Why every business needs a wireless network

By: John McGarvey

Date: 24 September 2012

Wi-Fi hotspot sign{{}}Laptops, tablets, smart phones ... as the number of wireless devices we have grows, so do the demands they place on the wireless networks we use. If you have wireless in your business, how's it coping?

Often, the answer is 'not that well'. In many companies, wireless access was first added on an ad-hoc basis, simply by purchasing a wireless access point (they can cost less than £25) and plugging it in. Wireless network created. Job done.

Although that approach was fine when wireless devices were a rarity, it takes more consideration to build a network that's you can rely on day in, day out.

We're all going wireless

"The balance is shifting towards wireless," explains Ian Kilpatrick, chairman of Wick Hill Group. "However, most companies just aren't ready for that shift. They have wireless hotspots which can't reach everywhere; or worse still, have implemented wireless networks which can't be easily upscaled."

“Wireless is more cost-effective, more convenient, less disruptive, encourages productivity – and users want it,” he continues.

"That’s great, but who is thinking about the fact that each device makes an incremental load on the network and that each user will typically look to increment their usage? And that companies are going to want to put not just their web browsing and email onto wireless, but also their business critical applications and multi-media – and they’ll want it to work faultlessly."

In short: wireless is brilliantly convenient and fantastically popular. But that means people are going to want to use it more and more. Your company's wireless provision needs to be up to scratch, especially if your staff are relying on it to do their jobs.

Is your network up to it?

Signs that your wireless network is starting to creak under the strain of extra traffic include slow access, dropped connections and poor signal coverage. If you're experiencing these, it's a good idea to review your wireless provision before it gets worse.

If possible, seek advice from your IT supplier. They can help you understand how to make the best use of your existing wireless equipment, and whether new access points or signal boosters can help you increase capacity.

The latest wireless equipment tends to be much better than that from a few years ago too. Access points have more range and are better equipped to handle interference, so you can often benefit from updating your equipment.

Wireless kit is available from online IT suppliers like Misco, PC World Business, eBuyer and CCL Computers.

But for many businesses, the biggest change they must make is to stop regarding wireless as a useful extra, and start seeing it as a key tool for employees. Because there's a good chance the people using your Wi-Fi already view it as essential.

(Image of a cold wireless hotspot: woodleywonderworks on Flickr.)

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