain. Upgrading to WiFi 6 will allow you to more securely advance business capabilities by capitalizing on the IoT boom.
Do all of your spaces get proper wireless coverage? Many common changes to a working environment can alter the wireless infrastructure. A building remodel is a common example.
Outdoor spaces where people can work, relax, eat – and expect to be on the wireless network need to be planned for. Cafeterias, workout centers, and medical areas are all spaces that should receive special attention to ensure the area has proper wireless access.
Solution providers can test your existing wireless coverage in your current environment using a Passive Survey. Once you determine your desired new environment, you can pair your passive survey with a Predictive Planner which provides a simulation of the new environment taking into account the design, layout and architecture.
5. Geography / Locations
You’ll also need to think through this for each of your geographic locations and plan for any unique challenges a particular location or location type may present. Ensure as you select a wireless network solution provider that they have the ability to plan, install, and support all of your locations domestically or globally as needed.
The fastest WiFi speeds will come from the newest WiFi 6 program with up to 40% faster speeds than WiFi 5 and accomplishes this more efficiently. WiFi 6 sets the new standard for speed. Speed is one of the critical factors organizations consider when refreshing their wireless network. Speed measures how much data is transferred over the waves and as more data is created and shared between devices and from the internet (like 4k video for example), speed is critical.
Breaches and attacks will continue, and companies are continuing to add security measures. Consideration when upgrading wireless networks around security should include updated hardware, plans for updates and patches, as well as how the wireless network is accessed. Determine if you need Certified WPA3 as you built out your infrastructure which is the next generation for WiFi security to ensure the latest in security methods. WPA3 for the enterprise has even more security enhancements and options including authenticated encryption.
If you have a business location that is in a densely populated area, it’s likely that you may run into capacity issues. Ever pull up WiFi networks and see dozens of options? While better wireless management and QoS helps to some extent, WiFi 6 is an step upgrade that helps with the capacity problem. Wi-Fi 6 enables higher data rates, increased capacity and improved power efficiency. New protocols enable more devices to ‘talk’, and be understood, at the same time.
9. Network Interference
Be aware of any network interference that can block signals or slow the performance of your wireless network. You want to limit this. Examples include microwave devices, wireless printers, rogue devices, or really anything that uses wireless signals. Network interference can be tested in your current environment using an RF Spectrum Analysis. One of the most appealing aspects of WiFi 6 is mitigation of channel inference at 2.4GHz which is widely used in production, manufacturing and storage facilities.
10. Monitoring and Management
Do you have tools in place to manage your wireless environment? It’s important to have the right tools including tools for remote diagnostics, but also technical resources available in all locations to support onsite tasks if remote access is compromised. Diagnosing a complex wireless network issue can take time. Make sure you have the right tools and resources to manage your wireless network.
A great IT Service provider, like Curvature, can help you plan for your wireless transformation from assessment, design, optimization, configuration and implementation, including WiFi 6.