Smaller business thrive on their agility, so why do so many still not embrace the kind of wirseless technology that can provide it? Peter Hannah, regional director UK, Ireland & Nordics, NETGEAR explores
The business world has changed dramatically over the past ten years, particularly for small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs). Once confined to a desktop PC in an office environment, business has now developed to cover multiple locations, time zones and devices.
However, as the culture of the workplace continues to evolve within a 24/7 environment, so too does the need to let go of the traditional restricted corporate infrastructure and provide the modern employee with the flexibility of always being connected to work.
For SMBs in particular, being small means being nimble. By their very nature, SMBs can be more agile than larger enterprises. They have the capacity to adopt new technology quicker and better than larger organisations, providing with them with a chance to future-proof their business against competitors. Yet despite this opportunity, many businesses are still hesitant to embrace wireless technology that can provide them with the agility they need. But if they want to continue to succeed in an increasingly competitive marketplace, a wireless network is something that businesses simply cannot afford to ignore.
The need for wireless
Having up-to-date and seamless technology has become imperative for SMBs to thrive within the ever changing business landscape. Our recent research revealed that three-quarters of small and medium sized firms (SMBs) now believe that having a reliable network in place is essential for business success. Not only does it keeps employees connected wherever they are on site, but it boosts productivity, strengthens competitiveness and enhances customer service – areas that can make a significant difference to any SMB.
However, having a reliable wireless network in place has many more benefits beyond connectivity. Our recent research revealed that half (54 per cent) of SMBs suggest that the introduction of a wireless network has boosted company morale and team building, as people are not stuck to their desks but can mix freely with colleagues across the workplace. This factor becomes increasingly important as a business continues to grow and expand across multiple offices, giving employees the freedom to work from a location most suitable to them.
Wireless technology doesn’t just bring internal benefits, but external benefits too. A third of SMBs (33 per cent) believe it helps them to recruit fresh, new talent into the business – something that’s critical to the future success of the business, and can be a real game-changer for any ambitious SMB.
It also plays a vital part in strengthening the company’s reputation, with two-thirds of the 500 SMBs we spoke to suggesting that having a wireless network makes their business look vibrant and up-to-date. Any business that doesn’t have WiFi in place runs the risk of looking old-fashioned by both employees and visitors to the company, so it’s in the businesses best interest to install a wireless network within the organisation.
Overcoming the challenges
With the benefits obvious, it’s clear that wireless technology is something that needs to rise to the top of the priority list for all SMBs, if it hasn’t already. Yet, unfortunately introducing this technology doesn’t always come easy. According to our research, nearly a third (31 per cent) of SMBs have considered abandoning all wireless plans after a bad experience with poor network quality and reliability, while a further third feared a possible data security risk.
The problem is, with a mobile workforce, comes multiple devices, which in turn can cause headaches for smaller businesses. As more devices connect to the network and the amount of data increases, significant performance implications arise, not just on the wireless infrastructure, but the entire IT network. Firewalls and application security will need to be re-evaluated to ensure safe and secure access to the Internet. After all, only so much traffic can come and go through the firewall door at any time without having an impact on network performance.
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Allowing users to connect to the network using any device, from any place, at any time requires 24/7 network monitoring. Traffic coming from and to the internet needs to be cleaned, regulated and controlled, while data will also need to be backed-up and protected. So having a resilient and scalable network that minimises downtime risks is essential. With this in mind, SMBs should choose a network infrastructure that includes backup capability as standard.
Fortunately these are issues that can be easily addressed and there are solutions on the market that are designed specifically to meet the requirements of smaller firms. Easy-to-implement and cost effective solutions that do not require advanced IT knowledge or sills, can be installed quickly using an existing infrastructure, and that deliver consistent, secure, high quality wireless access across the workplace. By fully investigating all options and seeking advice from experts, SMBs can be sure they introduce the right technology to enable them to achieve their wireless goals simply and affordably.
Future-proofing the business
With Gartner predicting that the number of devices in the workplace will treble by 2018, businesses need to ensure that they not only have a resilient wireless network in place, but a network infrastructure that can support multiple devices per user. This means considering not only the number of staff, office size and space and how many mobile devices will be logging on, but also the number of both work and personal devices that could be sharing the bandwidth.
The ideal network infrastructure will have multiple access points in good locations to optimise performance. Businesses spread across a number of buildings or locations will also need solutions that can deploy wireless access across sites, which can be costly. However, choosing access points that can be managed centrally can keep costs down.
A mobile strategy is key to underpin anytime, anywhere, any device access. Once the preserve or large enterprise organisations, wireless technology is now accessible and affordable for even the smallest business. So a seamless, high performing wireless network is within reach of every firm.
The reality is that people work better when they can communicate, access and share information from wherever they are in the workplace. Employees can respond to colleagues and customers, regardless of time and location, while businesses can benefit from the increased agility and productivity this presents. The time is now to embrace wireless, so rather than be put off by associated network or security concerns, SMBs should seek help from a trusted advisor or technology provider that can help them overcome any challenges. Those that leave it too long to jump on the wireless bandwagon, might just find themselves losing out to those that do.
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