Avoid These Enterprise WiFi Mistakes

Employees expect to have access to WiFi at work, but delivering a sufficiently powerful and secure network on an enterprise scale is easier said than done.

In the wake of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) revolution, in-office WiFi has become as much of an essential part of doing business as electricity. That’s borne out of the simple fact that enterprises would only be limiting the productivity of their employees by tethering them to desks with wired connections.

What many enterprise IT professionals are finding out, however, is that executing a large-scale WiFi deployment is easier said than done. Both the popularity of BYOD and the proliferation of workplace Internet of Things (IoT) devices has driven the average number of endpoints on an enterprise network well into the millions, which has only increased the difficulty of providing effective cybersecurity.

Ultimately, crafting an enterprise WiFi network that is both high-performing enough to accommodate hundreds of employees’ needs and secure enough to protect the enterprise from a costly data breach requires a great deal of experience and know-how. That’s why many organizations choose to streamline this process by partnering with an enterprise networking expert like Turn-key Technologies (TTI). In over two decades of business, here are just a few of the many common mistakes we’ve seen when assessing our clients’ WiFi networks.

Coverage Myopia

Enterprise IT professionals often take their hardware’s technical specifications at face value, especially when it comes to selecting the number of access points (AP) a new network infrastructure will include. This is a mistake: enterprise-grade APs are becoming more powerful with each passing year, but that doesn’t mean that an enterprise should try to minimize the overlap of its APs’ coverage areas.

Simply put, a network in which individual APs are expected to handle all of the traffic within their top-end coverage range is not going to be a high-performing network. Coverage is of course an important consideration, but capacity is much more important. Areas like break rooms, conference rooms, and managers’ offices tend to have particularly high bandwidth demands. An effective network design will take factors like these into account and cover these areas with enough APs to manage larger volumes of traffic.

Ignoring Environmental Factors

Along similar lines, enterprise IT pros frequently fail to take the complexity of their environment into account. Beyond coverage and capacity, it’s critical to consider elements like radio-frequency interference (RFI) and building layout when designing an enterprise WiFi network.

Everything from neighboring WiFi networks and microwaves to office Christmas lights and low-powered IoT devices like wireless security cameras can create levels of RFI that compromise WiFi signal quality — even in areas that are blanketed with APs. Similarly, the dimensions of an enterprise’s office and the construction materials from which it’s built have an effect on the integrity of wireless data transmissions.

Settling for Uniform Network Access

While most IT teams recognize the threat posed by weak employee passwords, few carry this awareness over to their network management. Many enterprises provide all of their employees with a shared network access key, a practice that opens the door to a breach. For one, employees tend to be overly generous with their employer’s WiFi, and are inclined to share a universal key with any number of unauthorized users. What’s more, if an enterprise fails to change its pre-shared key on a regular basis, former (possibly disgruntled) employees might be able to access sensitive company data even after they’ve left.

Instead, enterprises should authenticate network connections on a user-by-user basis. This not only facilitates more granular traffic management, but it also empowers network administrators to maintain tighter control over best practices relating to critical cybersecurity protocols.

By Chris Voll

April 25, 2018

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