End users will drive even the most patient network engineer to pull their hair out. No matter how many times you explain to them that wireless and wired are not the same, they just won’t listen. They demand the same performance no matter what, no matter where they are. Unfortunately, unlike your wired infrastructure that was probably carefully planned and built, your wireless network is still evolving and growing organically. While I can’t offer you a magic pill, you can save what hair you have left, by addressing these three often-overlooked issues:
1. Deploy 11n gear; update mixed 802.11 environments.
802.11n is not only here – it’s thriving. However, a lot of organizations are still operating in a mixed environment. All new deployments, as well as any replacement projects, which are in place for 802.11, should be with 11n gear. Sounds simple, but can cause a lot of issues if not addressed.
2. View your network as a whole.
We used to think of wireless as a completely separate entity or “overlay.” However, if you have a wireless network, you must have a wired network. They do not exist in a vacuum. Granted, network management may be a bit different between the two, but the network must be viewed as a whole, meaning a unified wired/wireless network.
Wireless networks, especially in enterprises, have often been used as a “fill in” technology to cover specific areas where wired coverage may be difficult or where large numbers of transient connections may be required. Fortunately enterprises have, for the most part, outgrown this deployment mentality in favor of organized wireless deployments with centralized management.
3. Update your security policy.
This topic has truly been covered to death! The debate is over; the myths are debunked. Security is a policy, not just a technology, and this policy transcends both the wired and wireless network. For example, authentication can and should take place on the wired network (802.1x), even when users are wireless. The policy must be integrated and consistent, and cover all use cases, whether wired or wireless.
These challenges are still relevant, even though wireless deployment is nothing new. Keeping your organization on top of its unified networks, including wireless and wired, will only help with evaluating and correcting risk factors later down the road.