Wi-Fi has come a long way in recent years. It’s cheaper, faster, easier to set up, easier to use and offers a number of irresistible advantages to companies, especially for small and mid-sized businesses that tend to move around more often as they expand. It’s much easier to pack up wireless gear and never have to worry about dropping Cat 5 cable every time a company signs a new lease.
“All the technology pieces are in place now and people are starting to take advantage of it. Connecting is a lot better than a few years ago," says Larry Jamison, director of the Hard Copy Industry Advisory Service at Lyra Research, an IT research firm in Newtonville, Mass.
Some of those technology pieces include the following:
The arrival of 802.11n
To understand the emergence of Wi-Fi, it requires a short history lesson in 802.11, the set of industry standards and protocols for wireless networking. 802.11a was the first set of standards. But, it was short lived and quickly replaced by 802.11b that went on the market back in 2000.
802.11b has since been supplanted by the much faster and desirable 802.11g, which most companies still use today. Though not formally adopted as an industry standard yet, what is sometimes called “pre-n” (short for 802.11n) has really made some gigantic leaps in improving the wireless experience. 802.11n wireless products are much faster and have fewer conflicts with other electronic devices, like microwave ovens and portable phones.
The deployment of virtual private networks
According to AMI Partners, a New York City-based research firm that specializes in IT and telecom analysis, 75% of all businesses with 50 to 500 employees now has a VPN in place. The secure sockets layer (SSL) VPN has made this especially attractive for adoption. It’s relatively inexpensive, encrypted, web-based and turn-key for companies to rollout through a third party vendor.
More points of access
According to JWire, a mobile advertising networking company that tracks and reports on wireless trends, there are now more than 50,000 public wireless hotspots in the United States alone, with 140,000 globally. Dialing in from the road has never been easier.
More companies, like Mountain View, Calif. Synopsys that just announced its USB certification in November, are making it possible for more wireless devices to integrate together and with other kinds of hardware.
Still not perfect
Despite the almost overnight rush to all thing wireless, Wi-Fi still has some major issues to overcome.
Meantime, here are five tips for small to mid-sized businesses to make the most of Wi-Fi now, as offered by Mark Tauschek, a senior research analyst from Ontario, Canada-based InfoTech Research: