Business rollout of Wi-Fi accelerates

7 Jul 2006

Businesses in Europe and North America will increase wireless local area networking (WLAN) deployment substantially in the year ahead, new research from Gartner indicates. However, executives admit security is a major concern.

A survey of 200 businesses in Europe and North America found that 64pc of the firms surveyed plan to increase WLAN deployments in the year ahead.

A total of 44pc of respondents said the primary reason to deploy a WLAN was improving productivity with mobility.

Some 21pc said the primary reason was to provide access to places not possible to wire, while 13pc of respondents thought wireless networks were a cheaper or simpler way to deploy LAN connectivity, or they considered using WLANs to improve efficiency in specific business processes or operations.

“Although wireless LANs are not a new endeavour, interest in them is still growing. Wireless LANs are becoming a standard part of enterprise networks, covering entire facilities, not just meeting rooms,” said Rachna Ahlawat.

“However, as wireless LANs expand from conference rooms to the whole enterprise, concerns about security and network management are rising. We’ve gone from thinking of offices as network nodes to considering each employee as a node on a wired network. Now, every major physical item the company owns is becoming a node on a wireless network.”

Security was considered to be among the top five concerns in adopting WLANs by 95pc of respondents, and 60pc do not believe they have adequate security for their wireless environment.

The second-biggest concern was the management of WLANs. This was more important for businesses that had already deployed networks than for those about to do so or still at the planning stage.

“Vendors should share best practices of securing and managing not just network components, but also the devices connected to a wireless network,” said Ahlawat.

“Organisations will have difficulty in determining whether it is the network or the devices that are not performing well. Managing wireless security also involves managing users and devices when they are connected from remote branch offices, hotspots and home offices.”

WLANs are more than just a simple means of connectivity, she said. “Newer applications, such as location tracking of equipment or personnel are only possible through the wireless medium.

“Vendors should note that as organisations expand their wireless networks, overlay applications become much more attractive and they should ensure they support such applications and form partnerships to offer solutions to customers,” Ahlawat said.

By John Kennedy