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What Is an Enterprise Network? Types & Trends Explained

We explain enterprise network components and overall system operations, and discuss how to match private 5G to enterprise networking.

What is an enterprise network?

An enterprise network consists of both the physical and virtual structure of the network connecting users, devices, and applications.  New technologies such as Private 5G offer lower latency and greater capacity than previous private wireless connectivity options.

Building out an enterprise network can help aid in scaling, reduce maintenance costs, and increase productivity by simplifying security, connectivity, and overall workflow.

How does enterprise networking work?

Enterprise networking starts with a backbone that allows for high-speed data transfers, scalability, and routing. This infrastructure must be able to serve all corporate devices in order to build a true cohesive enterprise network. Most enterprise networks are made up of high-speed switches, wireless access points, firewalls, physical hosts, and a cloud-hybrid mix of applications and services.

Proper network administration allows staff to access information quickly from anywhere, at any time. Exactly how this is done depends on the types of devices and services you use. System Administrators can facilitate connections between facilities using a mix of VPNs, cloud-based services, and Active Directory authentication. With more devices being mobile, having a strong uninterrupted wireless connection is more important than ever.

While many businesses rely on Wi-Fi, more enterprise-level companies are turning to private cellular wireless to take advantage of its extended coverage, device level security, always-on encryption, application level SLA and interference-free operation benefits. Private LTE and 5G wireless helps bring mobile devices into the network that are separated by vast distances, or absolutely critical to business operations.

What does a private mobile network look like for enterprises?

Enterprise networks can be configured in many different ways to ultimately achieve interconnectivity across a corporate network.

Enterprise networks today utilize a mix of physical infrastructure combined with cloud-based services to achieve corporate access across the enterprise network. This could mean that a corporation uses VPN tunnels to achieve access to certain resources, while also leveraging applications that live in the cloud.

This model can help balance control with accessibility across large networks. For instance, HIPAA compliant data can be set to only use your fixed VPN infrastructure, while the staff time tracking application is hosted in the corporate cloud.

Securing an enterprise network can be challenging and requires knowledgeable IT staff that can ensure that proper access controls are in place, and that settings are configured correctly. Security failures on cloud networks often lead to sensitive data being exposed to the open internet. Proper audits, procedures, and log analysis can help catch potential security flaws before they are exploited.

Enterprise networks can also support a mix of multiple cloud providers. You may have a webserver hosted in AWS, while also using Google Cloud to store your network backups. Hybrid models give organizations the most amount of flexibility, but can be tough to manage without the proper tools.

A new model of enterprise network is now possible with the advent of the private cellular spectrum options, such as CBRS in the US. This allows organizations to lease space on specific frequencies and broadcast their own private LTE and 5G cellular wireless network. The private cellular network is completely scalable and can be used to allow access to specific network resources over the span of meters, or miles.

There are many different use cases for private cellular that are being applied today. For example, in environments such as hospitals or clinics private cellular networks can be deployed in tandem with Wi-Fi to provide additional support during peak traffic times. Private cellular utilizes different types of cellular base stations to provide network connectivity. Small cells can provide localized accessibility to the enterprise network, while larger radio antennas can share information with ancillary offices through the enterprise wireless network.

Cellular networks offer unparalleled connectivity at range and can utilize Radio Access Networks to extend that range over large distances. As more cellular towers upgrade their infrastructure to support 5G, private enterprises will have the ability to control technology such as drones or autonomous vehicles in the enterprise network.

What are the benefits of applying enterprise networking principles to private LTE and 5G wireless?

By building a high-speed networked infrastructure you’re able to better control your company data and dictate how it is accessed and used. Enterprise networking allows for centralized management of information which can greatly simplify network access as an organization grows. Security can be managed through networked group policies, or inside the company firewall as an access rule.

While network security has many layers, applying rules and configurations inside an enterprise network helps keep access congruent and consistent across all locations. A popular enterprise network solution is the implementation of a SIEM, or Security Information & Event Management system. SIEMs pull security events from every workstation, mobile device, cloud app, and server to analyze and proactively stop threats in the enterprise. Without a strong enterprise network, this form of monitoring would not be possible.

This same continuity can be used to increase productivity by simplifying processes across the enterprise network. As an organization takes on more applications, tools, and services, complexity can decrease productivity and cause confusion among departments. By controlling all aspects of the network, solutions can be built to provide a single pane of glass view into information and processes. Network orchestration can also be applied across the network to achieve similar results.

While building and maintaining an enterprise network may seem costly, for most organizations the alternative is much more expensive. Having a well-organized network environment allows companies to avoid downtime by keeping their maintenance predictable, and their solutions scalable.

Enterprise network trends evolve with the arrival of private cellular

Advancements in enterprise network technology remained consistent throughout the different Wi-Fi standards released over time. However, the creation of the CBRS in the US has opened up a new opportunity for businesses to build their own independent networks on a national scale.

Companies that were once limited by the range of Wi-Fi are now quickly taking advantage of the new CBRS spectrum. We saw this demand first hand during the FCC’s first CBRS auction that sold $4.5 billion worth of spectrum access. Many of the winners were service providers who may go on to resell access on the secondary market to enterprises.

No matter what technology we examine, the trends continue to be blanket “always-on coverage”. While standards like Wi-Fi will never go away, it simply can’t produce enough power to provide miles of coverage. 5G has stepped up to fill the demand, and now enterprises can get a piece for themselves through private spectrum options, such as CBRS.

The future of enterprise wireless networks

While much of the infrastructure that has supported enterprise network solutions has been the same, new emerging wireless technologies are quickly adding more coverage, reliability, and simplicity to wide-area wireless networks. Until just recently, corporations have had to rely on a series of wireless access points, bridges, and repeaters to cover larger campuses or indoor areas. This is changing with the advancements in cellular technology, and the promise of a more capable version of Wi-Fi known as Wi-Fi 6.

Wi-Fi 6 works just like the Wi-Fi you’re already familiar with but improves upon some key weaknesses where enterprise Wi-Fi has struggled. Wireless speeds under this new Wi-Fi standard are estimated to be nearly four times as fast and work exceptionally better in crowded areas. This is thanks to more efficient chipsets that allow for better throughput, and a new method of subdividing channels to help eliminate Wi-Fi congestion.

In order to take full advantage of this new standard, you must have a Wi-Fi 6 certified device. This means existing access points, mobile devices, and sensors will have to be physically upgraded to the new 802.11ax standard in order to see the full benefits. Luckily, private LTE is now available to provide better results, without the need for infrastructure upgrades.

How private cellular is paving the way

Wi-Fi is great for small businesses but wasn’t designed to provide service at an enterprise level. LTE works similarly to Wi-Fi, but operates within the 150 MHz CBRS spectrum. Companies with licenses in their area can build private cellular networks that provide unmatched reliability and coverage when compared to traditional Wi-Fi.

As more advancements are made in 5G technology, businesses that leverage existing LTE networks will be better prepared for future upgrades, and already have a solid understanding of their service area and network needs.  

New LTE networks can integrate directly into existing infrastructure and don’t require additional fiber or coax lines to be installed. Since cellular networks cover four times the range of Wi-Fi alone indoors, and ten times outdoors, fewer cellular access points are needed to cover large distances. For industries such as healthcare and manufacturing where downtime is not acceptable, LTE networks can work alongside existing Wi-Fi networks to offer reliable connectivity to critical enterprise owned mobile devices and IoT infrastructure.

If you’re looking to build your enterprise network for the future, a Celona 5G LAN can help. Ready for the next step? Check out our free private mobile network planner or subscribe below for our monthly newsletter to stay in touch with market news.

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