What Is Enterprise Wi-Fi? What Are the Best Solutions Today?

What Is Enterprise Wi-Fi? What Are the Best Solutions Today?

Enterprise Wi-Fi refers to wireless networks used in a business or education. It's typically much more robust and feature-rich than home Wi-Fi due to the larger number of devices and users it needs to support.

Enterprise Wi-Fi networks support seamless integration between multiple access points, higher security levels, load balancing, and advanced management features. They often cover multiple floors or buildings and can support hundreds or even many thousands of simultaneous connections.

What are the benefits of enterprise Wi-Fi?

Enterprise Wi-Fi has numerous benefits for larger organizations. Unlike home Wi-Fi, enterprise Wi-Fi allows for more centralized management, tailored service levels, and robust security controls.

Increased productivity

Enterprise Wi-Fi allows employees to work from anywhere within the organization, increasing flexibility and productivity. For example, a project manager can move from a team meeting to a client call without losing connection, ensuring smooth communication and task flow.

Scalability

Enterprise Wi-Fi networks are designed to be scalable, ensuring they can handle the growing needs of the business. As more devices are added or more employees join the company, the network can be expanded easily without significant infrastructure changes. This means that when a new department is introduced or a branch office is added, there's no need for an exhaustive network overhaul; the existing infrastructure can be efficiently scaled up to meet the new demands.

Cost savings

Organizations with a “wireless first” can reduce the cost associated with network cabling wiring and maintenance for wired connections. By eliminating the need for a physical port for every workspace, organizations can save on infrastructure and maintenance costs.

Improved collaboration

Enterprise Wi-Fi facilitates easier sharing of data and collaboration among employees, regardless of their physical location within the premises. Designers and developers, for instance, can collaborate on a project in real-time, even if they're in different buildings.

Enhanced customer experience

In customer-facing businesses, providing free Wi-Fi can enhance customer satisfaction and engagement. Retail stores, for instance, can offer shoppers Wi-Fi access, making it easier for them to compare prices or read product reviews. Marketing departments can also use each customer's MAC address to determine how many people pass, enter, and return to a storefront.

Real-time updates

For industries that rely on real-time information, like healthcare or industrial automation, enterprise Wi-Fi can ensure fast and uninterrupted data flows. A hospital, for instance, can quickly receive patient test results, enabling timely treatments. Wi-Fi can also support IoT devices in a healthcare environment.

IoT ready

Enterprise Wi-Fi’s availability, coverage, and capacity  support IoT devices which are now commonly used in many business processes. A college campus, for instance, can use connected sensors to monitor classroom attendance, infrastructure, and student transportation services.

Security

Enterprise Wi-Fi solutions offer advanced security features such as network segmentation, network security, and access controls to keep sensitive business data safe. Companies handling confidential data can ensure that only authorized personnel access specific parts of the network.

Ease of management

With centralized control over the wireless network, it is easy to manage connectivity and troubleshoot network problems. IT teams can quickly identify and resolve issues, ensuring minimal downtime for users. Even across multiple locations, administrators can manage, update, and troubleshoot their networks from a single console.

Mobility

Employees can move around the office, attend meetings, or work from different locations without losing internet connectivity. A sales rep, for instance, can stay connected to a video call as they move throughout the corporate campus.

What is enterprise Wi-Fi’s most difficult challenge?

The most difficult challenge faced by enterprise Wi-Fi is maintaining security. As the number of devices connecting to the network increases, so does the risk of security breaches and cyber threats. Businesses often deal with sensitive data, making them attractive targets for cybercriminals. 

With the advent of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies and an increase in remote work, the security perimeter has extended beyond the physical premises of the enterprise, complicating the task of securing the network.

Other challenges faced by enterprise Wi-Fi include ensuring a reliable and robust connection amid high traffic, providing seamless connectivity as users move around within the premise, and scaling the network as the enterprise grows. However, while these are significant challenges, they often aren't as difficult to address as the issue of network security.

These challenges for network uptime, guaranteed user experience, and top notch security are essential components of the Nile Access Service. Traditionally requiring manual configuration steps based on pages and pages of best practices design recommendations, now these challenges can be addressed by Nile’s automated connectivity service for integrated wired and wireless networks. Guaranteed performance for coverage, capacity and availability is an industry first delivered by the Nile service, enabling enterprises to focus on the end user applications and use cases for enterprise Wi-Fi instead of spending their time on manual tasks that mean low return on investment (ROI). 

What are the essentials in an enterprise network?

Setting up an enterprise network infrastructure involves multiple key essentials:

Routers

The initial point of connection for internet access within an enterprise is the router. Its primary function is to manage and route data traffic across the network.

Switches

Switches play a crucial role in connecting multiple access points and devices within a network, facilitating communication amongst them. Essentially, they are the foundational pillars of the majority of enterprise networks.

Wireless Access Points (WAP)

Wireless access points let devices connect to the network without a wired connection. For comprehensive coverage, enterprises position numerous access points throughout their facilities based on an enterprise channel plan..

Network security

Network security encompasses specialized hardware, such as firewalls, which diligently oversee and regulate network traffic according to established security parameters."

Network servers

Network servers are essential because they centralize key network resources, such as documents, applications, services, and data repositories.

Storage systems

Storage systems at the enterprise tier can manifest as local servers or cloud-based storage platforms. Their core objective is the secure retention of vast amounts of institutional data.

Cabling and infrastructure

Ethernet cables, optical fiber channels, and coaxial cables, provide the necessary physical links between switches, access points, and gateways.

Network software

Network software spans a range of tools, encompassing operating systems, network oversight applications, and security software. Most applications reside in the cloud rather than within the network environment.

Network protocols

Network protocols establish the guidelines for transmitting and receiving data within a network, with familiar ones including TCP/IP, DHCP, and DNS.

Enterprise-grade bandwidth

For a thriving enterprise, high-capacity connectivity powers their operations and helps them to achieve business objectives or the organizational mission.

IT support

Enterprises might have a dedicated internal IT team or leverage external services. Their role is to ensure network health.

Redundancy and backup

IT teams use redundancy to ensure reliability. Simultaneously, backup involves the act of replicating data to safeguard against unforeseen data losses.

Scalability

Scalability in a network means it possesses the flexibility to grow with the organization.

Up-to-date technology

Embracing contemporary technology trends, such as AI-powered network management, IoT, SD-WAN, and Cloud Networking, allowing enterprises to accelerate their deployments.

Each of these components plays a crucial role in creating a secure, efficient, scalable, and reliable enterprise network. As you might guess, Nile Access Service shares the responsibility for the desired outcomes, network uptime, proactive planning with the enterprise IT teams. The service is designed to automate as many of the manual workflows in lifecycle management and integrate traditionally separate day-0/1/N planning into the consumption of its next-generation wired and wireless access network infrastructure. 

What are the considerations for selecting an enterprise wireless network?

Choosing the right enterprise wireless network is critical to ensuring seamless connectivity in a business environment. Some key considerations for selecting an enterprise wireless network are:

1. Scalability

Scalability is an important factor as your business growth might lead to additional load on the network. The ideal enterprise network should be able to grow and adapt in line with your business expansion. When evaluating scalability, assess how easy it is to add more devices or users and whether there are any limitations to the maximum supported devices or data throughput.

2. Security

Enterprise networks are often targets for cyberattacks, hence choosing a network with zero trust security features and intrusion detection and prevention systems is crucial.

3. Speed and performance

In an enterprise environment with many users, high-speed wireless connectivity improves operational efficiency and productivity. When evaluating performance needs consider performing speed tests under varying loads and understand the maximum bandwidth the network can support. Make note of each department’s resource needs and craft Quality of Service (QoS) policies appropriately. Choose a network that offers verifiable SLAs for availability, coverage, and capacity.

4. Network management

The ease of managing the network is an important consideration. Look for solutions that offer centralized control and automation of network management tasks. Look for network management tools that offer centralized dashboards, AI-based automation, NOC support, and reporting capabilities.

5. Reliability and uptime

Ensure the network you choose offers high availability and can maintain high performance under heavy usage scenarios. To gauge this, investigate the system's historical uptime statistics and inquire about any built-in redundancies to counteract potential failures. For example, enterprise networks can have multiple internet service providers. If one provider goes down, network policies can enable the second network interface to eliminate downtime.

6. Cost

Consider the initial investment costs and ongoing costs such as maintenance, software upgrades, and hardware replacement. When determining costs, make sure to factor in both short-term and long-term expenses and compare them against the benefits offered.

7. Technical support

A reliable, accessible, and effective support system can be key, especially in the event of network issues. To ascertain this, consider looking into your needs for support response times and the variety of support channels available (e.g., chat, phone, email).

8. Compatibility with existing infrastructure

The new network should be compatible with your existing IT infrastructure to mitigate additional costs and complications. While many vendors support a wide range of devices, consider meeting with the vendor and describing your network environment.

9. User capacity

Understand the number of concurrent users the network can support. Consider company growth over time as well as capacity for your guest network. To determine this, review the capacity for each access point, consider its locations, and review the overall network resources you have to allocate in relation to your service level goals.

10. Mobility support

In today's work environment, the ability to support mobile devices is a must. Consider checking if the network solution easily integrates with mobile devices, supports seamless roaming, and if any dedicated mobile management features are provided.

11. Vendor reputation

Lastly, the vendor's reputation in the market should not be overlooked. Look for the vendor's track record regarding solution effectiveness, support, and hardware life expectancy. You can do this by seeking reviews, speaking with administrators in similar environments, or even requesting case studies.

What are some of the top enterprise Wi-Fi providers?

Nile Access Service

We specialize in the delivery of next-generation wired and wireless access networks, consumed as a service across enterprise sites and buildings, with performance guarantee on capacity, coverage and availability.

Backed by advanced network analytics and AI automation, Nile Access Service uses both physical sensors  and virtual sensors on access points to continuously monitor performance, enabling the Nile software architecture to proactively identify deviations in service quality and self-tune the network towards the desired outcomes. Additionally, the Nile Portal provides a one-stop platform for simple provisioning of the Nile network, while also offering internal IT teams rich visibility into its operation.

Best for: Businesses prioritizing radically simplified operations and guaranteed outcomes, without the rigid upfront costs, will find Nile Access Service applicable to their environments.

Pros:

  • Provides robust enterprise security with campus zero-trust.
  • Eliminates complexities through a standardized design.
  • Integrates day-0/1/N operations with the wired and wireless LAN.
  • Guarantees coverage, capacity and availability performance.
  • Cuts CapEx with an as-a-Service consumption model.

Cons:

  • Requires investment on a per building basis, primarily requiring opportunities for wired and wireless access network refresh / renewal or new site rollouts

Cisco Meraki

A leading name in enterprise networking, Cisco and its subsidiary Meraki offer a range of Wi-Fi solutions, delivering wireless networks for businesses of all sizes.

Best for: A product centric but holistic approach to wireless, switching, security, and SD-WAN, across different innovation areas for enterprise networks.

Pros:

  • Offers cloud-managed Wi-Fi solutions suitable for varied business sizes and needs.
  • Renowned for its strong quality in hardware infrastructure components.
  • A consistent track record of working with enterprise organizations.

Cons:

  • Every innovation usually requires investment into new products or licenses.
  • Unclear where the cloud networking with Meraki starts and where Cisco Enterprise solution takes over; hard to integrate two separate solutions in a single network.
  • Larger deployments might require a professional services engagement.
  • No performance guarantees available for coverage, capacity, availability.

HPE Aruba

With the second largest market share for enterprise Wi-Fi, Aruba targets large scale deployments in security conscious environments.

Best for: User centric policy enforcement capabilities along with a long list of software products to tackle automation, profiling, management and security use cases.

Pros:

  • Leading with cloud networking mostly for distributed enterprises.
  • Renowned for its strong focus on policy enforcement on wired and wireless access.
  • Track record of working with large retail, education and high tech enterprises.

Cons:

  • Current solution set is a combination of multiple acquisition, in process for integration.
  • HPE Greenlake Network as a Service (NaaS) offer leads the way for large enterprise engagements but the value of the offer has not yet been proven in the market. 
  • Larger deployments almost always require consulting and professional services.
  • No performance guarantees available for coverage, capacity, availability.

CommScope RUCKUS

Acquired by CommScope, RUCKUS delivers indoor and outdoor wireless access points tailored to various deployment needs and budgets.

Best for: Event venues and hospitality industries. Their offerings promise very good wireless coverage across dynamic environments with lots of changes in user density.

Pros:

  • Especially suited for open areas for guest access, such as event venues.
  • Products are available for low budget requirements.

Cons:

  • Some users face challenges when integrating with non-RUCKUS systems.
  • The user interface might not be as intuitive as some competitors.
  • Challenging to support enterprise security requirements.
  • No performance guarantees available for coverage, capacity, availability.

Juniper Mist

Juniper Networks equips businesses with advanced Wi-Fi and wired technologies and infrastructure to augment connectivity and bolster network defenses.

Best for: Organizations who want to leverage AI summaries to ease product troubleshooting for wired and wireless network management. Leveraging Mist Systems AIOps technology, Juniper aims to simplify understanding of network insights and notifications.

Pros:

  • Utilizes AI summaries to help with user experience troubleshooting.
  • Ease of provisioning via its cloud interface has been popular.

Cons:

  • Juniper’s security portfolio is not tightly integrated with Mist Wi-Fi.
  • Requires training for optimal configuration based on AI notifications.
  • User experience insights do not result in performance guarantees.

Ubiquiti

Famed for its cost-effective networking solutions, Ubiquiti Networks curates a selection of Wi-Fi products tailored to both service providers and small to medium size businesses (SMB), promising simple and affordable Wi-Fi network coverage.

Best for: IT teams who are looking for user- and budget-friendly solutions without the advanced performance and security characteristics that are required for larger networks.

Pros:

  • Large number of Wi-Fi access point options at different price points.
  • Intuitive workflows within the admin user interface and setup processes.

Cons:

  • Lacks a lot of the advanced enterprise Wi-Fi capabilities.
  • While suitable for SMBs, large enterprises might find limitations in scale.
  • Some features might be tied to specific hardware models.

What are the ways to improve your enterprise Wi-Fi speed?

Upgrade your equipment

Older routers may not match the performance of their newer counterparts. Consider transitioning to a business-grade router or access point, which is crafted to accommodate the needs of a wider user base and offers enterprise-level features.

Optimize access point location

The signals of your Wi-Fi network can be obstructed or face interference. Positioning your access points in a centralized, elevated, and unobstructed area can amplify your network's coverage and reduce disruptions. An enterprise channel plan ensures that the network provides the required coverage while minimizing interference.

Select the appropriate frequency band

Contemporary Wi-Fi networks utilize either the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz frequency bands. While the former encounters more interference but boasts an extended range, the latter experiences reduced interference but a limited range. Choosing the right frequency can enhance performance.

Control network users

An increased number of devices on your Wi-Fi network can diminish its speed. Establish guest networks for visitors or clientele, and ensure employee network usage is confined to work-related activities.

Prioritize bandwidth consumption

Implement Quality of Service (QoS) to rank applications with higher requirements. This guarantees that pivotal business applications have the bandwidth they need during peak times.

Secure your Wi-Fi

Fortify your Wi-Fi network to thwart unauthorized users from exploiting your network to steal data and plant malware.

Conduct regular network evaluations

Periodic assessments of your network can pinpoint inefficiencies or coverage shortcomings, enabling adjustments that can increase performance.

Update firmware

Vendors frequently enhance their device firmware by introducing novel features and rectifying anomalies. Keeping your router's firmware current assures peak performance.

Minimize interference

Gadgets like microwave ovens, cordless telephones, fluorescent lights, and neighboring wireless networks can disrupt your Wi-Fi. Reducing the operation of these devices during work hours or distancing them from your network proves beneficial.

As part of the Nile Access Service, all these configuration and maintenance options are automated in software and by Nile’s production engineering team who is responsible for delivering a guaranteed outcome as part of our contract with our end customers. Within each building where the Nile service is deployed, software automation eliminates the need to tackle these priorities with manual labor. Cloud software embedded within the service is designed to observe itself and act accordingly as a system to tackle any challenges. 

What is a Managed Service Provider?

A Managed Service Provider (MSP) is a company that remotely manages a customer's IT infrastructure and/or end-user systems, typically on a proactive basis and under a subscription model. They are usually responsible for managing and anticipating the needs of an array of IT services for business clients.

Services provided by an MSP can include network management, system operations, backup, cybersecurity, cloud services, data storage, and help desk support among others.

For enterprise Wi-Fi, using an MSP can be exceptionally useful. Managed Service Providers typically offer network management as a part of their service suite. This means that the MSP will handle the setup, monitoring, maintenance, and optimization of the Wi-Fi network, ensuring it meets the performance and security standards required by the enterprise.

What is Network as a Service (NaaS)?

Network as a Service (NaaS) is a business model for delivering enterprise networks on a pay-per-use and/or subscription basis. Rather than investing in expensive network infrastructure with capital expense, companies can purchase networking resources from a technology provider like Nile’s purpose built solution.

Such a solution similar to Nile’s can be delivered by MSPs to accelerate the way they serve their customers, improve their margins and bring improved outlook towards guaranteed outcomes promised to their end customers. Benefits of a NaaS model include:

Flexibility and Scalability: NaaS allows businesses to scale their network needs dynamically. Whether expanding to a new office location or accommodating a surge in users, NaaS can quickly adjust to meet these demands without the need for large upfront hardware investments.

Cost-Effectiveness: Enterprises only pay for the network services they consume. This eliminates the need for heavy capital expenditures on networking equipment and reduces the total cost of ownership.

Latest Technologies: NaaS providers typically use the latest networking technologies, ensuring organizations can always access cutting-edge features and performance. In contrast, traditional product centric deployments might stay limited to the technologies they initially invested in without further improvements due to the lack of guaranteed outcomes.

Simplified Management: As all networking functions are delivered as a service, there's no need for a business to worry about routine maintenance, updates, or patches. This is managed centrally by the NaaS provider, ensuring optimal performance and security at all times.

Beyond the wired and wireless access network, other NaaS solutions can include virtual network functionality, bandwidth on demand, network management, and security functions such as firewalling, intrusion detection systems (IDS), and virtual private networks (VPN).

Enterprise Wi-Fi with Guaranteed Outcomes

Enterprise Wi-Fi doesn't have to be complicated and, most importantly, in the year 2023, it needs to be able to guarantee coverage, capacity and availability when deployed.

Nile Access Service relieves enterprise IT departments from the burden of designing wireless networks alone after purchasing countless numbers of hardware and software components, just to be left with the unpredictable performance outcomes.

Nile Access Service offers a seamless network experience that aligns with your strategic business requirements, eliminates network complexity, shares the responsibility for IT team’s success, reduces high up-front capital expense, and handles the challenge of managing and maintaining the enterprise network.

With Nile, you can rest assured knowing network availability, coverage, and capacity are guaranteed. This includes built-in zero-trust security measures and offers usage-based billing for scalable, flexible consumption.

Discover how Nile can automate design, deployment and maintenance of a highly resilient and secure enterprise Wi-Fi network in your environment.

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