No two companies are exactly the same. Even those in the same industry have different requirements when it comes to their network infrastructure and wireless access. Mainstream Wireless Access Points (WAPs) are frequently used to support these business networks and provide wireless connectivity, including public internet or ‘wireless hotspots’ in buildings and other venues like campuses, hotels, airports, stadiums, and more. Because wireless requirements vary considerably, finding the right connectivity options and network configuration is tough. This scenario is especially true when you start looking at different options like wireless ranges, management capabilities (cloud vs. non-cloud), and coverage ranges.
Getting it right requires carefully evaluating how WAP options match up to your biggest-priority needs. It’s also important to remember that your organization can only expand to be as large as your network. Leading organizations frequently ‘size up’ to future-proof their wireless infrastructure. That way they’ll be confident their network can flex to support growth. Taking these steps now will help you maintain high Quality of Service (QoS) standards when it comes to the wireless deployment and set-the-stage for the future. Let’s review critical questions to ask when looking at WAP solutions and providers.
- What management options are available? Whether you’re managing 10 access points or 2,000-plus, you need a controller that allows for centralized management, has a redundant power supply and offers integrated controls. Software controller options are now the standard, compared to hardware-based controllers, because they help network administrators streamline their WAP management workflow. Look for those that have remote management capabilities and allow teams to monitor wireless APs on the network, whether the controller is deployed on a local computer or hosted on a public cloud service. The best WAP management tools help users to set up, configure, and operate WAPs from an easy-to-use console. Some even offer ‘wizards’ to configure access points from a mobile app. Look for simple management dashboards that streamline WAP operation, access point monitoring, and network troubleshooting.
- What options are available for managing the user experience? Perhaps you need managed WAP to provide seamless wireless access, like at a K-12 school for example. If so, you need the ability to build a safe environment with tailored network access for students, teachers, and staff members. You also need the ability to control and prioritize the applications in the network with application visibility and control. Look for controllers that enable you to optimize the Wi-Fi experience, based on the type of device or application. For instance, some WAP providers like Cisco have a partnership with Apple to streamline access for devices running iOS. Also, ask about options for customizing your ‘guest log-in pages’ as well. Flexible onboarding options, including social login integration, may be very valuable for retailers, for instance. A guest visiting a retail location may want to log in for Wi-Fi access using their Facebook user id. In this example, integration capabilities between your WAP and social sites can help drive engagement with customers, leading to valuable customer insights.
- Can my access points span indoors and outdoors? Most providers today deliver indoor 802.11ac Wave 2 WAPs that can be distributed throughout a building as wall plates, desk stands, and small hidden access points. If your wireless deployment spans a sizeable indoor-outdoor area like a stadium, large corporate office with a courtyard, or manufacturing facility, for example, look for a multi-gigabit WAP with a full controller setup. Outdoor and industrial WAP needs to be able to broadcast a high-powered signal (and at a range more than expected) to offer uncompromising wireless performance.
Whether you’re looking to build upon your existing wireless LAN architecture or you’re deploying one from scratch, you need a network that can deliver the uninterrupted wireless access to voice, data, and video applications your users demand. Wireless access points can provide untethered access to the tools and technologies teams crave while also helping you deliver meaningful and personalized customer experiences. Selecting the right managed WAP appliances and technology partner can help your business become more agile and save you headaches and complaints from subpar or slow connections.