While they are often just installed and forgotten, wireless networks have a tangible impact on our daily working lives, whether that’s keeping staff connected or giving customers trouble-free online access that keeps them coming back and spending more. Conversely, bad wifi wastes time, causes frustration and could even mean that a small business isn’t getting the broadband speeds for which it is paying.
So, how does a business make sure its wifi system is good enough? First, make sure the external connection from the internet service provider (ISP) is not a problem. To be sure, carry out a simple wireline test to check the real – not promised – broadband speed. Second, look at the environment in which the wifi system is operating. Ceilings, insulation, proximity to devices that can cause interference – such as cordless phones and microwaves – can all interfere with the wireless signal.
Third, if there is a wifi system already in place, it may be time to replace it. Many standard-issue routers from the ISP are not suited to small businesses’ demands and if they’re more than a couple of years old then they’re also probably outdated.
Choosing the right wifi
These days, there are several different types of wifi systems and though it can seem confusing, it does not have to be a daunting task. It may sound obvious but start by defining exactly what you need. Think about the number of users and devices, the surface area to be covered and what speeds are needed. Don’t forget to consider that apps like the ones streaming video are bandwidth-hungry.
Next, look for a system that is easy to install and run without needing technical expertise. Depending on the business, it may be important to choose a system that can easily expand and adapt in the future.
Where customer wifi is important, choose a system that can segment into more than one wifi network, for instance one for customers and one for the back-office. If the wifi unit is going to be very visible, its appearance could be important too, plus flexibility over location (wall-mounted may be better). If PoS, printers and other devices need connecting, make sure the unit has Ethernet ports.
Mesh networks are another useful innovation. These use multiple wifi access points – or satellites – that can be daisy-chained together to create a single network, all controlled from one original router. Performance is consistent however far away a satellite is from the main router and when the wifi network needs to be extended, just add another satellite.
However, not all mesh networks are created equal because many standard mesh networks are based on sharing the wifi connection with what’s known as the backhaul and that impacts speed and performance, so make sure to choose a tri-band mesh network, which optimises the bandwidth available because it has a dedicated backhaul link, so there is no trade-off and instead, the business gets the maximum bandwidth possible.
Wifi technology has evolved a great deal and so any business that has not recently reviewed wireless options could be missing out on better speed, reliability, flexibility and ease-of-use: getting the best connectivity for which they are paying and turning wifi into something that truly adds to the customer experience.
This article was brought to you courtesy of Kieran Purdie, SMB systems engineer UK & Nordic, NETGEAR, the experts in super-fast wifi for SMEs