In a relatively short time, smart devices have moved from being a luxury item to an everyday essential. Elie Dib, Regional Vice-President, METNA, Riverbed, looks at how providers can remain effective during busy periods.
In a relatively short time, smart devices have moved from being a luxury item to an everyday essential. Wireless communications – the technology underpinning the connectivity that these devices provide – is now central to our lives in every regard.
“What’s the Wi-Fi code?” resides close to “Hello, how are you?” in terms of everyday lexicon and its symbol transcends cultural boundaries.
However, while businesses and institutions have been expected to provide Wi-Fi network access for years now, it used to be typical that each user might connect only one device. Nowadays, it is increasingly common for users to expect to connect many more devices to Wi-Fi at a time.
For instance, a student arriving for their first term at university might bring with them a laptop, smartphone, smart TV, game console, wearable device, connected speaker, printer – the list is practically endless. The effect of this additional demand leads to increased Wi-Fi network congestion and a poor end-user experience.
Visibility for a next-gen network
So, how can providers ensure that their network is not hamstrung by this increased usage and remains effective even during the busiest periods? The key to staying ahead of the game for Wi-Fi providers is network visibility. By tracking device usage and identifying applications that place the highest demand on the network, bandwidth can be scaled or reallocated to prioritise the most important use of the network at any one time.
For instance, in our university example, IT administrators may see a high demand for Netflix and block or limit bandwidth for the application during class hours while at the same time prioritising academic apps. This restriction could then be removed in the evening. This example can be applied across any number of use cases to ensure that everyone retains access to critical applications whenever necessary.
Effective cloud control
Another ongoing challenge that Wi-Fi network providers face is migration to the cloud. Organisations are pushing more and more of their applications, storage and compute resource to the cloud. In turn, this puts even more stress on company networks, because cloud applications fundamentally depend on both the local and wide area network.
A key example is Microsoft Office 365. The obvious benefits of cloud-hosted word processing and publishing platforms in terms of collaborative working and remote working are self-evident. Consequently, Microsoft Office 365 is now the most popular cloud-hosted application and continues to grow at a rapid pace. Organisations that facilitate collaborative working on a large scale will benefit from solutions that integrate directly with Microsoft and Google application ecosystems, for example with single sign-on (SSO) integration.
Guest Wi-Fi in public networks
It is also important to take into account the fact that larger networks such as those implemented and maintained by universities have a diverse range of users – each with differing needs. For instance, faculty members may require permanent, high-level security and prioritised access to applications such as essay submission platforms. On the other hand, a visitor to the university such as a parent may only require temporary access to the network, with a low security requirement.
A flexible solution to connect all types of users and devices to the Wi-Fi network, whether employees, students, guests, or independent IoT devices, is therefore needed. Network providers should look for technology that offers a simple process for onboarding users who have diverse requirements, while at the same time securing the users and their data to ensure safety and privacy.
While the challenges for delivering people and machines the information they need, when they need it are significant, they are not insurmountable. Understanding of where pressure points lie, along with user demands and expectations, can ensure that data is delivered to the right place, at the right time.