3 Common Problems with Enterprise WiFi Networks

Designing, maintaining, and securing a large WiFi network is remarkably difficult, which is why many enterprises struggle to provide their employees with reliable connections.

In the BYOD era, office WiFi is no longer a luxury or a perk — it’s an absolute necessity. But all these smart devices in the workplace that enterprise networks now have to support are placing immense pressure on IT teams, who are struggling to balance connectivity and security for all these connections.

In fact, as McKinsey & Co. points out, “Earlier, a large corporate network might have somewhere between 50,000 and 500,000 endpoints; [now], we are talking about millions or tens of millions of endpoints.” This explosion of connections has not only rendered traditional network management techniques like manually sifting through router logs and TCP/IP packets ineffective, but has also dramatically increased the difficulty of providing robust enterprise cybersecurity.

To help you strengthen and secure your enterprise network in the face of this growing complexity, we’ve outlined three common WiFi issues your IT team should be looking for.

1. Poorly Configured Hardware

Not unlike a gourmet meal, the quality of an enterprise WiFi network ultimately depends on the caliber of its constituent parts and the manner in which they’re assembled. A pinch of salt is essential to any meal, but too much can ruin it — there’s a similar “sweet spot” when it comes to network access points (APs). Too few, and a network will have coverage gaps; too many, and networked devices will have trouble maintaining a steady connection.

A standard, non-mission critical enterprise network can usually get by with one AP for every 3,000 square feet, but that magic number changes depending on the broader arrangement of network components (routers, controllers, etc.) and the type and configuration of the enterprise’s APs.

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Incorrect positioning of router antennae can also have an adverse effect on a network’s performance. As a rule of thumb, perpendicular antennae configurations — wherein some antennae are positioned upright and some are positioned flat — tend to work best for 2.4GHz networks, whereas perpendicular, upright, or 45-degree antenna configurations all work equally well for 5GHz networks.

2. Excessive (and Undiagnosed) RFI

No matter how precisely an enterprise deploys its APs, no matter how painstakingly it configures its router antennae, it will all be for naught if the enterprise’s radio-frequency interference (RFI) environment is not taken into account during the network design process. Everything from cordless telephones and Bluetooth-enabled devices to security systems and building controls can use the same 2.4GHz or 5GHz frequencies as typical enterprise networks, which results in routine WiFi disruptions.

What’s more, dense building materials like metal, concrete, brick, marble, and tile, as well as large furniture like bookshelves, appliances, and filing cabinets all generate minimal but collectively impactful amounts of RFI. While these kinds of connectivity-impairing features are easy enough to spot with the naked eye, others — rival APs, other nearby WiFi networks, etc. — are not, and can only be diagnosed through a comprehensive site survey.

3. Short-Range Cyberattacks

Designing and deploying a high-performing enterprise network is made even more difficult once cybersecurity considerations are factored into the equation.

For instance, a bad actor can set up a rogue AP (or an entire ad-hoc network) in close proximity to an enterprise’s WLAN and attempt to trick employees’ devices into sharing valuable data with the spoofed system. A malicious party who can get within range of an enterprise’s WLAN can also attempt to passively intercept transmissions that are sent across the network. Robust cybersecurity protocols are fairly effective at preventing such digital eavesdropping, but with the rise of KRACK attacks, the balance might be tipping in cybercriminals’ favor.

Finding the Right Partner

For enterprises struggling with underperforming or insufficiently secure networks, partnering with a seasoned networking expert like Turn-key Technologies (TTI) is an easy, effective way to turn things around. With nearly three decades of industry experience, multiple industry certifications, and numerous accolades, TTI has the know-how necessary to help any enterprise take their network performance and security to the next level.

By Tony Pugielli

May 9, 2018

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