Various approaches to local solutions
The early days of wireless transmission technology were often motivated by the inability to install cables in a practical way, for instance within historic buildings. This was followed by the trend to mobile data collection and the corresponding increase in the flexibility of workplaces, especially within the logistics sector.
The IT structures in large corporations, in comparison, remained unchanged for a long time, which often had much to do with the perceived security problems of wireless interfaces. In best cases, the originally mistrusted Wi-Fi networks were set up in parallel with normal LAN networks as basically independent systems, connected with as few interfaces as possible and secured on many levels.
At the same time, devices for residential applications were becoming more cheaply available. Users discovered the new freedom of mobile data transmission thanks to affordable Wi-Fi cards and used these in the form of ad hoc connections between computers and later with the help of simple access points.
IT managers were effectively helpless when these home systems were brought into the office and installed without the knowledge of the IT department. Even strict bans on using such devices, in the face of recognized security risks, failed to adequately address the situation. During this phase, large corporations often turned to our company to identify potential points of attack and to eliminate them. IT coordinators and managers were usually very surprised at the degree to which private installations and intervention had occurred.
In addressing the topic, whether motivated by choice or necessity, it became clear that this trend not only resulted from employees demanding more flexibility and workplaces requiring it, but it also enabled both to become more flexible. In some cases, private initiatives were the reason a business began to address the issue at all.
As the number of users increased, the required amount of independent access points became a cost factor in terms of resources, maintenance, and support. Manufacturers responded to the situation with system solutions that in some cases are still being used today (adapted, of course, to the latest technology): controller-based Wi-Fi solutions such as Wi-Fi switches. Most of the updates no longer need to be made manually at all access points for this solution. More of the modifications and improvements could be made centrally and then transferred to devices semi- or fully automatically. Because such access points can be set up much more easily and for reasons of security often function simply as ‘intelligent antennae,’ they have come to be referred to as ‘thin access points.’
Such solutions, however, do have shortcomings. A centralized controller results in additional costs that can only be partially offset by less expensive access points. It also establishes a single point of failure, thus requiring a redundant design.
An diesem Punkt kommen die Spezialisten ins Spiel. Ihre Aufgabe besteht darin, geeignete, am Bedarf des Kunden orientierte Konzepte zu entwickeln, die den aktuellen Bedarf abdecken. Außerdem beraten sie Kunden mit ihrer Erfahrung dahin gehend, dass mittel- und langfristige Erweiterungen ohne eine komplette Neustrukturierung möglich sind.
Specialists take the stage at this point. It’s their job to develop a concept specifically oriented to the customer’s needs. They consult with the individual customer to explain how medium- and long-term expansion is possible without the need to completely restructure.
Practical experience shows that these needs are steadily increasing. Reasons for this include a higher level of utilization from new devices (Wi-Fi is a standard feature on all new notebooks), new or advanced mobile applications such as Voice-over-IP, Voice-over-WiFi, video conferencing, and video on demand, as well as new network areas yet to be covered. On average, Wi-Fi users make new investments more than three times within three years, and increasingly with bigger budgets. It’s not only in an attempt to have the latest technology, but also because users want to be able to work with more flexibility while reducing costs at the same time.
We have shown and continue to demonstrate our performance and potential in this area. We can develop and implement the right concept for our customers, from small office or logistics solutions to mid-size campus installations with or without redundancy, right through to highly redundant end-to-end networking solutions for several thousand employees.
We use a proprietary list of questions that covers more than just technical and security-related matters. It also includes customer specifications and all cost-related details ranging from procurement right through to long-term maintenance.
In the process, we pay special attention to users whose IT is distributed across multiple locations. Particularly for installations in other countries, this is a highly significant aspect because wireless permits may be handled differently in each country. Thanks to our experience around the globe, we are able to offer solutions not only for every country in which the use of wireless is permitted, but also to develop cost-optimized solutions able to withstand the toughest scrutiny. You can also depend on us for any additional services.
We have yet to come up against a customer requirement we couldn’t fulfill, whether at home, throughout Europe, or abroad.
Latest developments since 802.11n
As 802.11n-compatible products became available, the first manufacturers were already proclaiming that the wired office was a thing of the past. Surely we are not quite there yet.
Without a doubt, one of the practical advantages of the new standard is the wider bandwidth, thanks to MIMO technology. Depending on design, rates of up to 450 Mbps are possible. These are very likely to be significantly exceeded yet again. The catchword is now: Gigabit Wi-Fi.
Fig. Internal construction of a BeamFlex antenna (image: Ruckus Wireless)
The advantages, however, are offset by a few disadvantages:
Ethernet ports with 100 Mbps are no longer adequate to offer such data rates from the network, too. Distributors on every level require Gigabit Ethernet. Depending on the number of access points to be supplied per distributor, even uplinks with 1 Gbps are no longer adequate. For solutions with a central controller in which all the data traffic runs through a single device, the necessity for 10-Gbps links can quickly develop. The number of necessary devices involved here has not yet become common.
In such cases, systems that distribute the intelligence of the network to all access points can be very helpful. Various manufacturers have proved that the disadvantages of older stand-alone solutions needn’t be repeated, since the effort is much less thanks to central management. In addition, these solutions usually have appropriate functions such as firewalls and can be connected to mesh clusters that enable a much greater degree of scalability and redundancy.
The market is split into various camps, while manufacturers all claim their product is the best solution. In practice, however, selecting the optimal solution is a rather difficult process. Making a hasty decision on a particular solution can be a lot like roulette, whereby the probability of landing on the right decision is extremely low.
Leave it to the specialists to make a detailed analysis based on your specific situation and then let them present you with suitable options. Make your decision only after becoming aware of all the advantages and disadvantages.
We have developed the necessary instruments for this process and, despite our experience with all kinds of systems, we primarily put our trust in a thorough initial analysis. Additional outlays resulting from bad decisions present unnecessary costs, which is exactly what we want to help you avoid.
Solutions for flexible employees
Strong consideration should be given to employees – or more specifically the problems that confront them in their work. Information technology is not an end in itself, but rather a means to simplifying work, even if this principle is not always taken to heart in practice.
Companies expect more flexibility from their employees, and a resulting increase in productivity. Employee performance is very difficult to raise, however, if the right tools are not available to help them design their work in a flexible manner.
Wi-Fi technology is one of these tools. Even greater potential lies in solutions that transform mobile workers into users with maximum flexibility.
Despite the appeal of this development, security experts see mobile employees as potential vulnerabilities and points of attack. We think this view is mistaken. We create mobile workstations for which the level of security can be set as high as with LAN – for field offices, home offices, when on the road with a customer or supplier, or at a public hotspot. The definition and implementation of security levels are still the responsibility of the IT department. Employee compliance is not ensured by the user, but by the system. If a discrepancy occurs, it can be determined whether the user continues with limited access options or if the end device should be isolated.
Using a variety of products designed especially for these requirements, we have created solutions that allow employees to return their focus to their work and that don’t require specialized IT knowledge or complicated instructions about security. This simultaneously relieves the IT department, since 99% of use cases are predefined by us at the highest level of security and tailored to your particular requirements.
We supply the essential tools to bring your security needs together with your mobile workers into a single stable unit, facilitating flexibility and efficient productivity.