Corporate Wi-Fi Integration, Part 1

Your organization may be starting to feel the wireless itch. Perhaps you’re still struggling with the big question: Do we really need this stuff? Is it secure? In this multi-part series we’ll take a look at what Wi-Fi technology really has to offer and how it can contribute to your existing wired network.

Do we really need this stuff?

Visions of a community of users riveted to their mobile computers, hard at work wherever they may roam &mdash from the cafeteria to the copy machine and everywhere in between — is enough to bring a tear to your eye, I know. I have a lump in my throat just thinking about it.

Let’s look at some examples of why you would want to have the ability to connect wirelessly at your corporate facility:

  1. Your employees will be able roam freely from meeting to meeting, desk to desk, office to office with their network- and internet-connected notebook in hand, thus changing the way in which they do business.
  2. Easy Internet, printer or even access to network resources for visiting customers, vendors and “work from home” employees making their monthly two-hour visit.
  3. Flexibility in desk layout for seasonal staffing or rooms and offices in need of constant re-arranging such as training rooms, cafeterias and auditoriums.
  4. Also, don’t underestimate the positive aspects of being able to sit outside on a sunny day and bang out a few spread sheets or catch up on your email while basking in the warm summer sun.

Not to mention the simple fact that it is just flat out cool. Use your imagination!

All of these examples contribute to employee moral, company image, productivity and maintaining technology standards. Security concerns aside (we’ll address this later), if these concepts appeal to you then, quite simply, you need this stuff.

But before this vision of impeccable productivity and heavenly efficiency can come to fruition, you will need to spend a little money to make it all happen. This leads me to our next topic…

Page 2: Site Survey

Site Survey

Nowadays, most office building construction consists of a lot of metal wall studs and framing. Combine this with the typical office wiring, fluorescent light fixtures, microwave ovens, motors and any other RF generating object, and you have yourself one heck of a hostile environment for 802.11 networking technologies.

Depending on the building’s structure, you could have a problem creating a reliable wireless connection from an office only 20 feet away from an Access Point (AP) because of a few metal-framed walls between the AP and the computer.

On the same hand you could have no problem with connectivity to a computer that’s 6 offices away that has a direct line of sight to the AP. For this reason the first thing that you will need to do is setup a “site survey“.

In short (for exhaustive detail, visit the above link), the survey will need to be performed in the building or area that you would like to cover. Some examples: the main lobby for visitors in a holding pattern; the conference room; come to think of it, the training department can always benefit from some coverage.

A decision will then need to be made as to where the users will function in order to determine the location of the access points. A site survey performed by qualified personnel will help to insure that you have a usable and dependable WLAN, all while being built on a realistic budget.

Some Nuts & Bolts

If you already have a wired network up and running, then the basic hardware for your WLAN will typically consist of the following: a number of access points (or AP’s) including a cable run back to the closet and 120v AC to the AP unless you already have the network infrastructure in place to support Power-over-Ethernet.

Also, you’ll need Wi-Fi network cards for every single device connecting to the network wirelessly, be they built-in or otherwise, a good wireless encryption application such as Funk and that’s about it! You have what you need to get your Wi-Fi network up and running.

Be sure to come back for Part 2 where we examine the evolution of 802.11 and what it means to your enterprise.

Resources:

WLAN Defined:
http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/W/WLAN.html

Site Survey:
http://www.wi-fiplanet.com/tutorials/article.php/1488961

Power over Ethernet:

http://www.80211-planet.com/tutorials/article.php/1404631

Odyssey Funk encryption:

http://www.funk.com/radius/wlan/wlan_suite.asp

Wi-Fi news, discussion and information:
http://www.wi-fiplanet.com/

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