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Today, it’s universally expected that companies be quick and nimble. A slow wi-fi connection can negatively affect customer service response time or the delivery a product or service.
A large percentage of people work solely from their laptops and smartphones, making the modern workplace mostly wireless. Not only that, most business software today is completely cloud-based. The combination of wireless devices and cloud-based software creates a strong need for fast, reliable wi-fi.
Fortunately, there are many great enterprise-grade wi-fi products that are perfect for the modern small business.
What is Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi is the name of a common wireless networking technology that uses radio waves to transfer data, providing high-speed wireless internet and network connections.
Fun fact, Wi-Fi does not mean “wireless fidelity”, it’s just a trademark that means IEEE 802.11x, the current Wi-Fi spec.
Wi-Fi networks, being wireless, have no physical wired connection between the sender and receiver, a.k.a. a personal device such as a laptop/smartphone and the Wi-Fi hotspot.
By design, Wi-Fi was made to connect devices of all types and all manufacturers. It is a universal protocol that can be licensed and used in any electronic device.
Consumer vs. Enterprise Wi-Fi Hardware
"Consumer and enterprise wi-fi hardware are NOT made equally. They are two different use cases that require completely different technology."
To put things simply, consumer-grade wi-fi hardware is not suitable for businesses.
Many people think there is no difference. Wi-fi is wi-fi, right? This couldn't be farther than the truth.
Consumer-grade wi-fi is only designed to handle several devices at once - think about how many devices are in the typical household. Usually 10-20. Consumer wi-fi will be optimized for high speed on a low number of devices. Reliability is not as important because you don't need 99.9% up-time to watch a show on Netflix.
Now, think about a small business with 20 employees. If every employee has a laptop and a smartphone, and there are several printers, that can easily be 50+ devices. If the wi-fi at your house is slow, it probably doesn't cost you money. In your business, if your wi-fi is slow, it affects the productivity of every single employee, potentially costing thousands of dollars. If your phones rely on the wi-fi and your calls drop regularly, it could cost you a client.
Consumer-grade wi-fi do not have the management capabilities necessary for a small business. If you have multiple access points, enterprise management is very important. This will allow you or your I.T. team to manage all of your network devices inside one console for easy monitoring and maintenance.
This fact is not very scientific, however, consumer-grade wi-fi access points need to be restarted WAY more often than enterprise! This creates downtime for the entire team.
The ironic part: Sometimes consumer-grade and enterprise-grade wi-fi hardware is similar in price! For example, with Netgear's Nighthawk line (consumer-grade) and Ubiquiti's Unifi line (enterprise-grade) are both around $100-$400 per access point.
Things to Consider When Planning a Wi-Fi Installation
This list covers the most important considerations for a wi-fi installation, but is not exhaustive. By asking these questions prior to installation, you will save tons of money and headache down the road. Do not assume that a couple randomly-placed hotspots will be sufficient.
How many people need to connect?
- Do you have 10 employees, or 100?
- Do clients or customers at your place of business need wi-fi?
- Generally, most enterprise-grade hotspots will be fine up to 100 connections. If you have more than that, it’s worth considering a “higher grade” access point. For example, Ubiquiti’s XG reportedly handles up to 50,000 connections. This would be great for an event space, but probably overkill for a car dealership.
How big is your office or place of business?
- Typically, hotspots only cover a few thousand square feet, if that. If you need wi-fi for a 30,000 square foot warehouse, you're going to need multiple hotspots spaced strategically.
What is the layout like? Separate offices, or open floor plan?
- This will determine how many wi-fi access points are needed *and* what type.
- 2.4Ghz wi-fi is common because it penetrates walls well; The lower the frequency the better wall penetration.
- 5Ghz is the next most common; It doesn't penetrate walls well, but it can be up to twice as fast as 2.4Ghz, and it works extremely well in open floor plans.
- The material of the walls is an important factor. For example, glass and concrete typically don't let wi-fi through very well. If all your walls are concrete, expect to use more wi-fi access points than your typical gyprock/steel stud construction.
Are you using cloud-based digital signage? (Streaming video uses lots of bandwidth)
- Unless your building is fairly new or you retrofitted ethernet connections at your TVs, your digital signage devices are probably using wi-fi.
- Streaming video uses lots of bandwidth, so special consideration is needed to make sure there is no lag in your promotional videos, and also to prevent lag on other computers.
Are you using VoIP phones or security cameras over wi-fi? (Again, streaming video uses lots of bandwidth)
- If you have VoIP phones, the physical phones are probably hard-wired, but most VoIP systems allow you to have "soft phones" which means you can use your business phones from your smartphone or laptop.
- If this is the case, special consideration is needed to make sure your wi-fi can handle it. Or else, you will experience laggy or dropped calls.
- The main purpose of security cameras is to provide evidence in case of a crime, therefore, live performance isn't super important as far as lag goes. However, having security cameras streaming through your wi-fi could make the internet slow for everybody else if it is not setup properly.
Are all devices using wifi, or are most plugged in with ethernet? (Printers, computers, etc.)
- Some buildings have excellent ethernet wiring, therefore, very few devices need to use the wi-fi. In this case, you can probably use lower-grade or a smaller amount of access points.
- If you need wi-fi for every single computer, printer, and phone in your office, then the speed and reliability of your wi-fi is way more important.
How much coverage do you really need? For example, does it need to reach the far corners of your parking lot? How about the basement?
- It's not good enough to simply throw an access point in your server closet and expect it to reach the opposite corner office 3 floors up. Nor will an indoor access point provide good coverage outdoors.
- If you need wi-fi outdoors, you probably need to install an access point outdoors. This is because wi-fi signals do not pass well through exterior walls which are much thicker and stronger materials than interior walls. If your outdoor area is large, consider using a "long-range" access point which is optimized for really large, open spaces.
What Raxxos Can Do For Your Business's Wi-Fi
Raxxos can ensure that your business partners, employees, and customers stay connected around the clock every day of the year with our Wi-Fi services. You will have your own private secure Wi-Fi network that we will install, implement and manage on an ongoing basis.
There is no one-size fits all when it comes to Wi-Fi. Our team will assess your environment and create a custom plan to make sure you get the best.
If you are looking to upgrade, we will use signal analyzer tools to find ways to optimize your existing network before we recommend purchasing new equipment. Only once we exhaust all existing optimizations will we recommend purchasing new equipment.
When installing new equipment, we will optimize it by using signal analyzers. We walk around your whole building to make sure there are no dead-spots or interfering signals.
Common Cause of Slow Wi-Fi
One of the most common causes of slow Wi-Fi is being on the same channel as other nearby Wi-Fi hotspots. Essentially, when two Wi-Fi hotspots are on the same channel, they "compete" for the frequency which slows both of them down. With our signal analyzers, we can make sure your hotspots are using the channel with the least interference. This will make your network faster and more reliable. Some hotspots have a feature built-in which will try to automatically select the best channel; However, they don't always make the best decision and require manual intervention.
24/7 Monitoring With Our Monthly Plans
With our monthly technical support plans, we will monitor and proactively fix any issues that arise with your Wi-Fi, before they affect your users.
Our technicians will analyze your current network and assess your business needs to create a detailed plan for a fast, reliable wi-fi network.
We will install the best products with the utmost care and quality. We pride ourselves in quick, clean, unobtrusive installations.
Your entire team will instantly feel the difference in speed. Enjoy the peace-of-mind knowing your wi-fi network is solid, safe, and secure.