- by Seth Burstein
- Feb 18, 2019
- business wifi
Regardless of the size of your business ? whether you’re just starting out or are moving from one location to another ? one of the first things you’ll need to set up at your new office is Internet connectivity.
While wired connections were popular in the past, reliable WiFi networks have mostly replaced hardline Ethernet in providing stable connections, and many of today’s high-speed tech devicesare being released without Ethernet ports. It’s both more affordable and more efficient to connect numerous devices to the Internet with a few wireless access points (APs) than to purchase cables and physically hook up each device. As such, a solid wireless network is essential for performing day-to-day tasks at the office.
An enterprise wireless network is a powerful, cost-effective option for connecting to the Internet at your new location; however, configuring the connection for optimal performance requires professional-level equipment and preparation. Read on for eight simple tips to help you plan your business WiFi network setup and maximize the returns on your investment.
Perform a site survey to determine the best location for your modems
In setting up an expansive WiFi network, the first step is usually performing a site survey, which will help you determine the number of APs you’ll need as well as their arrangement and location. The major exception to this is small offices (usually fewer than 185 square meters) that only need one AP.
Site surveys are more important for medium and large office buildings that require five or more network APs, or where conditions are unfavorable for the distribution of wireless signals (such as storage facilities, hospitals, densely populated open-floor spaces, malls, event venues and buildings with walls made of metal or glass).
A site survey can take anywhere between a few hours and several days depending on the size of your office. The ideal time for a site survey is when the office is in use, with employees working as they do on a regular day and all the furniture is located where it normally is. This will reveal where the network is under the most pressure and where any improvements need to be made. In some cases, the improvement is simple, like adding an additional AP in a location where the wireless signal is weak. In other cases, channel arrangement or internal changes may be necessary to ensure that your APs can effectively communicate with one another as employees constantly move around the office.
Choose the right equipment for your business WiFi needs
Based on the results of your site survey, you need to make sure you purchase the right networking equipment for your business needs.For larger businesses, this may mean spending extra on commercial WiFi equipment capable of managing hundreds of devices at the same time. Regardless of the size of your business, it’s a common mistake to use a WiFi equipment meant for home use in your office building. WiFi equipment meant for home use may be cheaper, but they’re not made for connecting to more than a handful of devices, and their wireless coverage rarely surpass 1,000 square feet.
Commercial WiFi equipment, such as that manufactured by Xirrus, Cisco, Ruckus or Aerohive, is much more robust. While more expensive, these devices are specifically designed for situations that require high performance and a low risk of WiFi failure. A strong WiFi network is essential for increased productivity, so the extra cost is often worth it.
Make sure your equipment is easy to configure and maintain
If your WiFi has been properly installed, you won’t need to log into your equipment to modify the settings very often. In case you do need to troubleshoot or make any changes, however, it’s important that you’re able to easily log in and identify the problem in order to get business operations running smoothly again.
If your wireless network uses more than three APs, one item should be a low-maintenance controller, either on-site or in the cloud, to help the APs communicate with one another. The price and capabilities of these controllers vary widely based on the manufacturer (with some cloud-based controller software even being available for free), so be sure to do your research to find the best one for your business needs.
When it comes to network configuration, the settings for your switches, firewalls, and gateways should be easy to access, and changing them (if necessary) shouldn’t require much work. It’s a good idea to opt for equipment produced by well-known manufacturers with a large selection of support materials. Many service providers try to re-label products from leading manufacturers with the aim of reselling “their own” registered devices. This can result in a lot of headaches if the service provider changes “their” devices in the future, leaving you with no support materials or technicians to help you if anything goes wrong.
Don’t underestimate the importance of security when setting up your network
Many wireless APs and controllers don’t provide the degree of high security required by most enterprise-level WiFi networks. To maintain the safety of your network, you’ll need to install supplemental software, such as firewalls. Your WiFi network should always be password-protected and be using the latest WiFi security protocol (currently WPA2 or WPA3).
Use multiple SSIDs to increase network management capacity and performance
If all company servers and user tech devices are connected to the same virtual local area network (VLAN), every connected device has access to the data on that network. This is a major security risk, with most cases of illicit data access and theft committed by users within the network, not outside parties. This means that protecting your network from internal threats is as important as, if not more than, protecting it from external threats.
One way to avoid internal security breaches is the creation of multiple SSIDs (aka – network names) for different WiFi user groups ? such as guests, employees, and others ? as this helps to retain security, quality of service (QoS), and control bandwidth. Keep in mind, however, that if too many SSIDs are used at once, it could lower signal strength and might lead to packet loss and lower quality connections. To prevent this, you should only create SSIDs for user groups that require a specific network policy or service level.
Consider visible wiring and overall aesthetics in planning your network setup
It’s easy to forget that setting up a wireless network for your business depends on physical wiring. Every network AP needs at least one cable for data or power, though you can run the cables inside the walls rather than having them out in the open if you’re worried about the appearance of your office.
Some network APs use a “wireless” mesh connection in place of data cables, but they still require cables for power. Sometimes, wireless mesh networks are your only option, but be forewarned that some wireless mesh networks can suffer from reduced WiFi signal strength and slower speeds.
To help alleviate the cable burden, many network APs can be powered through power over Ethernet (POE) injectors instead of requiring separate power adapters or electrical lines. With the use of POE injectors, you can provide power and bandwidth over long distances within a single cable.
Whichever type of modem you choose for your office, it’s best to work with a professional cabling company when setting up new cables to ensure that everything is installed correctly and in an aesthetically pleasing way.
Pick the wireless network hardware with the best support for your business
Many businesses, especially small ones, may find it difficult to set aside part of their budgets to hire an internal IT director or pay for ongoing tech support from another company. Fortunately, WiFi equipment providers often offer some level of tech support with their devices, such as live troubleshooting and replacements due to hardware failure.
A higher level of support usually costs an additional fee, but this extra support may be worth the price. Software failures or other issues not covered by the free support plan can lead to poor performance or even equipment malfunction. In these cases, having purchased hardware support from the get-go will cost you less than buying new equipment to replace the faulty devices.
Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help
You may come across a WiFi problems that’s more complicated than your equipment manufacturer’s support can handle, or you may simply want professional advice when it comes to managing your wireless network setup. In situations like these, you should never be afraid to reach out to a professional WiFi company for help.
IT training doesn’t typically include certifications on networking and wireless, so many IT directors and CTOs aren’t well-versed in providing effective WiFi solutions. So, the following question may arise – “Would you rather pay a single fee to solve your WiFi problem from the start or to keep paying for inadequate solutions and workarounds that can hurt more than they help?”
Setting up a business wireless network, whether large or small, requires familiarity with wireless network configuration and hardware requirements. Professional companies should be knowledgeable in both.
You may not think much about the wireless network when everything is working smoothly, but even the smallest problem can slow workplace productivity to a standstill. This list of tips is just the starting point for your business WiFi installation. If you need additional advice or have any further questions, consider consulting Trade Show Internet for professional help.