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Mapping your wireless local area network: How to make your WLAN shine

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Benefits of WLAN infrastructure as the primary access network

Many companies see the benefits of WLAN infrastructure as primary access network, but some need it more than others. Understanding the gains is key.

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In the first part of this series on enterprise WLAN, we discussed steps for planning a WLAN infrastructure upgrade. In part two, we explore the benefits of WLAN as a primary access technology.

The benefits of WLAN infrastructure can apply to any vertical market, but the benefit of deploying it as the primary access network varies by industry. The added mobility and security functionalities for bring your own device (BYOD) and consumer-oriented devices are ideal for enterprises that have large numbers of knowledge workers. This includes most verticals, but mobile security for health care, finance and education are representative of the type of industries that have the most to gain from using a business WLAN as their primary access technology. More generally, enterprises with extensive mobility strategies and projects are likely to reap the benefits of WLAN. On the other hand, a manufacturing company that operates mostly factories rather than offices may not benefit much from investing in a WLAN infrastructure.

The benefits of WLAN as a primary approach to connectivity include the following:

  • Ubiquitous access. Wireless supports both stationary and growing mobile workforces, as well as mobile devices and the new generation of apps they bring in.
  • Cost reduction. Instead of running two networks in parallel, companies with sufficient WLAN infrastructure can install, maintain and operate just one. This benefit is most obvious in new locations -- which don't need to be wired for end-user access at all -- as well as in locations with an old wiring plant where the cost of updating it would be highest.
  • Highly scalable network architecture. Decentralized architectures -- which put the intelligence for all features in each access point (AP) and sometimes can be managed via Software as a Service (SaaS) -- scale easily. Each AP adds the same capability and capacity to the network automatically, without diminishing returns or additive configuration burdens.

More from Philip Clarke

Read the rest of his tips on evaluating enterprise WLAN considerations

  • App and performance optimization. Through technologies such as Quality of Service (QoS), routing, flow control, band-steering and even software-defined antennae shaping, enterprises can improve app and general network performance starting at the business WLAN access point in ways their wired networks can't yet match.
  • OpEx-based costs. Many vendors offer SaaS-centric solutions, where the hardware and software become operating expenses rather than capital purchases. These solutions are often an easier "sell" to management than those involving large up-front capital investments.
  • Secure device management. WLAN network access control (NAC) allows enterprises to automatically identify and manage all devices, including guest and BYOD mobile devices, via a consistent policy framework, and in a more robust way than they currently use (or are able to use, in many cases) on their wired networks.

Note: The research cited in this series is from Nemertes Research's 2012/13 Communications and Computing Research Benchmark, conducted through conversations with benchmark participants from IT organizations between January 2012 and April 2012.

About the author
Philip Clarke is a research analyst at Nemertes Research, where he is a co-leader of the Wireless and Mobility research track, advises clients on wireless topics, writes key trends and thought leadership reports, conducts statistical analysis, and develops research reports.

Read the third part of this series where we discuss creating a WLAN architecture for a mobile workforce.

This was first published in December 2012

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Essential Guide

Mapping your wireless local area network: How to make your WLAN shine

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