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The Longest Yard: WiFi Solutions for SMBs

WiFi ServicesBusinesses depend on WiFi service. From employee laptops, tablets, and phones, to visitors in conference rooms, WiFi service is a critical component of your network infrastructure. And yet, for many small businesses, WiFi performance and reliability degrade over time. Most WiFi installations start with a focus on coverage — ensuring all areas and users have access to the service. Often neglected is capacity, the availability of bandwidth to ensure fast, reliable service for all users. For companies with small offices, and SMBs in general, the odds seem stacked against us.

  • Installations typically use default settings, placing WiFi traffic on slower bandwidth service and on channels most susceptible to interference
  • Wireless routers and access points sold to SMBs and small offices often lack settings (bandwidth steering, antennae power control, etc) needed to manage and tune performance
  • Most SMBs and small offices do not have active monitoring of WiFi performance, or even periodic reporting about the quality of WiFi service

When SMBs and small offices have WiFi connectivity or performance issues, the typical response is to add additional access points or to increase signal power, “solutions” that often exasperate the problem.

You can and should have the WiFi connectivity and performance you need.

Even if lower cost wireless routers and access points have been installed, SMBs and you can take steps to ensure WiFi connectivity and performance. And, you can do this without expensive equipment upgrades and installations. Take an approach recognizing that the quality of your WiFi service is not static. The environment in which your WiFi operates will change over time.

WiFi Assessments:

Historically, WiFi assessments have been expensive; most SMBs cannot afford a few thousand dollars for a one-time assessment. These one-time assessments capture a point in time and may not recognize shifting usage, demand, and interference patters. These types of assessments are often vendor-led and recommend significant equipment upgrades and installations.

New technologies and services allow for one-time assessments to be completed for hundreds, not thousands, of dollars.  Drop-in devices capture all WiFi traffic and feed the data to cloud-based, AI-driven analysis engines that diagnose and prioritize issues. The AI analysis engines are able to recommend specific solution actions addresses both your WiFi infrastructure and devices accessing the network. The drop-in devices capture all WiFi signals in the area, looking not only at your networks, but the behavior and impact of WiFi signals reaching your space from other locations. And, our recommendations focus on setting changes in existing equipment rather than upgrades and overhauls.

With this lower cost, SMBs can afford to run assessments as-needed when performance or connectivity issues arise, or on a periodic schedule. With periodic assessments, you capture and adapt to changes that occur over time, often preventing issues before they impact your business.

WiFi Monitoring:

Using the same intelligent technology and services, SMBs can now also afford on-going WiFi Monitoring. With continuous monitoring, the AI engine and analysis tools can look at historical trends and address changes to the WiFi environment. This service offers incredible value to restaurants, retail, warehouses, schools, and other locations where the number of WiFi connected devices (customer, employee, IoT, etc) and usage patterns change hour-to-hour, day-to-day, or over time. As the drop-in devices also provide remote network testing, the monitoring infrastructure saves valuable time and effort when testing or re-configuring WiFi services.

Because the monitoring is not depending on your existing infrastructure of vendors, the analysis is agnostic and the recommendations are not biased to any vendor solution.

Managed WiFi Service:

For the first time, SMBs can now afford to have a managed WiFi service. With a managed service, WiFi routers, access points, and (hopefully) attached physical switches are connected to central management console. The console allows for active performance and connectivity alerts that can trigger service tickets and responses. The console also provides remote access to manage configurations and settings, diagnose issues, and resolve problems in real time.

As a managed service, we configure, monitor, and maintain your WiFi network to ensure it meets the needs of your business.

When combined with WiFi monitoring, Managed WiFi Services provide a complete WiFi service that adapts to the changing needs of your environment, ensuring connectivity and performance.


We offer WiFi Assessments and Monitoring services powered by the Wyebot Wireless Intelligence Platform along with a range of Managed WiFi Service offerings.  Please contact us for more information.


 

Wide Area Benefits from Going Cloud

Simplification String
Most of the businesses, nonprofits, and local governments we help move to the cloud see both tangible and intangible benefits shortly after deployment. Whether they focus on improved availability and reliability, easier secure access to files, or lower capital expenditures, or the benefits of improved collaboration and access to video conferencing services, very few businesses regret the move.

Many organizations, however, do not look beyond the scope of their cloud implementation for other, indirect or subsequent benefits. Cloud migrations often create opportunities for additional IT simplification that can improve the users’ experience as well as further lower costs.

Most common across our customer base is the ability to simplify wide area networks. Organizations with multiple locations rely on wide area networks to connect offices, servers, and people. We see several common architectures, each with limitations.

  • Centralized servers require all users not at the server location to access data remotely, at lower speeds.
  • Distributed servers provide performance, but require more complicated backup solutions and/or data synchronization.
  • Spoke and hub networks connect all sites, typically over leased/dedicated lines.  Bandwidth between sites is limited and relatively expensive, with a single path (or, hopefully, redundant paths) to the Internet.
  • MPLS (Multi-Protocol Layer Switch) networks provide a managed network, better security, and greater Internet bandwidth, but still rely on leased/dedicated bandwidth to the carrier.
  • Lan-to-Lan and PC-to-LAN VPNs can securely connect machines and sites over private or public lines, but VPN services add overhead that hurts performance, increases admin costs, and makes it more difficult for users to connect.

When files and other data are centrally located in the cloud, you can simplify your wide area networks and lower costs.

Because your data is centrally located, you may no longer need point-to-point connections between your offices. Replacing point-to-point, VPN, and MPLS links with Direct Internet Access Links can have up to a 100X benefit, as many carriers can provide you with up to 10x the speed at as little as 1/10th the cost. At these price points, building in redundancy is affordable and can protect your businesses from carrier outages.

As you move to the cloud, reassess the role of your wide area and Internet links. Simplification and modification of your architecture can save you time, money, and overhead, while providing faster, more reliable service.


If you would like to review your network for opportunities, or discuss the potential benefits from moving to the cloud, please contact us for a no-obligation discussion.


 

Where is Your Cloud Bandwidth Bottleneck?

When speaking with companies and schools about moving to cloud solutions like Google Apps and Google Cloud Storage, we are often asked about bandwidth demands.  Many organizations worry that their current Internet connections are not sufficient for cloud computing.  While most organizations already have more than enough Internet bandwidth, they may still have performance bottlenecks from their internal network.

Many small and mid-size enterprises make infrastructure decisions, electing to save money with consumer grade and so-called “SMB” products.  In many instances, these products are not designed to handle business traffic.

WiFi Access Points: Low-end WiFi Access Points, or WAPs, are not designed for a large number, or large traffic, connections.  While these devices claim they can support dozens of devices, the reality is that their antennae systems, channel management, and software are not up  to the task.  These devices can bog down with collisions, reducing the effective bandwidth to near zero with as few as 5 or 10 active users.

Switches and Hubs: The same load considerations exist for low-end switches and hubs, particularly those with slower back-planes and less memory.  Traffic bursts can overload these devices, creating “collisions” that slow down your network.

Routers: Many entry level and SMB routers do not have the processor or back-plane speed needed to meet the traffic demands for today’s network.  The router between your network and the Internet needs to be fast, with the ability to buffer traffic, and provide network services.  While changing to cloud solutions may not dramatically alter the amount of traffic, it changes the pattern.  An underpowered router can slow traffic like a broken toll booth gate.

For most small and mid-size businesses, network performance planning for cloud solutions should start at the ends and work towards the middle.  Look at your Direct Internet Access capacity and your WiFi and move inwards to the router, hubs, and switches.  A well planned network will improve performance, reliability, and productivity.