For any small or medium-sized business there will come a point where you start to get serious about networking. And whether you’re looking to connect an internal network to a server, or get your employees or customers online via business Wi-Fi, there’s a lot to think about.
In just two decades we have moved from a position where a small number of businesses relied on the web to operate in an optimum way, to a point where it’s now become the overwhelming majority, and how you approach networking will have a huge impact on your business. Areas such as security, accessibility, reliability, and control all need to be considered.
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However, networking doesn’t have to be intimidating, so long as you ensure that you ask the right questions when selecting your set-up. In this post we’re focusing on wireless internet connectivity, and have pulled together a list of the key things to look out for when setting up your business Wi-Fi.
Let’s start with one of the most obvious requirements when it comes to business Wi-Fi. If your router doesn’t have the power output or decent antennas—via technology such as MIMO, where both the source and destination devices use multiple antennas to greatly extend range—there’s a very good chance that it won’t be able to connect a large office area, let along multiple rooms. Also, look for beamforming as an option, which enables you to focus your signal into a specific area. They might not look aesthetically appealing, but a good rule of thumb is the more antennas, the better the overall range.
2. Power output
So we’ve already flagged up range as an important factor, but what if you want to try and control that range (and avoid those outside of your office space being able to connect)? It’s not a perfect solution—your signal may move beyond your premises—but with a router that enables you to modify your power output, and selectively activate antennas, you can often effectively limit and control reach.
3. Dual WAN
If the internet plays a vital role in your setup, either by supplying it to guests, or in the operation of your business, then it makes sense to subscribe to two different internet suppliers. This enables you to switch providers if your connection fails, have two different flavours—for guest and employees, for example—or even aggregate two connections for super-fast speeds. Look out for dual WAN ports to achieve this.
4. Accepting guests
In many businesses, it’s important that you provide guests with access to your wi-fi network. To do this, you must ensure that there is a way of authenticating them, and providing them with access (some routers support the use of an active portal—a web page where users can login). At this stage, it’s also worth checking on the number of concurrent connections a router can handle.
For many IT managers, the idea of employees logging into mail on an open wireless network whilst on the road or at home will bring them out in a cold sweat. The preferred choice of many admins is to require the use of IPsec VPN to make secure connections when outside of the network. So make sure that whatever device you’re considering addresses your specific security needs.
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