Wireless networks feel the strain as enterprise mobility accelerates

Many enterprise wireless networks are struggling to keep up with the proliferation of mobile devices and the use of higher bandwidth apps. But too many IT directors are taking an ad hoc approach to upgrading their networks, rather than investing in long term network planning, argues Russell Siverland-Bishop, principal consultant, Damovo UK & Ireland

Wireless networks feel the strain as enterprise mobility accelerates

Advances in smartphones and tablet devices are enabling employees to accomplish an increasing number of work activities from any place, at any time; resulting in a rapid acceleration in enterprise mobility, according to Russell Siverland-Bishop, principal consultant, Damovo UK & Ireland (pictured), which specialises in mission critical, highly secure communication environments.

Research from Cisco forecasted that by 2016 there will be nearly 19 billion connected devices worldwide. Further research by Vanson Bourne suggests that smartphones could even begin to replace traditional fixed line desktop phones within five years.

Whilst this increase in enterprise mobility and mobile workforce capabilities does bring significant benefits, this new excess of mobile devices within the workplace is certain to see the demand for wireless bandwidth soar. 

Catching-up with BYOD

The surge of enterprise mobility has so far been largely driven by employees, catching on to what we now know familiarly as the ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) phenomenon; with a preference for using their own devices over those provided by their employer.

We’re unlikely to see this trend abating any time soon; in fact Gartner recently suggested that by 2017, half of employers may even impose a mandatory BYOD policy; requiring staff to bring their own laptop, tablet and smartphone to work.

Unfortunately, as BYOD has accelerated the rise of mobility, many organisations have struggled to upgrade their wireless networks at the same pace as the proliferation of mobile devices.

The challenge is that the wireless networks that most businesses have in place were simply not designed to support the sheer number of devices that are now connecting to them. As employees now use more and more bandwidth-hungry services such as mobile video, the demand for wireless capacity has rocketed.

Recent research from Vanson Bourne found that 75% of IT directors are worried that the growth of BYOD will increase the strain on their wireless networks as the devices now connecting via wireless increase.

As mobility continues to play a fundamental role in enabling businesses to operate efficiently, it’s no surprise to see that many IT directors are growing increasingly concerned about the ability of their wireless networks to support this increased demand.

Despite these concerns however, nearly two-thirds of IT directors (65%) confessed that they take an ad-hoc approach to extending or upgrading their wireless networks; adding capacity as and when required, rather than adopting a long-term strategic approach to network planning. As a result, securing wireless networks, improving performance and troubleshooting problems can become an overly time-consuming activity.

While this unsystematic approach is perhaps understandable, such a short-term strategy for network planning only compounds the problems; increasing the management burden whilst also potentially creating new security weaknesses and performance problems. Businesses cannot afford to remain on the back foot with this myopic approach to network planning.

Planning for the future

According to the Vanson Bourne study, nearly half (47%) of IT directors admit that they often find wireless network management to be a burden, as a result of the challenges they face  in keeping them secure, maintaining multiple access points and keeping up with bandwidth demands.

However, the latest wireless management tools, such as Cisco’s Unified Access platform can help IT departments to alleviate these difficulties by better integrating their networks and management controls.

For example, they can roll out a centralised access policy across all networks; including fixed, wireless and VPN infrastructure, removing the need to replicate them across individual networks and end-points.

This approach can significantly reduce the challenges that come with the roll out of a BYOD policy, as security and access privileges can be established per user, rather than per device – meaning that new devices can be onboarded quickly and efficiently.

As long as an employee has the relevant access privileges, they can access the network with any device that is supported as part of that policy, eradicating the need for IT departments to configure access for each individual device.

With the surge of enterprise mobility and the BYOD driving force behind it expected to continue for the long-term, businesses that equip themselves with the capabilities to manage and plan their wireless network capacity in good time are putting themselves in a far better position to handle the demands they face, and avoid being left red-faced by slow network speeds and poor access for employees.


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