We are living in a wireless society. WiFi is everywhere, in our businesses, in our homes, and the data component of our smartphones is rapidly overtaking voice capability. We are already starting to see the major cellular carriers changing their plans to primarily provide data with voice becoming secondary.
Many businesses and organizatinons added a wireless access point or two over the years as kind of an afterthought. They purchased a consumer grade (home) access point or wireless router, maybe added baseline security and that was enough. It is however becoming more and more common in businesses and organizations to have serious wireless access needs and more people are beginning to rely on wireless in order to get their job done more effectively or conveniently. Notebooks, netbooks, smart phones, and tablets are all becoming very common in the BYOD workplace, and the ability to quickly connect to the Internet or local business network is almost second nature to most people.
So is there really a difference in Consumer and Business Grade Wireless equipment? Absolutely. There are substantial differences, primarily in wirelss access point power and receiving sensitivity, security, reliability and manageability.
So what's that all mean:
Access Point power and sensitivity: Consumer grade access points put out a minimum amount of wireless power. Their antennas and receivers have minimal sensitivity. They work fine in a environment where speed and number of devices connected to it isn't that important. Commercial equipment is higher powered, can handle many users at the same time, and can have directional antennas that automatically seek out where user devices are and can boost the signal right to those devices.
Security: Most wireless access points have security built-in. Commercial equipment adds to the basic security allowing only specific users to access, or more commonly, have both a secure and unsecure sides to them. Certain secure users have full access to the network, while the unsecure side still protects the network from intrusion.
Reliability: Commercial gear is more reliable. Not just the time between failures. Will the access point work properly in bad weather (some don't)? Can it handle many users? Will wireless phones work properly and reliably on a WiFi network? Are they sensitive to interference from other equipment like microwave ovens? We've had challenges with some access points getting them to work properly in some electrically "noisy" environments.
Manageability: Say you're in a multi-floor environment. You connect wirelessly to an access point, but then need to change floors. Do you need to re-connect or can you stay connected seemlessly? The right commercial gear can allow for this kind of management. There's lots more to managing a wireless network within a business, user authorizations, overall security, etc.
Not all commercial wiress gear is the same either. The Computing Center works closely with several commpercial wireless equipemnt manufacturers including Cisco, SonicWall, Ruckus and HP. Each has their place and their specialty. We also have access to specialized components for point to point access, outdoor mounted equipment, and QOS (quality of service) systems for use with wireless IP phones.
Let us know if you’d like us to take a look at your current wireless system and see if we can help develop a more reliable and efficient one for you.