Think of all those consumer devices your workers now bring into the workplace. Think of all those mobile applications they need. Think of your need to keep workers connected across offices, factories, shop floors and more.
This is now much more than just providing a few Wi-Fi hotspots here and there. IT executives need a strategy to create a truly enterprise-strength Wi-Fi network, one that is robust, scalable and secure.
Statistics and trends point to the growing importance of Wi-Fi. One recent study showed that in the UK, as many as 3 out of every 4 smartphones are now browsing using both mobile and Wi-Fi networks, as users look for better bandwidth on Wi-Fi networks. Last year, according to another report, the number of mobile devices connected to Wi-Fi networks surpassed the number of computers similarly connected. This kind of network access accentuates the need for well-engineered and secured Wi-Fi connectivity.
Enterprise usage of Wi-Fi is spreading across numerous industries. Data from ABI Research, reported by the Wi-Fi Alliance, supports the prediction that Wi-Fi will grow 39 percent between 2011-2016 in health, fitness and medical applications; 25 percent in smart meters and automation products; and an impressive 109 percent in automotive applications such as infotainment systems, navigation and traffic monitoring.
In the workplace, many CIOs have been forced to upgrade their Wi-Fi capabilities multiple times over the past few years as networks have become overloaded, and the chances are high that more upgrades will be needed.
Or will they? A better approach would be to plan now for a truly enterprise-strength and scalable Wi-Fi network, capable of handling anything and everything that will be thrown at it in the coming years.
Making your Wi-Fi network enterprise-strength
The following are important components of a proactive technology strategy that can create and continuously optimise an enterprise-strength Wi-Fi network.
- Create a robust and scalable architecture
With Wi-Fi such an integral part of an organisation’s overall IT infrastructure, it needs to be architected properly so that it can meet the demands of users, business units and locations. With so many devices coming into the workplace, the Wi-Fi architecture needs to be able to scale quickly.
- Plan and manage from the start with a flexible technology roadmap
With Wi-Fi, as with all mobile technologies, the environment of devices, networks, vendors and standards is changing at breakneck speed. That means the Wi-Fi capability must be designed from the start to accommodate change and to enable ready migration.
- Protect the business through more comprehensive security capabilities
Giving network access to personal devices within an enterprise results in a host of implications for network control and security. Some solutions are already in place or being devised to cope with these kinds of security risks. More effective security capabilities, integrated with the Wi-Fi network, provide automated identification, onboarding and policy enforcement with provisioning to personal devices while enabling device-level security.
- Work closely with telecommunications service providers
Enterprise CIOs should work closely with carriers to tightly integrate Wi-Fi capabilities because users increasingly expect seamless transition of service from cellular to Wi-Fi.
- Consider alternate sourcing to manage complexity
As Wi-Fi solutions grow in terms of both importance and complexity, many CIOs are considering working with an external provider to help manage the technological and organisational changes required. Wi-Fi managed services options are likely to become more appealing to enterprises.
As Wi-Fi moves from the office and coffee shops to factory floors, hospitals, stadiums and coal mines, so does the need for designing the network differently. New tools and skills are needed to manage and run these complex and ever-changing wireless networks.
Wi-Fi enablement has now become so critical to business operations, and to enabling better collaboration and mobile working, that it needs to be an integral part of any CIO’s agenda.
Posted by Shahid Ahmed, Senior Executive, Accenture Wireless Technology Practice Lead; Vaibhav Parmar, Senior Executive, Accenture Wireless Technology Practice; and Sergey Batalin, Senior Executive, Accenture Wireless Technology Practice