Skip to main content

The vital role Wi-Fi is now playing in the enterprise world

What is to blame for poor connectivity in the workplace?
What is to blame for poor connectivity in the workplace?

In a bid to uncover the gripes and practices of today's mobile-focused workforce, Aerohive Networks recently ran a survey of 2,000 Brits to delve into their user experiences and perceptions of enterprise wireless in the UK.

The research points to their connected dependence, app habits and quite a few frustrations. We spoke to Paul Hennin at Aerohive to dig deeper into some of the findings.

TechRadar Pro: 1 in 3 said they couldn't do their jobs without wireless, but over 60% of those think they get better Wi-Fi at home than at work. Why do you think that is?

Paul Hennin: For a long time Wi-Fi has been a nice-to-have add-on to the network, often deployed for guests' convenience and certainly not considered important for the business or by the business. This is no longer the case. Working practices have changed, tools have changed and Wi-Fi is now playing a prominent role within the enterprise.

Dealing with multiple simultaneous connections running all manner of applications from different parts of the building requires an enterprise-grade solution, which many companies have discovered is asking too much of their nice-to-have network. Contrast this to dealing with two or three simultaneous connections from two or three places around the home using Wi-Fi to access the internet. I'm not in the slightest bit surprised by this result.

TRP: Are businesses doing something wrong if they can't provide an experience as good as our home Wi-Fi networks?

PH: Businesses shell out thousands of pounds on enterprise Wi-Fi and it should be providing a better service than home 'off-the-shelf' Wi-Fi products. This is because many are underestimating what Wi-Fi will be used for or indeed how many mobile devices will be coming onto the network.

As a result, organisations do not get the service they need. With 40% of workers blaming missed deadlines on poor connectivity, this highlights the fact that the current approach to enterprise Wi-Fi isn't tackling the issues and is having a negative impact on workers. A new approach is needed which combines the performance and ease-of-use employees have at home with the scale and security of the enterprise.

TRP: IT issues topped the rankings for productivity disruption, with connectivity gripes at number one. How has dependence on Wi-Fi changed over the last three years?

PH: As BYOD and mobile culture continues to infiltrate the workplace it has become a necessity rather than an expectation for organisations to continue to meet the connectivity needs of their workforce. In 2013, one of our UK partners, Damovo, UK & Ireland, found that as organisations move further into a mobile environment, IT directors feel that their businesses are ever more at the mercy of their wireless network.

So, by having a wireless network which is quick and simple for users, and ensures connectivity, business can keep up with the current trends in the workplace and ensure their employees do not lose connectivity, whatever device they are using.

TRP: Historically, reliable and stable connectivity has often been a cause of frustration for users – according to the findings, has this changed at all?

PH: A lack of reliable and stable connectivity still causes frustration for users, as without it, they cannot complete the work they need to finish. These frustrations are only increasing as users are getting used to accessing Wi-Fi wherever they are. Wireless connections are already the norm on airplanes and there have been reports that both trains and cars are starting to implement the technology. This heightens user's expectations and frustrations if the Wi-Fi in their workplace is not up to scratch.

TRP: The research states that the vast majority of workers point the finger of blame at the infrastructure if they have any connectivity problems at work. Are they right to do so?

PH: Two-thirds of wireless workers polled blamed the infrastructure for poor connections and poor experiences that they face. This is down in some part to it not being able cope with the increase of the volume of devices entering the network, as a result of trends such as BYOD.

So, organisations need to make sure they are not underestimating the number of devices that they need to connect at any one time. Of course, users do impact connectivity levels, but the main cause of the issue is the network and this can easily be resolved by scoping out the specifications needed.

TRP: How are Brits resolving their wireless issues? We're far more tech-savvy as a workforce today, so are we looking for our own solutions?

PH: Many Brits are still relying on the IT helpdesk and colleagues to help when they lose connection. Surprisingly, a third of workers admitted to resorting to waving their devices in the air to achieve better coverage, demonstrating that even as employees become more tech-savvy, frustrations can still cause them to use counterproductive techniques.

TRP: So, is wireless finally becoming the primary access layer?

PH: It has been predicted for some time that wireless will become the primary access layer for organisations. Our findings from research we conducted in June 2013 found that the evolving mobile working practices resulted in wireless acting as the primary access layer for more than 40% of businesses. It was also predicted that this would rise to 90% in the next five to ten years.

The user experiences from our latest survey show that not all enterprises are ready to make this leap just yet. What is needed is a new approach that increases the performance of Wi-Fi in the enterprise, ensuring employees are happy with its usability and consequently increasing productivity.