With no end in sight to the rapid growth of Wi-Fi-ready smartphones, tablets and laptops, it's no wonder that many SMBs and SOHOs are scrambling to either setup their first Wi-Fi network, or to upgrade an existing wireless infrastructure in order to accommodate the demand for mobile devices at work.
Despite its operational simplicity, putting together a robust small business wireless network is actually more complicated than simply purchasing a couple of Access Points (APs) and plugging them into an Ethernet switch. To help you along, we’ve highlighted four tips for setting up a wireless network below.
Importance of Business Grade Hardware
While smaller businesses are often tempted to buy cheap APs that are designed with home users in mind, it's not a good business strategy. It is crucial that business owners understand that consumer-grade devices are engineered to support a much lower number of simultaneously connected Wi-Fi devices than what you see in a business network.
Moreover, business-grade routers are typically more reliable, and they provide additional features such as detailed logs and multiple SSIDs support -- with the latter feature offering a better capability to compartmentalize the network for heightened security.
Support for Both 2.4GHz and 5GHz Operation
Entry-level APs comes with support for 2.4GHz, while more advanced models offer simultaneous support for both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. The advent of BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices) and the resulting explosion in the number of Wi-Fi devices making their way into offices means that it only makes sense to support the 5GHz band, too. One compelling reason to go 5GHz has to do with its capability to support a far higher density of Wi-Fi devices than the far more limited 2.4GHz band.
Plan for High Device Density
In conversations with Wi-Fi vendors and experts, one consistently recurring topic they mention is the propensity of business owners and managers to underestimate existing demand for Wi-Fi coverage, as well as future device growth. For example, their projections may be based on one laptop per worker, which can lead to Wi-Fi network infrastructure being swiftly overwhelmed as employees begin bringing their tablets and a second smartphone to work.
When planning for device density, it's important to take future projections into consideration -- and provision your small business network for an even greater device density than that.
Deploy PoE Where Possible
Power over Ethernet, or PoE, involves channeling a current through standard Ethernet cabling to power end devices. Deploying a PoE infrastructure with PoE-compliant APs can save you money in terms of not having to pay for additional power runs.
Moreover, a PoE or injector at the server room is also easier to maintain than having to troubleshoot faulty AC/DC adapters scattered in hidden nooks and crannies around the office.
Do you have any tips to add to the ones above? Feel free to join the discussion in the comments section below.
Paul Mah covers technology for SMBs for Small Business Computing and for IT Business Edge. He also shares his passion for and knowledge of everything from networking to operating systems as an instructor at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, and is a contributor to a number of tech sites, including Ars Technica and TechRepublic.
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