The world is going wireless.
Users place tremendous demands on wireless networks, which in turn places pressure on IT staff to keep pace. Users expect anytime, anywhere access to data and applications, and these expectations can be a huge burden on aging wireless infrastructures.
Four specific trends drive the increased demand on wireless networks: mobility, cloud computing, Big Data and video. Each of these trends increases the number of users and devices that require wireless network access and increases the amount of bandwidth those devices consume.
Today, almost all computing is mobile. Users expect to pick up their mobile devices and travel around the office or around the world without disrupting their access to applications and data. Even when sitting in their offices, many users no longer rely on wired connections, because wireless networks are simply more convenient. Wireless is now the preferred medium for network users.
Wireless technology changes quickly, and mobility increases the demand from users. While users typically replaced desktop and notebook computers on a four-year cycle, they now replace mobile devices every two years and sometimes more frequently. As these new devices gain new wireless capabilities, users expect their office networks to remain compatible. These upgraded technologies also support higher density wireless networks, allowing individual access points to serve as much as four times as many network devices as older-generation APs.
While end users are untethering themselves from wired networks, organizations are also untethering themselves from physical servers and data center facilities. Cloud computing provides the enterprise with agile, flexible and scalable infrastructure and applications that reside in outside data centers. Organizations have recognized these advantages to the point that 35 percent of IT services today are delivered totally or partially via the cloud, according to a 2015 CDW report.
While cloud computing is a boon to cash-strapped server infrastructure teams, it also places increased demand on networks. As more organizations move data into the cloud, as opposed to having it reside on users’ devices, IT departments are seeing an increase in demand for wireless bandwidth.
Many Big Data solutions require robust wireless infrastructures to provide real-time services to customers and employees. For example, retail environments offer prime opportunities for Big Data analytics. Customers carrying smartphones around stores represent a prime source of data, allowing an organization insight into how customers move around the store, noticing where they linger and what they ignore.
The same technology also allows a store to provide highly customized service. For example, ULTA Beauty’s The Salon deployed wireless technology to support the retailer’s efforts with Big Data analytics. Now, the staff knows the identity of shoppers who participate in the company’s rewards program when they walk into a store and can give them special offers. This technology requires consistent, reliable wireless access at every location.
Increased use of video also drives wireless consumption. Organizations increasingly use video to meet many different requirements, ranging from training to video conferencing. Video consumes large amounts of bandwidth that today’s networks simply weren’t designed to handle. Supporting these uses, particularly on mobile devices, requires substantial investments in wireless infrastructure.
When designed well, these solutions offer novel experiences. For example, a mobile app deployment at the Art Institute of Chicago relies on the organization’s wireless network. When a visitor walks up to a painting, the mobile app provides him or her with detailed background information and may even allow the visitor to watch a video about the artist.
Mobility, cloud computing, Big Data and video all drive increased demands on wireless networks. Organizations must evolve to meet these new demands. These needs aren’t going away, and they will only increase over time as new technologies come online.
These heightened expectations for wireless access lead to new applications that lead to even greater demand. IT workers may see this as a vicious cycle, but it delivers true value to organizations that take advantage of it. Evolving an organization’s wireless network allows IT staff to keep up with demand and continue satisfying user needs.
For more information on ways IT can keep pace with bandwidth demand, read the white paper “The Evolving Wireless Network.”