It seems that, these days, wireless has become all the rage. It’s everywhere – hotels, coffee shops, even McDonalds. Everyone is offering WiFi and everyone wants it. This speaks to the power of the Internet and how ubiquitous it has become in our daily lives. As more and more of the applications we use on a daily basis move from closed, wired networks and into the Internet cloud, there is a need, in both in our business and personal lives, to be connected all the time. But in a world that is becoming increasingly mobile, the question becomes… is it time to cut the cords?
For most businesses a completely wireless infrastructure is not an optimal solution, but many businesses are considering adding a wireless network to their existing infrastructure. Businesses that have roaming or mobile users, have a conference or meeting room for presentations, businesses or schools with large campuses, or any business that just wants to offer a convenient service to their clients are all good candidates.
However, there are some concerns to consider before setting up a wireless infrastructure as part of a business network, most notably, security. Adding a guest network for clients and visitors is relatively benign, but it should be isolated and separate from the internal assets of the business, with only direct access to the Internet. Businesses considering adding WiFi to their internal network have a lot more to think about. Trade secrets, financial data and user records are all attractive targets for would-be hackers and an insecure wireless network can be all the temptation they need to make your business their hunting ground.
Encryption tends to be the most popular method to lock down a wireless network for home use and likewise, should be used for businesses as well, but this isn’t the only step needed. Companies that want to give their employees remote access to internal resources, especially sensitive data, should go the extra mile and configure systems incorporating both authentication and authorization.
Authentication systems verify that the user is who they say they are. This is usually accomplished by authenticating both something known and something owned – for instance a shared secret or passcode and a security card – with these items together, there is a reasonable assumption that the user is who they are claiming to be.
The second piece is authorization. Once the user has authenticated to the system, authorization further limits that user to only the resources they are authorized to use and would reasonably need access to in order to do their job – not complete access to all the financial records, if they are not in the accounting department.
By understanding how to properly implement these pieces – encryption, authentication and authorization – and knowing which environments will be best served by them, wireless networks can become a benefit instead of a hindrance and can enhance worker-productivity and the bottom line.
CIO Solutions has recently implemented a number of wireless networks for their customers. Of note, the Meridian Group, a properly management company, has chosen to install a large wireless mesh network throughout two of their Isla Vista properties. These properties are physically separated by over a city block, but the buildings are connected via a wireless point-to-point connection, which gives Internet access to all of the residence of both properties. While this system is not in use for business productivity, it does still enhance the bottom line by attracting new lessees with the lure of free WiFi. And while their system does not need encryption or authorization, they are utilizing authentication to make sure that only their tenants are the ones who have access to the network they are providing.
So, is it time for your business to “cut the cords” and install a new wireless network? With the proper planning and forethought, adding WiFi to your business can benefit you and your employees. And when you’re ready, CIO Solutions will be there to assist getting it properly configured and implemented. Just give us a call!
If you have any questions regarding wireless solutions that are available or if you have questions about this article please contact CIO Solutions.