Optimizing a Business Wireless Network in the IoT Age
In many businesses, wireless has become the predominant method of connecting network endpoints to the WLAN. This is largely due to bring your own device (BYOD) initiatives and an increased focus on worker mobility. Anticipated growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) is also likely to increase rather than mitigate the strain on corporate wireless networks.
There are a number of factors that can affect a WLAN’s ability to handle the increasingly heavy demands placed on it. Some of these factors can be dealt with through relatively simple policy and procedure changes, while others might require capital expenditures to resolve. Even for those who have not yet encountered any problems, this list might provide some advanced warning of potential future problems as well as indicate steps that can be taken ahead of time to avoid those problems entirely.
Age and Capacity
The likelihood that a given wireless implementation will be affected by any of these issues depends largely on its age. Hardware capacity is the biggest issue facing WLAN deployments in a modern business environment. Newer hardware is designed with both capacity and coverage in mind, but this was not always the case. As recently as a few years ago, access points were hard pressed to handle more than a few dozen connections at a time. Modern hardware, thanks to high-density architecture, can handle several hundred simultaneous connections while sharing available bandwidth equitably between them all.
Use and Misuse
In addition to ensuring that capacity is adequate for business usage, it is also important to prevent excessive non-business usage. Bandwidth used to stream TV shows and movies, Internet radio, or YouTube videos is bandwidth that’s no longer available for legitimate business purposes. This issue is easily solved by blocking the more bandwidth-heavy websites that employees spend time on.
Cloudy with a Chance of Network Congestion
It is reassuring that so many businesses are taking device and data backups so seriously, and are moving to a network or cloud backup solution in order to protect valuable data from loss or theft. An unforeseen consequence of this, though, is that when those backups are performed over the wireless network, the network can slow to a crawl.
Ensuring that backups only happen during non-peak usage times is a good first step towards solving this problem. Encouraging employees to plug in via Ethernet whenever possible is another good way of conserving precious wireless bandwidth for situations when there is no other option available.
The Internet of Things
Many industry insiders expect a veritable explosion of Internet connected devices over the next few years. While it’s true that most of the first generation of IoT devices consume minimal bandwidth, newer devices are increasingly making use of streaming audio, video, or both, which are very bandwidth intensive. Nothing is certain with the future of IoT devices at this point, but the possibility of heavy-bandwidth-using IoT devices on the network is a potential issue to keep firmly in mind.