or if there are plans to incorporate meeting room booking software or workplace analytics softwareAs companies begin the hard work of returning to the office, it's time to get your office WiFi up to par.
It's been 25 years since the IEEE 802.11 WiFi standards were established. Back then, “data rates of even 2Mbps were considered impressive ... and 'the wireless' used to be an accessory to the faster Ethernet network, ” as Lee Badman of Network Computing put it.
The office has been a prime target for innovation as the number of connected devices increases and innovation continues to improve the ways they communicate. In the Internet of Things (IoT) enabled world, more actions are automated and barriers between the physical and digital experience continue to be knocked down.
Considering the rapid conversion from in-office to fully remote work, emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic will inevitably include several logistical issues.
Today, users expect to be able to hit the Internet from almost anywhere with an increasingly diverse range of devices. And “anywhere” most definitely includes their workplaces. Now, as enterprises begin to reopen, it begs the question: Will your WiFi be ready to perform when employees return to the office? Enterprise WLAN managers face a number of challenges in helping their coworkers be productive through better wireless networking.
There's no doubt that WiFi will continue to advance, with increasing data rates and antenna counts for starters. Who knows how networks will look 25 years from now?
In the meantime, let us help you prepare. Here are six tips to improve your office WiFi:
For many companies, this experience exposed a plethora of logistical issues. Preparing adequately may require overcoming logistical challenges and addressing altered needs. There's an opportunity to get ahead of potential obstacles by anticipating the full limitations and capabilities of your network.
End-user complaints aren’t the best way to determine the effectiveness of your current wifi network – after all, some wheels are squeakier than others. Plus the user’s location will make a big difference in accessibility. A site survey is a more reliable way to start solving wireless problems.
If space you’re evaluating already has access points and wireless devices in use, an active survey will provide the most details for you to base your decisions on. If you’re planning ahead for future use – say for a new building or floor – you can go with a predictive site analysis, software that allows you to input coverage needs and building floorplans to estimate how many APs are needed and where to put them.
Enterprise WLAN managers that had previously been slower to adopt IoT-enabled technology face steep challenges and a renewed pressure to help their coworkers be productive through better wireless networking.
For one, maintaining a safe environment will be the top priority. Updated policies and procedures should be accounted for. Creating a friction-less experience will be key to supporting employee well-being and health when they return to the physical workplace.
To get a complete picture, you’ll want to know not only what the end users expect, but also identify what stakeholders – like the CIO – feel is important. They’re the ones who will know if the company roadmap includes a transition to an all-wireless office within the next year, or if there are plans to incorporate meeting room booking software or workplace analytics software for example. Or if your office has just undergone a remodel for health and safety purposes, the visual appearance of the APs might be a factor, in addition to their effectiveness.
Secondly, preferences and expectations may have changed. Data from a consumer behavior report conducted by independent market research company Ipsos showed that 50% of adults reported using new technologies since the beginning of the crisis. To decide whether or not a project has been successful, first you’ve got to determine what success looks like. When it comes to WLAN, that means understanding who will use the network and what they’re using it for.
In the context of the current public health concerns, it's likely that most employees and visitors will be relying on their own devices. What’s the company’s BYOD policy? Will guests also need to be able to access WiFi? Is your organization undergoing rapid growth that means more hiring, i.e. more end users?
The answers to these questions will help you determine how many wireless devices will be in use during the workday, which in turn affects the required density of access points.
More than 4.1 billion people around the world were using the internet prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the International Telecommunications Union.
With heightened interest in touchless technology, durables, sensors, and other new tools has accelerated, it will help to also consider which types of devices are going to be used.
For example, back in 2016 we found that some newer versions of iOS had a difficult time connecting back to a dual band wireless. Our conference room solution display iPads worked better when they were attached to a 2.4Ghz band, which led us to set up a hidden SSID that was only on 2.4Ghz.
Speaking of bands, don’t forget to perform a spectrum analysis to find any sources of interference in either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz, such as microwaves or wireless video cameras, or even other buildings’ WLANs.
The physical characteristics of the building in which your office is located is another key factor in determining how many access points are needed, where to mount them, the level of transmit power for each one, and even which bands to use.
Start out by evaluating the type of building materials for each area that needs wireless access, because different types of walls and other obstructions will impede the signal strength. The difference between dry wall and a brick wall, for example, is equivalent to a 50% reduction in signal strength!
See a cool signal strength heat map by wireless troubleshooting company MetaGeek.
One network engineer, saddled with a 100-year-old building, is trying to mitigate the obstacles from the building materials and layout by installing more access points and reducing the transmit power on each of these points.
“We are tweaking algorithms that control these settings so that all the access points see each other and try to minimize their impact on each other,” he told TechTarget.com.
When the Coronavirus outbreak occurred, effects were felt immediately as offices closed and employees became fully remote, and it left many companies scrambling to boost their infrastructure and security.
As businesses prepare for the changing infrastructure of their offices, it'll be important to assess what works well, where improvements are needed, and anticipate what the future will hold.
Finally, it’s not enough these days just to think about coverage. In the enterprise, office WiFi also must have enough capacity to make sure end users can do their jobs seamlessly and efficiently, so consider what type of traffic you can expect on the network.
Most modern offices need a WLAN infrastructure that supports a mix of data, voice and video services. Find out which mobile apps your coworkers use most often, and where they use them.
For instance, a large conference room where many people are accessing the wireless during meetings – for presentations, file sharing or videoconferencing – will need the capacity to handle those activities.
Due to the quickly changing nature of our world and how we work, it makes sense that there's a need to focus on network speed. Managing an enterprise-level WLAN is no easy task, especially when it’s a responsibility that was gradually layered on top of many other duties.
So when you resume operations and a user comes to you with a WiFi problem, hopefully these tips will serve as a jumping-off point for your troubleshooting efforts.
Looking for more wireless network tips? Check out our support article for WiFi tips specific to iPads and EventBoard.