Mobile network solutions: How to merge wired and wireless networks

By Jonathan Hassell

With the proliferation of smartphones, tablets and other consumer devices that operate exclusively on wireless connections, the structure of your organization’s network has never been more important. Today’s mobile network solutions can serve this need; however, many enterprise leaders still believe that wired networks are the only trustworthy option and that wireless networks ought to just be a conduit to the Internet. But this is not the path to long-term success. In fact, CIOs should be adopting solutions that securely merge wired and wireless networks.

Overall, the issue for many companies lies in their lack of control over the entire network from a single machine, with management tools reporting a single version of the truth for the network as a whole. Instead, most wireless networks require management at the level of individual access points. For a large corporate campus, this can mean 50, 100 or more discrete wireless access points spread across a huge geographical boundary.

In addition, restricting wireless networks to filtered Internet access is no longer enough. After all, wireless technology permits connections to the network in areas where it would not be economically feasible to run high-speed copper or fiber networks. Some of these areas have no wiring at all, while others have older 10Base-T wiring that runs significantly slower than even the slowest commercially available wireless solutions today. Overall, wireless networks need to be able to support enterprise network connections at the same levels as wired options. Here are some tips on how to merge your networks through a single point of control:

Treat the wireless network as one network

When choosing a vendor, seek one that offers a solution that aggregates all wireless access points (regardless of the SSIDs that they are broadcasting) and allows you to manage them all as a single unit from a single console. This should include functionality for planning new wireless coverage, provisioning access points and clients, configuration, monitoring health and security, logging and reporting. You will also want to see features for tracking the reliability of connections and spectrum use. This is a simpler solution than trying to manage multiple WAPs independently, and a huge improvement in terms of productivity, time and troubleshooting effort.

Have the right wireless hardware in place

When outlining your initial specifications for wireless networks, be sure to budget for manageable wireless access points, a central controller server, associated management software and controllers and APs that support automated network configuration. In addition, you should seek security support that can prevent the unauthorized use of the network and the penetration of secure boundaries by unhealthy clients, which could in turn infect other clients, servers and network devices. Most experts agree that you should purchase wireless hardware that operates in the 802.11n 5 GHz range because it is known to provide a better capacity for data and be more successful at penetrating walls. Furthermore, hardware in this range typically interferes meaningfully less with existing technology.

Find what works for you

You should find the best breed of wireless tools and the network management package that makes the most sense for your deployments. It’s crucial that you understand and use the tools required to achieve your overall vision so you can prevent yourself from purchasing a bill of goods.

Understand the advantages of both wired and wireless networks, and play to the strengths of each

While wired networks are certainly not the gold standard anymore, it’s important to remember that wireless networks are not necessarily the destination and desire of the future. Wired networks have a fundamental role in the core of your network and within data centers, but wireless networks are beginning to be preferred at the edges of your network, with connections for client endpoints. As both wired and wireless play significant roles, you should view them as mediums for transport across one single network. To optimize your company’s success, you should take advantage of the strengths that each of these mobile network solutions provides.

Written By

Jonathan Hassell

President, 82 Ventures

Jonathan Hassell runs 82 Ventures, a technical writing and consulting firm based in Charlotte, NC. He centers his focus around network administrator, security, the cloud, and mobile technologies.

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