A Vanson Bourne survey commissioned by Enterasys Networks has found that one third (33%) of UK companies still do not provide Wi-Fi access to their staff when in the office. When asked why not, almost two thirds (61%) blamed lack of security while over a quarter (27%) cited lack of bandwidth as a problem.
Budget for installing Wi-Fi at work was not an issue – barely a handful (4%) listed cost as a barrier to deployment of Wi-Fi in the office.
Conversely, the vast majority (64%) of the UK companies surveyed that don’t offer Wi-Fi in the office, do permit staff access to the corporate network via a Wi-Fi connection while working remotely – whether at home, an airport lounge or pretty much anywhere else offering Wi-Fi connectivity.
Mark Pearce, strategic alliance director at Enterasys Networks believes that these attitudes towards Wi-Fi security and bandwidth are hopelessly outdated. He feels such double standards undermine any true concerns about security and instead suggest apathy and underinvestment in the mobile technologies that are reshaping the way UK businesses compete today.
Pearce said: ‘A fully mobile workforce – where mobility stretches from inside the office to the remote worker – helps businesses maximise the productivity of their staff. Tying staff to static locations while in the office inhibits team collaboration and the kind of dynamic hallway or cafeteria engagement that fosters the creativity and problem solving that businesses now rely on to succeed in a tough global marketplace. Wi-Fi should be seen as a net-positive strategic investment, yet one in three UK businesses choose to remain mired in a static, wired-only world.’
Over the past 18 months the hype around the next generation of Wi-Fi, 802.11ac has grown. Although it is still at ‘draft’ stage, it is tipped to deliver massively improved wireless performance, better range, improved reliability, improved power consumption and remit a ‘wired-like’ performance.
Industry experts behind the standard say it will be particularly good for streaming HD video, gaming, running backups and enabling data transfer. It will also extend the range of Wi-Fi networks, which could make it easier to cover a small office with a single, powerful router. For businesses yet to adopt Wi-Fi, Pearce’s top five tips would be:
- Plan your wireless strategy – analyse the potential mobile solutions for your business and prioritise which applications should go mobile first
- Ensure that your concepts are viable – investigate available solutions to make sure they will work with your existing infrastructure and processes. Assess which wireless application and devices make best use of your available technology and make sure that every item on the list is secure. If you are unsure, bring in an IT consultant to help
- Run a controlled test – test your wireless strategy on a small scale, for example within the regional sales force. Test it for a month or two and see how well it integrates with your wired network and existing business processes. Develop concrete, well-defined metrics for your test including tracking customer satisfaction, savings in time, cost savings or improvements in availability and uptime. During this test period, make sure data and network security is maintained at all times
- Continue limited deployment – following a successful test and once all kinks have been ironed out, add additional departments to the wireless and continue to monitor how it integrates with your wired network and business processes
- Roll-out solution company-wide – after ensuring that your wireless initiative is secure and has positive bottom-line contributions, it’s time to roll-out the solution company-wide. Plan ahead and set up assessment checkpoints down the road to monitor the benefits
The survey was carried by Vanson Bourne and completed by 100 IT decision makers across commercial enterprise organisations within the financial, manufacturing and retail, distribution and transport sectors.