Guest Column | March 13, 2014

What To Do When Network Demand Skyrockets

Network Demand

By Shaun Neal, Senior Consultant at Burwood Group

For some businesses, the demand on their wireless networks has built gradually. But how should a business respond if the demand is suddenly greater? In this situation, the most important thing to do is to evaluate what applications are essential or beneficial to the business and identify those that may be more of an employee convenience. This process should include stakeholders and end users to ensure it is well thought out. If there are applications that have to be put on a timeline due to resource constraints, it is better to identify them up front so that it can be communicated to the organization. Secondly, the quantity, type, and location of devices using those applications will determine the demand on the network.  In most cases this means planning for the peak capacity of any given location within an organization — board rooms for instance may be underutilized for 80 percent of the work week, however for the 20 percent that they are in use, proper capacity planning is of paramount importance to ensure productivity.

Connectivity issues are more than just an inconvenience for your clients. At the end of the day, employees want to be productive and will find ways around roadblocks to get their jobs done.  Circumvention of desired means of connectivity opens the doors to regulatory compliance issues, data security concerns, and other problems. These can translate into fines or security breaches against an organization. Additionally, frustrated users may be more apt to look for another organization in which they feel they may be able to be of more value rather than combatting connectivity problems all day.

Simply “fixing the issue” without a well-defined strategy in place happens far too often and tends to lead to many unforeseen challenges that are often far more complicated and expensive to fix, especially if investment has been made. In the most unfortunate cases, months of work and capital investment in equipment have to be completely scrapped. Designs need to be flexible and built to accommodate a rapidly changing environment. This is the optimal time to help an organization understand what the total commitment is to a given solution and to help navigate a highly competitive marketplace with so many choices.

The best place for any business to start is within and understand the desired use cases, types of devices, and expectations that their users have. These requirements will serve as foundation for evaluating new technologies to find the right fit for the organization. There are a myriad of choices and they should be evaluated as to how they best fit the business. When evaluating, consider the total cost of building the solution to meet goals that are 3 to 5 years out, which may include hardware, software, support, training, etc.  Lastly, wireless site surveys are the blueprint for any wireless network and a poor RF design will plague a business indefinitely — do not roll out a new environment without performing a survey.

Today’s wireless architectures vary from “controller based” to “controllerless” and to “on premise” to “cloud based” and each of these architectures has pros and cons.  When comparing costs of these infrastructures, strive for a fair comparison in feature sets as what may be standard in one solution, may be an add-on cost in another. Additionally, certain architectures are better for highly distributed environments others are better for campus environments — be sure to understand the requirements or complexities of the infrastructure of choice and design in such a way to shore up any deficiencies that may exist.