Wireless networking has become extremely commonplace both at home and in the workplace. Almost all devices that require Internet connectivity to function have built-in WiFi capabilities and can be configured to connect to a wireless network. General Data has a great deal of experience installing and configuring WiFi networks and thus can offer a great deal of support in the process.
Using Wireless at Work
To clarify, “Wireless” as it is generally referred to in the workplace, means a WiFi. Allowing for WiFi at your office or place of business is best achieved by hiring an IT Professional who will then acquire and install Wireless Access Points, also known as AP’s. The AP’s are then connected to a network switch and thus are able to communicate to the network. Note that there are some consumer grade routers which have built in WiFi but they are not recommended for business use. In certain cases, you may have certain business requirements to consider when adding WiFi to your place of business, things such as:
- Covering a large area
- Covering multiple floors
- Having WiFi coverage outdoors
- Low-or-no downtime and no dead-spots.
- When any of these cases arise, General Data almost always recommends purchasing more than one AP (some are sold in kits with three or more) and creating what is known as a WiFi Bubble on the premises. Done properly, there should be only one WiFi network name, known as the Service Set ID or “SSID”. Users should be able to move throughout the premises without having to change network or re-enter passwords.
Many customers ask whether wireless networks are secure. Security is obviously an important aspect of implementing a wireless network and one that General Data takes very seriously. Implementing wireless security at one time relied on the use of a Wireless Encryption Protocol or “WEP” key. This method was one hand lacking in security and required users to know and recall a key that was often difficult to remember. The improved method relies on WPA2 encryption. If a client is interested, there are other, better methods of adding wireless security including the use of RADIUS Authentication or Certificates. In any case, General Data has experience securing Wireless Networks.
Many customers ask whether it is possible to create a WiFi network for Outdoor use, as part of creating a WiFi “Mesh” or “Bubble” to encompass their entire premises, both indoors and outdoors. Often, creating an Outdoor WiFi network is part of the free Public WiFi that our client would like to offer to their own customers. The answer is YES, definitely, an outdoor WiFi network can be setup and configured to function in identical fashion to a network setup for indoor use. The aspect to consider when deploying and outdoor WiFi network will be the equipment selected, namely WiFi Access Points by Cisco Meraki® or Ubiquiti® that are specifically designed for outdoor use, as well as the cabling and physical infrastructure installed. Some WiFi AP’s are designed to operate in Wireless “Bridge” mode, thus enabling communication between two buildings wirelessly without the need to run cable. In any case, a certain amount of knowledge and expertise is required in order to make these projects a success and we always encourage interested parties to get in contact and allow us to assist.
“We would like to provide free public WiFi at our business, how is this possible?”Offering so-called free public WiFi can be a slightly complicated issue and due care is recommended. To begin, consumers have grown accustomed to the fact that WiFi availability is fairly ubiquitous. If one advertises the availability of free public WiFi, then the public will expect it to function. This presents particular challenges.
Bandwidth is one of the primary considerations; there being no sense offering free WiFi if the Internet connection is slow, poor or unreliable. Once sufficient bandwidth is procured, it is important to then isolate any guest traffic from any office traffic. This can be done with special, enterprise class Access Points that allow for the creation of a guest channel that will keep any guest traffic separate from the office network.
The final consideration is the ability to shape traffic; when operating a business and offering WiFi you will not want any public users to “hog” all the bandwidth. Imagine a guest user downloading 6 seasons of their favourite program while your staff are trying to work. For this reason, General Data recommends purchasing and installing enterprise class AP’s that allow for traffic shaping rules on the guest channel in order to control the amount of bandwidth users have access to.
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