It wasn’t long ago that a “connected” workplace meant a few desktop computers tethered to ethernet cables. Now, thanks to WiFi, employees and customers are accessing the internet with laptops, tablets, smartphones and other devices from every corner of your business.
Of course, that kind of convenience and mobility is only as good as your WiFi connection. “When the internet’s down, business stops” as more companies become WiFi dependent, says Timothy Platt, vice president of IT Business Services at Virtual Operations, LLC, an IT managed service provider in Winter Park, Florida. Inadequate business WiFi hurts revenue as well as productivity: In a recent WiredScore survey, three-quarters of leasing decision-makers said that poor connectivity impacts company profitability.
Does your company’s WiFi need an upgrade? Check for these signs:
1. Is the connection too slow, or does it cut out?
Webpages often don’t load, files take forever to send, and backing up to the cloud is time consuming: These signs may indicate that it could be time to replace your router, especially if the model is more than four or five years old. Newer routers that support 802.11ac, the latest WiFi standard, provide better network speed, reliability and range.
Before tossing your router, though, check whether the real culprit is not inadequate WiFi but your internet connection. First, try connecting your computer to the internet with a network cable. “If it’s having no problem whatsoever, but devices—like your phone—that are on WiFi are experiencing the slowdowns, then you can pretty assuredly say that it’s a WiFi problem,” says Philip Banks, owner of Banks Technology Services, an IT managed service provider in Roanoke, Virginia. You can also try calling your internet service provider and asking them to run some tests to make sure you’re getting enough bandwidth, Banks advises.
2. Does your office have internet “dead spots”?
Again, a newer router can offer a more extensive range. If you have a large (more than about 2,000 square feet) or multilevel office, another solution could be the installation of one or more new WiFi APs (access points). “These are actually connected to a network cable and placed away from the router to provide WiFi signals at different areas in the building,” says Banks.
3. Is your router secure?
As the entry point to your network, routers are prime targets for cyberthreats. “Security is doubly important on WiFi because of the fact that the signal travels over radio waves and can be intercepted by an intruder,” says Platt. “You really don’t want to have old equipment that is no longer secure and no longer supported by the vendor or the manufacturer.”
While new router models are equipped with the latest security features, you might be able to install firmware (software for routers) on an older device to get these security benefits. Visit the website of your manufacturer and look up your router’s model number to find out if firmware updates are still available; if they’re not, it’s time to upgrade now.
4. Are you using residential equipment?
Even though WiFi equipment intended for the home user may be cheaper, it probably isn’t providing the performance you need for your workplace. “Business-class routers are almost always superior to residential models by handling more connections and having a much more robust feature set, including more security features,” says Banks. “Business-class WiFi access points also will likely handle more concurrent connections and do a better job at distributing bandwidth to connected devices than residential access points.” Some business solutions providers, such as Spectrum Business WiFi Solutions, provide a router and modem, separate networks for employees and guests, plus installation and 24/7 support.
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