IT Focus Area: Connectivity
September 30, 2015
5 Steps to a Secure Enterprise Wireless Network
Today’s businesses move at a lightning-fast speed.
Customers expect on-demand services and support. Executives want to launch products quickly. Developers are releasing app updates faster than ever.
It’s no longer acceptable to delay a project because your Internet connection is spotty. Employees must use their technologies to keep pace with customer demands. This means accessing a strong Internet connection from any location and on any device. To stay productive, employees need seamless connectivity – whether they are working in the corporate office or in a coffee shop.
However, allowing your employees to work wirelessly can threaten your security, as 89 percent of public WiFi networks are unsecured. This can lead to intrusions – from a guest tapping into your network to make free phone calls, to a hacker compromising your data.
Traditionally, it’s been difficult to implement strong security policies over wireless networks.
Times are changing.
Multigig Wireless: The Future of Enterprise Wireless Networks
Multigig wireless technology allows enterprises to run data, voice and video on a 100 percent wireless infrastructure. It gives you the opportunity to merge all of these silos into one central solution, allowing you to eliminate some or all of your cable infrastructure, greatly reducing your IT costs.
Multigig wireless currently matches cable speeds on the local area network. With Wave 2 of multigig wireless, the speeds will be even faster.
Manufacturers such as Cisco and Aruba now offer this technology. They also offer security tools that you can overlay or underlay on your wireless infrastructure. This allows you to accommodate mission-critical apps on your network while also managing guest access, device onboarding and your security policies.
5 Steps to a Secure Wireless Network
Is multigig wireless too good to be true?
As with any new technology, your success depends on how well you plan for it. Before you rush in, here are some things to consider:
1. Understand your existing infrastructure.
Multigig wireless requires you to have enough bandwidth to support your mission-critical applications.
An application performance analysis will help you understand your bandwidth requirements and which apps are running on your network. It will give you a clear view of your apps, so you can see who is using them and on which devices. You’ll learn how apps perform across your entire technology stack — from your legacy systems to your cloud services. You’ll also see how much bandwidth these apps are using, so you can make any necessary upgrades before you move to multigig wireless.
2. Bring networking and security together.
When you go 100 percent wireless, your biggest question might be, “How do I make my network secure?”
New multigig wireless technologies have network access control (NAC) tools. These tools allow you to build security policies around your wireless network. For example, you can validate users, specify who can access which apps, onboard new devices and control guest access.
The move to multigig wireless also requires you to assess your current networking and security infrastructure. You’ll need to bring your networking and security teams together to understand where you are today and where you want to go tomorrow.
3. Use a centralized management tool.
Your multigig wireless deployment will get messy if you try to manage access points from the field or from separate branches. A centralized management tool allows your IT team to control your network and troubleshoot problems from a single location.
4. Consider social media.
Today’s successful businesses are social. It’s no longer realistic to block wireless access to social networks, as they are vital to your marketing and business. New multigig technologies include security features for social networks to deter users from abusing their functionality. They also let you optimize your use of social media. For example, you can restrict bandwidth on Facebook to ensure you have enough bandwidth for critical applications.
5. Plan for the growth of voice and video.
Your voice and video needs will likely grow, and you’ll want your wireless infrastructure to support them. Size your network based on your future requirements, so you can easily scale your voice and video services in the future.
How a Financial Company Went Wireless
One international financial institution recently wanted to make all of its primary user access wireless. This included:
1. Upgrading the wireless infrastructure off its primary IT and support office (approximately 2,000 employees).
2. Using a wireless infrastructure as the primary user access method. In the future, the institution will no longer support wired/premise cabling.
The institution started with a detailed application assessment. This helped it prioritize which apps to move to a wireless network. The assessment outlined bandwidth requirements, as well as the quality of service profiles and policies.
The institution retrofitted, deployed and upgraded more than 4,000 Cisco 3702 access points (all 802.11ac Wave 1 compliant) across all of its U.S. offices.
It selected Cisco Prime Infrastructure as its management tool. This wireless infrastructure replaced all wired infrastructure in its U.S. offices as the primary access connectivity. Applications included IP communicator (very critical) and all mission-critical applications such as voice, video and data.
By the end of this project, the financial institution cut off all its cable refreshes and went completely wireless in all offices.
Secure Wireless is Now Possible
In the past, speed and security have not always gone hand in hand when developing your wireless infrastructure. With proper planning and implementation, your company can create policies that allow users to work securely and from any location. Technologies such as multigig wireless can finally give you the best of both worlds — a speedy wireless network to boost effectiveness with security that will give you (and your clients) confidence.