How to Set Up a Wi-Fi Network for Your Business
In today’s business landscape of ‘bring your own device’ and a mobile work force, providing Wi-Fi is an important consideration and careful thought should be put into the design and implementation of a business Wi-Fi network.
There are various elements to consider when designing and implementing a wireless network. The physical hardware needed to distribute the networks is important; while bandwidth, number of connections and range are also all aspects to base purchase decisions on. The implementation of multiple networks for different areas of your digital infrastructure is also worth considering.
Designing the Wireless Topography
When it comes to a Wi-Fi network, security should be paramount to prevent those from outside the company gaining access. Always remember that anyone with a wireless capacity can try to connect to your network and there are a number of ways in which people with ill intent can try and break their way in. WPA-PSK (or preshared key) is a standard and very secure security method that is commonly supported by most wireless devices. The trick is to keep the bad out while still allowing those that need access, an easy way to connect to the network. If personal mobile devices are plentiful, it might be a good idea to create a guest network where users can be segregated away from production systems and data. Some devices have the ability to be configured as a guest network and thus, naturally segregate themselves. With other wireless devices though, you may need to employ a virtual local area network (VLAN) that will logically separate users on the guest network away from sensitive data. Another benefit of a VLAN is that it works for more than just guest networks and can be used to logically separate different groups within a company.
Other forms of security include two stage authentication where the user is challenged to enter a code sent to their mobile phone via text, or to enter some biometric in order to gain access.
However, it’s also worth noting that public Wi-Fi options often cannot offer the security a business requires for web access.
Getting the right Coverage
The physical area, as well as the predicted throughput is important and should dictate what kind of wireless equipment you buy. For larger areas, obstructions become a major concern. Some buildings have concrete floors for instance, which could block a signal between floors. Drywall and glass are usually not a major obstruction, however steel and metal work can cause serious interference for a wireless signal. The more elements of obstruction you have in an area, the more wireless access points you should consider installing.
Wireless access points are specific appliances that connect to a network and broadcast a wireless signal. Some have cloud based management, where the devices themselves ‘check-in’ to a server in order to obtain their settings. In this way, large wireless networks with many access points can be managed from a central location. Each device will have several important parameters; bandwidth (the amount of traffic they can handle), range (variable based on environmental obstructions) as well as a number of possible connections. There are also considerations for outdoor wireless versus indoor wireless. Power over ethernet (POE) means that the access point won’t need other power, and can be important for when you’re placing the access point in locations without easy access to power.
There are many considerations to building a WiFi network from user base, security and the physical area that the network needs to be broadcast in. Of all these things though, we would argue that security should be first and foremost in the designer’s mind.
Is there anything we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.