Enterprise Wi-Fi Solutions The Complete Guide.

Wi-Fi is an essential part of daily life in our connected world.

Over 224 million smartphone users in the U.S. spend an average of five hours per day interacting with their mobile devices. Our growing reliance on the internet has created a demand for reliable Wi-Fi access at home and on the go.

A business built on cloud-based applications, a BYOD culture and IoT technology can’t afford to struggle with lag time or dropped connections.

Fact

The Wi-Fi setups used in our homes aren’t robust enough to handle the load required to keep a modern business running.

Our culture requires companies to always be “on,” and the slightest delay can cause serious setbacks. This is especially true in industries where systems incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are part of a company’s essential framework.

Fortunately, companies have the option of enterprise wifi. These advanced networks use better equipment, more access points and strategic design to create a web of connectivity on which business owners, employees and customers can rely.

Enterprise Wi-Fi Solutions

Let's take a closer look at enterprise Wi-Fi solutions and examine how you can choose the best setup for the specific needs of your company.

What is Enterprise Wi-Fi?

Home Wi-Fi setups usually consist of a modem provided by the ISP and a router with enough power to handle internet use in a home of average size. Regular browsing, gaming and streaming are all supported well as long as multiple users don’t demand large amounts of bandwidth at the same time.

The same equipment quickly breaks down when used in an office building, retail store, healthcare facility or other large public location. Something stronger and more robust is needed to support the increased demands in these settings. This is where enterprise Wi-Fi comes in.

Enterprise-level connections use slightly different protocols and management methods than consumer networks, and the equipment is able to support larger loads without suffering from dropped signals or tapering off into dead zones.

Access is controlled by an administrator to ensure only authorized users can connect. In some ways, it resembles a scaled-up version of home Wi-Fi designed to handle the higher demands of businesses and public institutions.

Consumer vs. Enterprise Wi-Fi

With 71 percent of all mobile communications being conducted over Wi-Fi connections and 70 percent of consumers walking around with Wi-Fi devices in their bags or pockets, companies need to consider the demand for connectivity in stores and other public locations.

Consumer Wi-Fi
  • Single access point
  • Password or security key shared with a few users
  • Anyone with a password can connect
  • Informal access control
  • Access dictated by users’ preferences
Enterprise Wi-Fi
  • Designed for high density Wi-Fi use and requires multiple access points
  • Scalable to meet growing demand
  • Network load size a bigger consideration to handle company operations and customer/client access simultaneously
  • Equipment designed to last longer than consumer equipment
  • Equipment designed to run all day, every day to support operations
  • Better options for linking up access points
  • Ability to control system from a single administrative hub allows companies of all sizes to maintain the extensive networks they need and for which their customers are looking
  • Reliable tech support to provide quick fixes to problems

Protocols and Technology Terms

When you're setting up an enterprise network, it’s helpful to be familiar with a few common terms:

WLAN
Wireless Local Area Network
WAP
Wireless Access Point
SSID
Service Set Identifier

used to define a single network inside a larger setup

Understanding encryption protocols is important.

WPA/ WPA2
Wi-Fi Protected Access

and its successor, WPA2, are the most common protocols used in enterprise setups. Since WPA can be vulnerable to attacks, WPA2 was subsequently developed.

PSKs
Pre-shared Keys

In WPA, an authentication server certifies pre-shared keys, or PSKs, for the network, and these are the passwords used to control access to the network. Since WPA can be vulnerable to attacks, WPA2 was subsequently developed

AES
Advanced Encryption Standard

Using the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), WPA2 is trusted by the U.S. government to encrypt top-secret information. WPA2 also has its potential security issues, but there is an enterprise-level version of the protocol known as WPA2-ENT designed to offer better security for corporations.

Equipment: Three Essentials in an Enterprise Setup

With all the demand placed on corporate wifi, it’s clear you can’t use the same equipment you use at home. Trying to do so will lead to a failure in the system, resulting in downtime you can’t afford. Although enterprise-grade equipment requires a bigger investment, it pays off by providing the reliability you need to power the essential operations of your business.

Take a look at the three essentials in an enterprise setup. When evaluating each for use in your business, consider the coverage, load size, connectivity and level of security necessary to support your company.

Consumer Router

Consumer solutions are made to be used for perhaps a few years before being replaced.

Corporate Router

The routers used in corporate Wi-Fi setups are higher quality than consumer routers and can withstand constant use for a longer period of time without failing. Enterprise equipment stays strong with less maintenance.

Access Points

Mesh Network
Mesh networks, also known as “multi-node,” use multiple access points to provide consistent connectivity without loss of signal quality.

Unless your business is very small, you’ll need additional access points to eliminate dead zones and ensure mobility for both employees and customers. To set up a reliable network, you need to know how large of an area each node covers and ensure overlap between these areas.

System Management

Having one central place from which to control all access points and SSIDs is the easiest way to manage a business Wi-Fi network. This prevents problems resulting from conflicting settings between SSIDs. Ideally, you’ll have a cloud-based management solution your onsite IT team can handle instead of having to outsource to a third party.

One of the most important factors in an enterprise-level setup is access control. Employee SSIDs and those used by clients or customers must be separated, and this is often done using a special guest login panel. This ensures the security of proprietary and private information while still allowing all users easy access to the connection.

Placement & Best Practices

The goal of an enterprise Wi-Fi solution is to provide the best possible connection and experience for your business and its customers. This requires a specific approach to setup, including where routers and access points are placed.

As you design your system, consider the extent of coverage needed and where potential bottlenecks can occur.
Locations with many obstructions, such as furniture and thick walls, require more access points and a stronger antenna array.
Having an expert survey your site can help you identify these potential problems.
Heatmapping and signal mapping are also useful tools for finding sources of interference.
Use these best practices as a guide to create an optimal system for your enterprise-level needs:
Place access points as high up as possible to prevent signal blockage.
Increase coverage by adding more access points instead of upgrading antennas. Combining a strong antenna array with a mesh network provides the most reliable signal.
Prioritize the 5 GHz channel or use a dual-band setup with the ability to switch to the least-congested channel during times of heavy use.
Create a setup with dual coverage to ensure Wi-Fi remains accessible even if one set of equipment fails.
Use access points with “quality of service” (QoS) settings to prioritize applications and limit bandwidth usage in each part of the network.
Separate the SSIDs your employees use from those accessed by guests. If you have a BYOD policy, set up another SSID for employees’ devices.
Use consistent configurations across SSIDs for a seamless experience.
Anticipate future growth and usage needs, and make a plan for how to scale up the network as these needs increase.

Reputable Vendors

Finding a reliable provider for your enterprise wifi solution is just as important as choosing the right equipment and designing a great setup. Industry magazines and websites consider these providers to be some of the top choices available to businesses:

Each provider has its own solutions and hardware packages, so it’s necessary to review the offerings to find a company with the type of system you need and the security your business requires. Look for a provider offering an initial consultation, and use this time to ask questions about setup, tech support and services.

You may be able to bundle several services together to save money. Some providers not only offer enterprise Wi-Fi solutions but also cloud management and integration with IoT devices. Ensure your chosen provider also offers support for mobility and scalability.

Industries and Use Cases for Enterprise Wi-Fi

Many different industries rely on enterprise-level systems to support operations and provide a positive experience for users. In each setting, high-quality Wi-Fi equipment, strong security and strategic management is essential for goods and services to be delivered.

Education

College students need reliable Wi-Fi no matter where they are on campus. An enterprise system allows access from computer labs and mobile devices and can stand up under the strain of thousands of students working on projects, streaming media or keeping in touch with their friends. Professors are also able to use internet resources to enhance their classes and work uninterrupted between lectures.

In elementary and secondary schools, data from personalized learning apps is managed and analyzed through a central network, requiring multiple machines to be in constant communication with each other. These online learning tools are becoming more prevalent and require the speed and consistent connectivity offered by enterprise Wi-Fi.

The ability to prioritize bandwidth, limit access to certain services and block problematic apps gives educational Wi-Fi administrators the control necessary to preserve functionality in academic settings.

Retail

If you run a retail store, restaurant or coffee shop, you know how much demand there is for free Wi-Fi. From Starbucks to Target, an increasing number of retail establishments now serve as hotspots. Many people use these places as remote work stations, and retailers providing discounts through branded apps can benefit from offering customers an alternative to using up precious cellular data while shopping.

Business Wi-Fi also serves as the backbone for automation in inventory management and customer relations. Modern retailers can use “smart” shelving to track quantities and send alerts to nearby warehouses when stock runs low. The flow of information must remain consistent to ensure popular items are always on the shelves, especially during busy seasons. Data relating to consumer preferences travels to CRM platforms when items are purchased, allowing retailers to create personalized shopping experiences through apps and online.

Healthcare

Cloud solutions for handling patient information are now standard in many clinics, medical offices and hospitals. Medical professionals rely on laptops and mobile devices to quickly locate patient information and record new data. There’s no room for error, and delays could be disastrous when a patient’s situation is critical. Each medical building must have total coverage with no risk of dead zones.

Enterprise-level connectivity has the power to keep an organization as large as a hospital “always on” while still providing high-quality Wi-Fi access to those in waiting rooms. Hospitals in particular require an extensive network of access points with strict separation between the SSIDs for personnel and guests. Privacy and security are paramount in these settings.

Manufacturing

From component parts to finished products, companies in the business of manufacturing finished goods for commercial and consumer use can’t operate without a strong internet connection. Smart devices are now at work in factories and warehouses, gathering information to ensure products are built correctly, shipped on time and delivered when expected.

AI and machine learning solutions require Wi-Fi to communicate with each other and with the people overseeing the processes of manufacturing and distribution. The logistics of managing the constant flow of information relating to parts and materials relies on this ongoing stream of data. A dropped connection can lead to a backup on the manufacturing end as errors pile up and need to be corrected. The larger the business, the more of a load the Wi-Fi connection must be able to handle to prevent an interruption in the supply chain.

Enterprise Wi-Fi has the power to support your company’s extensive technology without slowing down or giving out. With the right equipment, a smart setup and a consistent management plan, you can run AI manufacturing machinery, allow your employees to work on their own mobile devices and offer the internet connectivity consumers demand.

Conclusion

Today, reliable Wi-Fi is about computers and smartphones. But tomorrow’s Wi-Fi will evolve to smarter buildings & cities, automation, public safety, and the Internet of Things: a truly connected world.

It’s important to set up a reliable business wifi solution now, providing strong & consistent signal throughout your place of business.

Don’t settle for an underpowered consumer unit.

Get a professional-grade Wi-Fi solution, ensuring maximum speeds with 99.999% reliability for dozens up to thousands of employees needing the best tools to be effective, productive, and future-proof.

Request Free Consultation.
Solutions for Enterprise from 5,000 up to 500,000+ sq ft.
Talk to one of our Enterprise Wi-Fi Experts: 1-800-969-8189 (Mo-Fri 8AM-6PM CST)

At Signal Boosters, our team consists of industry telecom veterans who have formerly worked at AT&T and Sprint as well as some of the most skilled system integration teams across America.

Our motto: Provide solutions, not boxes.

This means we keep our service brand-agnostic with no upsells and sales jargon. We serve our clients 110% of the time, period.

If you have any questions or comments about improving your wireless in-building signal, we’ll be honored to help, and share our insights to enhance your experience.