WAPs: More than Simple Wireless Network Access
An advanced wireless access point can bolster wireless security and improve network access
Most people have come to expect wireless network access almost everywhere they go, especially when they are at work or elsewhere. After all, if they can check their email on their smartphones from Starbucks, why shouldn’t they be able to do the same in a conference room at the office? Luckily, adding wireless access to your existing network isn’t difficult—but you must make some choices. You can opt for a basic wireless access point (WAP) for wireless network connectivity. Or, you can choose a more advanced small-business wireless router or WAP that adds sophisticated capabilities to your wireless network.
At their most basic, WAPs simply connect wireless devices to your local network through a standard wireless signal such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. A WAP connects to your router, which connects users’ devices (including smartphones, tablets, and laptops) to the network and the Internet. But WAPs can also bolster your network security, provide users with better network access throughout your building, and give you additional installation flexibility.
Going beyond the wireless signal
The first thing to look for in an advanced small-business WAP are its security features. For instance, does it support business-class encryption such as WPA2? Like Cisco AP500 Series Wireless Access Points, a WAP should have robust security measures, including business-class data encryption and authentication, access control lists (ACLs), and MAC address filtering. It should also perform rogue access point detection to make sure no one has secretly installed his or her own WAP to gain unauthorized access to your network and its resources.
The second thing to look for are features that make it easier for authorized users to access your network. For instance, the Cisco AP541N WAP has both secure guest access and fast voice roaming capabilities. The secure guest access feature or “captive portal” lets visiting users get online without getting access to your company’s resources on your network; its simple graphical user interface (GUI) walks you through setting up a guest network, including a welcome screen. Also helpful to users is voice roaming, which is an advanced WAP feature that lets users roam quickly around the facility without experiencing any degradation to their high-quality voice connections.
Third, look for Power over Ethernet (PoE) for installation flexibility. Ideally, an advanced WAP uses both standard AC power and PoE, so you can install it either by plugging it into a wall socket or into your Ethernet network. PoE is particularly useful if you want to place a WAP in a drop ceiling or if your power outlets are already maxed out.
Prepping for the future
Perhaps the very best reason for choosing an advanced WAP is that it helps future-proof your network as your small business continues to grow. Choose one designed to work either as a standalone WAP that provides enough wireless coverage for your entire office, or as part of a larger wireless network. If the WAP lets you add additional WAPs—say, in a cluster with a single point of administration—then it’s scalable enough to keep up with your growing business needs.
All in all, a WAP that provides more than just the wireless signal is a smart investment. It adds enterprise-class security to your small business wireless network, protects your employees from hackers while giving them greater network access, and it makes life a little easier when it comes to managing the network.
What features does your small business need from a wireless access point?