I managed to spend some time on the phone with David Callisch, VP of Marketing at privately-owned Ruckus Wireless last week. Ruckus Wireless specializes in the design and manufacture of Wi-Fi products that utilizes a "smart" directional antenna system, shipping over one million Ruckus Wi-Fi systems since the company opened its doors in 2004.
I took the opportunity to pose some questions that will help SMBs who are considering deploying their own Wi-Fi infrastructure. I have also penned a summary of my own thoughts at the end.
Mah: What are some common mistakes made by SMBs when deploying Wi-Fi?
Callisch: They don't implement proper security on their networks, for one. Also, SMBs tend to buy inexpensive, consumer grade access points (APs) that don't deliver the kind of performance that users expect. As a result, the signal doesn't reach far, since the office environment definitely has equipment that can cause wireless interference. In addition, there is usually no consideration about the types of (Wi-Fi) performance that is required, such as users who require video streaming or who make VoIP calls - SMBs tend to end up buying Wi-Fi APs that cannot support these different usages.
Mah: What is your take on SMB deploying consumer grade Wi-Fi APs?
Callisch: This is not a problem if the SMB has five to 10 users. If there are more than 10 users, however, then I won't recommend it at all, considering that Wi-Fi will only become more common and more important over time. For example, there are so many Wi-Fi compatible devices now, and expectation for wireless technology will grow exponentially over the years.
If you are a business and are doing POS transactions - or anything more sophisticated than surfing the Internet, then a consumer AP just doesn't make the cut. It might seem a lot buying an AP costing $400-$500 than a $100 Wi-Fi AP, but businesses can get so much more for their money. One of our AP can cover 3-4 times the range of a typical consumer AP.
Mah: Any specific advice you want to give to SMBs deploying a Wi-Fi infrastructure?
Callisch: Look for dual band 802.11n solution (2.4 and 5GHz). Look for something that will handle multimedia. Easy to deploy, meaning they don't require you to go for a class to learn how to deploy it. Go for something that has higher range - range and reliability are the big complains that Ruckus hear time and time again.
So what were my thoughts after talking to Callisch? For one, businesses looking to deploy their own Wi-Fi infrastructure need to look at Wi-Fi from an infrastructure point of view. With the increasing number of laptops, smartphones, and Internet tablets (e.g. the Apple iPad) that comes with inherent support for wireless, the expectations of users for seamless, robust connectivity will only increase at an exponential rate. While installing a business-grade AP might be more expensive than a consumer-level offering, it might not actually be optional in certain deployment scenarios. Ultimately, businesses larger than 10 users should expect to see their investment yield an appropriate ROI where range and reliability is concerned.
Moving on, I will be taking a closer look at the Ruckus ZoneFlex 7363 access point , which was launched earlier this year, in a subsequent post. Ruckus says the 7363 was specifically designed and priced for small and mid-sized businesses, and I shall be evaluating how it fares in terms of performance and its usability.