Building on your BYOD Baseline: Wireless

In my last article, I provided you some simple steps to get started supporting multiple mobile devices with assets you might already have in your organization.  You took the first step by accepting the fact that your employees are already using their own devices and data plans for work.  Since over 65 percent of businesses worldwide use Exchange Server, I’m hoping most of you took comfort in knowing you could provide push email, calendaring, contacts, tasks, PIN enforcement, and remote wipe to almost any smartphone or tablet your employees brought in.  Rather than juggling Xcode, Visual Studio, and Eclipse to build mobile apps right out of the gate, I suggested you target all mobile platforms with a single HTML5 codebase and securely publish those web apps out to the Internet through the same reverse proxies you’re using to make Exchange email available to devices.  Lastly, I encouraged you to reduce the amount of bytes your employees are paying for on their mobile data plans by giving them access to a segmented ‘Guest’ Wi-Fi network with Internet-only access when they’re at the office.

You just covered a lot of bases while minimizing cost and effort.  So what’s next?

Let’s talk about wireless for a bit.  By the year 2015, companies will need 300% more Wi-Fi access points to provide the same level of bandwidth, access, and throughput as we have today.  Depending on which analyst survey you’ve read, employees are now carrying between two and five networked devices instead of just one.  Clearly, we’re experiencing a trend that you’ve probably already noticed at your company.  The result is that corporate access points, firewalls, proxies, load-balancers, DNS, DHCP, and Exchange servers are feeling an increased level of stress.  Remember how I told you to give all your BYOD employees a free ride on your segmented Guest Wi-Fi VLAN?  Well, you’re going to have to start spending some money to boost your wireless capacity since your existing access points are probably already saturated.  Not only can they not handle any more connected devices, but I bet you didn’t plan for all those iPad Facetime video calls that are eating up your bandwidth.

Needless to say, it’s probably time for a new wireless site survey at your offices so you can start adding cable drops and hang APs.  While it might seem obvious, make sure you’re implementing a dense WLAN using 802.11n access points with dual radios where appropriate.  You’re going to have to lower the DHCP leases to make sure you don’t exhaust IP addresses with lots of devices hopping on and off the network.  Yes, you’ll need to do channel and power staggering depending on the sophistication of Wi-Fi system you’re using.  While you’re at it, I want you to analyze the increased load on your other network gear and Exchange servers and scale them out as necessary to maintain the best user experience possible.  Since we’re still inside the office, go out on a limb and consider deploying Femtocells from different mobile operators to those interior locations where employees have trouble using their device’s 3G/4G data connection or making calls.  Remember, the wireless recommendations for the office also apply to fixed structures like warehouses, refineries, distribution centers, etc.

Since we all don’t work inside an office, I’d also like you to think about employees that work outside.  I’m not talking about BYOD employees working from home using their own cable modem or travelling in cars, planes, or trains using their wireless data networks.  I’m thinking of a scenario where you have a group of employees working outside in the fresh air at a fixed location away from the office.  You can make BYOD happen for them by offloading their data usage to MiFi Hotspots for small groups and mobile broadband routers for large groups.   Just a thought.

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