Wondering if business Wi-Fi is strong enough for your enterprise? We’ll explain setting up business Wi-Fi, its limitations and alternatives for enterprise needs. Here’s a quick overview of how to set up business Wi-Fi:
- Purchase a Wi-Fi network per your technical requirements
- Decide how to manage your network on an ongoing basis
- Check Wi-Fi coverage and capacity against application needs
- Create security protocols and appropriate network segmentation
- Continue to update network and hardware to stay protected
Let’s dive into the details of each of these steps, and break them down into separate tasks. Each phase supports the last and helps make the deployment of your wireless network a smoother and more efficient process.
Setting Up Your Business Wi-Fi
Setting up business Wi-Fi is best understood when broken down into three key phases. These steps will be applicable to all businesses, but some of the details may vary depending on your industry, service area, applications, and uptime needs.
A detailed plan will save you a lot of time and hassle down the road. Generally the larger a business is the more planning that is required to build out a wireless network. You’ll want to have a solid understanding of what applications, services, devices, and people the network will serve. Mapping this out will help you identify not only the type of hardware you’ll need, but also aid you in the networking aspect later on.
A site survey is often the first step in planning out your business Wi-Fi. Using a spectrum analyzer combined with blueprints of the office you can begin to identify just how noisy the area is from other signals, and what type of distance you’ll need to cover. Smaller businesses might be able to get away with using smaller access points, but many medium to large businesses will require enterprise level access points to ensure proper coverage.
Think ahead and try to anticipate the needs of the area. Conference rooms, lobbies, auditoriums, and waiting rooms will often need more throughput for larger crowds of people. Narrow corridors and industrial areas might need two access points in order to provide adequate coverage in potential dead zones.
Once you have an understanding of what ground your business Wi-Fi needs to cover, it will be easier to pick access points, switches, and bridges that will allow for proper coverage.
As the physical aspect of your wireless network comes together, you’ll need to consider what networking and security policies will be in place. How will the guest Wi-Fi work? Will the corporate network be divided into smaller subnets? These are network design questions you’ll have to have answers to before the hardware is in place.
A good place to start is to think about who will be using the business Wi-Fi and think about what their roles are. This could be people, IoT devices, or mobile hardware. In larger business environments separating the wireless network through VLANs is standard practice. This essentially isolates certain devices, services or groups to strengthen the security posture and organization of the network.
Outside of standard WPA encryption, having another form of authentication creates additional security your business may need. Implementing an authentication method called RADIUS 802.1x allows you to associate Wi-Fi logins to user accounts located on an authorization server on the network. While this isn’t foolproof, it helps cut down drastically on password sharing and employees leaving the company with corporate credentials.
Lastly you’ll want to envision what types of traffic you want to prioritize in your network. Hospitals often prioritize traffic coming from cash carts and medical devices, while office environments prioritize VoIP traffic. Outlying Quality of Service (QoS) can be difficult to do over business Wi-Fi alone. Wi-Fi inherently does not support QoS and must be controlled through either a firewall application or wireless LAN (Local Area Network) controller. Business Wi-Fi that doesn’t have QoS in place can experience slowness or complete outages from something as simple as too much streaming video.
Management is important, but becomes even more critical as a business grows. The more access points and networking equipment that’s needed to support the business Wi-Fi, the more you’ll want a single point to manage it all from.
Wireless controllers allow you to scale and manage multiple access points from a single login. These help create consistency with your configuration, security settings, and make hardware replacements significantly easier. Wireless controllers can come in two forms, either physical or cloud-based. While both options work fine, many businesses will likely prefer cloud-based management over a dedicated controller based configuration.
Larger organizations with multiple branch locations that have to support dozens of access points may favor a cloud-based controller for it’s quicker deployment options and ability to serve larger regions more efficiently.
Is your business too big for Wi-Fi?
There comes a point at which business Wi-Fi isn’t enough to support the vast distances and bandwidth requirements a growing company needs. While Wi-Fi can serve coffee shops, small retail businesses and home offices just fine, there comes a point where Wi-Fi just can’t keep up.
As standard business Wi-Fi grows in scale, so does its speed and coverage issues. Wi-Fi standards were never meant to cover vast distances or ensure uptime to critical applications, which can be a real pain point for enterprises and companies that are poised for growth.
Factories, energy companies, agriculture, and transport companies are just a few examples of industries that can often struggle with the limited coverage of Wi-Fi in outdoor areas and increasing interference indoors. As these businesses embark on new digital initiatives and need to provide reliable service to mission critical services, Wi-Fi can simply lack the predictable performance based SLAs (service level agreement) to make it all happen.
Luckily, recent advancements in private LTE technology are helping large organizations use their business Wi-Fi in conjunction with another predictable wireless network to support essential services and new digital transformation projects.
How can private LTE help?
Private LTE works similarly to Wi-Fi, but offers significantly better range indoors and outdoors, enables device specific security with SIM authentication, and delivers infrastructure control on connected client behavior for handovers and traffic transmissions. Result is a wireless network with highly predictable operation.
In Private LTE networks, small cellular base stations act as access points on the network where company devices connect and communicate with the corporate network. This works using the same technology consumer phones use to receive signals from large cell towers, but instead allows the organization to have control over which device can connect to which part of the cellular wireless network.
When operating on the CBRS spectrum, private LTE offers companies a way to create their own networks away from the noisy 2.4 and 5.0 Ghz spectrum that Wi-Fi uses. By design, on the CBRS spectrum, every device and access point communicates with each other on a clean interference-free medium. In CBRS-based private LTE, the increased power at the base stations produces 4 to 10 times the coverage of Wi-Fi. For bigger networks this can result in significant cost savings on access points, wireless bridges or fiber lines.
SIM cards are considerably more secure than Wi-Fi that is susceptible to MAC address spoofing, rogue access points, and access through stolen credentials. There is no such thing as “open networks” since all traffic flows in a private LTE network are by design encrypted with the device level credentials hosted on the SIM card.
Since private LTE operates on a different spectrum, it can be deployed directly over existing business Wi-Fi networks, allowing companies to transition with no downtime to their essential services.
The Celona Solution
Celona offers the only integrated and enterprise-ready solution for CBRS based private LTE networks. It allows enterprises to have full control over their data and enables them to easily deploy cellular wireless on their existing IT infrastructure as an overlay. This turnkey system is made possible by a combination of access point (AP) hardware and a SaaS (software as a service) platform.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities of the Celona Orchestrator monitors the real-time quality of the connected applications over the cellular wireless network and ensures that the spectrum resources are always appropriately allocated to the key applications to maintain guaranteed throughput, latency and packet error rate SLAs. This capability is part of Celona’s MicroSlicing technology allowing organizations granular control over who and exactly what can use specific amounts of cellular wireless resources.
Is business Wi-Fi simply not enough?
If you think Wi-Fi alone won’t meet your organization's needs, private LTE can help. Tune in to see the Celona solution in action or to sign-up for a free trial in your environment.