Enterprise WiFi isn’t exactly a common topic of conversation outside of tech circles—but as your business grows, your awareness should, too. So, in another FAQ-focused episode of Club IT’s podcast, “The Tech Factor“, Ben and Sam answered all of your questions (and the internet’s) on enterprise WiFi solutions. Here’s everything you may have missed.
An enterprise-grade wireless network is, in the simplest terms, a better version of the WiFi you know and love. More than just a collection of access points, it’s a large-scale, cohesive unit that more efficiently executes the same basic functions as your home network. But it also signals superior security and performance; centralised configuration and management; and a high capacity for user density, as suited to a growing business. So, at the end of the day, it still exists to provide wireless internet connection—but it may provide that access to hundreds or thousands of people per network, without a hitch.
To wax technical for a moment, the primary difference lies in the antennae, which have more complex, usually proprietary designs. Multiple such antennae specially configured to handle massive amounts of data at once result in an enterprise WiFi network that can send and receive a lot more information a lot faster than the norm.
One of the major advantages of enterprise WiFi is greater collaboration capabilities. Even if you’re roaming, you won’t lose access to applications or files that require a persistent network connection. That’s because access points (APs) communicate with each other better in an enterprise-grade network than the ones you have around the house. In a word, the experience is more seamless for the end user (that’s you).
Interestingly, unlike your regular wireless A/C standard, enterprise WiFi takes a less individual-AP-centric approach to connectivity overall. In an enterprise-level network, all access points actually function as one. From any one of them, you can monitor, manage, and configure the rest simultaneously. Whatever changes you make to one AP will automatically apply across the system, and that includes everything from password changes to patches and firmware updates. For businesses even approaching a medium scale or higher, this technology will establish itself as indispensable.
In essence, it works in the same way as regular WiFi—but for a business setting, it’s a lot more user-friendly. If you have consumer-grade access points around your building, you might notice they don’t really work as well as you want them to, no matter how many you have. And even when you do find a strong connection, it could suddenly be lost at any moment.
An enterprise WiFi network allows the administrator to see all end user devices (every PC/phone/tablet) connected to the network at any time. From there, you have the ability to observe activity levels, connection speeds, and other relevant data. Again, you’ll be able to troubleshoot any issues unilaterally, no matter how many devices are on your network.
The short answer is: a lot of them. It’s dependent on your industry and organisation, but most, if not every industry has some need for enterprise WiFi. Managing a guest network at a hotel, for example, is different from managing internal/employee WiFi for a hospital—but they’re both sizeable tasks. Enterprise-grade hardware serves as the practical solution to both, because management must be centralised when working at such a large scale.
To start, Club IT uses Ubiquity. As the brand name suggests, you’ll probably start to notice it everywhere if you haven’t already. For its price point, you’d be hard-pressed to find a company offering similar reach, capacity, and connection speed.
Of course, Ubiquity isn’t your only viable option. (It’s just our favourite.) Although founded in 2005, they didn’t become truly ubiquitous—at least, not in Australia—until around 2015. Cisco Meraki, on the other hand, has a longstanding reputation as the choice of the Australian government in many of its buildings, as well as schools and even hospitals. If nothing else, CM’s reach in the public sector certainly speaks to the power and quality of their hardware.
Both Ubiquity and Cisco Meraki are in widespread use for good reason. We can decisively recommend these as our top two picks if you’re really looking to go ahead and get started with enterprise WiFi, but there are other choices on the market for those interested in further researching the options.
Site surveying, setup, and knowledge of your network requirements, etc.—all of these things remain necessary, no matter how “plug-and-play” a solution claims to be. A WiFi network is still a WiFi network, and you still have to plan, design, and optimise it to your business. As with any standard network, that also implies a minimum understanding of RF channelisation and… The list goes on.
Enterprise-level wireless internet is expensive for a reason. In order for someone to properly build a system, they’ll need a certain level of expertise. For those who aren’t IT experts, building your own network is not advised. Buying one, however, is strongly recommended.
In general, yes—very much so. Only very small businesses remain the exception, as a single-office space with no special requirements just doesn’t warrant an enterprise network. The return on investment for medium-to-large businesses, though, is staggering. Multi-user, multi-room or even multi-site situations become unmanageable without it. If this sounds like you, but you’re still not sure where to turn, give us a call today!