Sep 24 2014

Businesses Say Cloud Wi-Fi Streamlines Network Management

Companies can save money and serve their customers more efficiently with cloud-based wireless.

When a new office building goes up, Boston-based electrical contractor Sullivan & McLaughlin delivers temporary power. But that’s not the only utility that construction sites require — the company also installs a wireless LAN.

SullyMac deploys a cloud-based Cisco Meraki wireless network for the length of the project, which typically spans 18 to 24 months. “A lot of the big contractors are using iPads today to update drawings and do onsite coordination,” says Chief Technology Officer Doug Schremp. “By making it possible for them to run wireless during the course of a job, we help them save 25 to 30 percent on printing costs alone.”

Because job sites lack traditional infrastructure, it’s difficult to find a place to install Power over Ethernet switches, says John Pages, network engineering manager for SullyMac. “We don’t want to put in high-end equipment that will get damaged,” he says. “With the cloud-based Cisco Meraki system, we don’t have to install a controller. All the [access point] management and configuration can be done centrally over the cloud.”

Cloud-based technology enables the company to scale wireless systems based on the requirements of the job. “If we just need one or two APs, we can roll them out and don’t have to worry about installing an expensive controller,” Schremp adds.

Bob Laliberte, a former analyst for the Enterprise Strategy Group, says the cloud-based wireless systems from manufacturers such as Aerohive Networks and Cisco Meraki offer a strong value proposition.

“These controllerless APs are easy to deploy and manage, and are far less expensive than controller-based systems,” Laliberte says. “Organizations looking to upgrade to 802.11ac access points might find that this is a good time to think about going to a cloud-based Wi-Fi system.”

A Taste of Wireless

Oberto Brands has become popular through aggressive marketing of its all-natural bacon jerky. The Seattle company has blanketed the airwaves with ads starring Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith.

Behind the scenes, Oberto Brands deployed an Aerohive Networks cloud-based WLAN to offer connectivity for its 300 employees in four facilities across the Pacific Northwest.

Robert Hendricks, systems administrator for the food company, says HiveManager enables him to run the Wi-Fi network without having to set up controllers in every facility. Remote workers can plug into their home router, and HiveManager pushes out the configuration from the cloud. “We can have it set up and running in no time,” he says.

Hendricks adds that HiveManager makes network management very efficient. “I can change the channel or throw up a new service set identifier, and it doesn’t affect the network,” he says. When he receives notices about firmware updates, he can easily select all devices and update the configuration.