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A wordabout Wi-Fi

Wayne Connors, MD of ACCL, warns that if the hardware doesn’t work, the building won’t either

For most of us, the rise in the use of smartphones and other portable electronic devices has had a dramatic effect on the way that we live and work. We know they have made us more connected and available, better able to communicate with family, friends, colleagues and clients, and quicker to respond to opportunities as they arise.

The effects on employee efficiency also appear to be significant, with a Frost and Sullivan survey showing that using personal devices at work improves productivity by 34 per cent. At the same time, bring your own device (BYOD) policies are favoured by 69 per cent of IT decision-makers, according to Cisco, due to the savings in employee time, hardware costs and maintenance spend. The trend is likely to grow.

An effective and reliable wi-fi network is critical in maximising the benefits of BYOD. Wi-fi allows people to be mobile, taking their devices to work anywhere on site and enabling them to instantly switch between them. People can work together, collaborating and exchanging ideas, as they are no longer tied – literally – to their desk by cables. Productivity improves as employees are able to get more work done on their own laptops and smartphones. High-performance wi-fi networks allow many people to access information and data in specific areas of the office, such as meeting rooms, without being encumbered by slow connections. The elimination of desk cables, with all the maintenance cost and safety risk that accompanies them, is another advantage.

With wi-fi acting as the main channel for workplace network activity, rather than an add-on or a nice to have, it becomes a critical part of the office infrastructure. It’s vital to plan the deployment of wireless access points and equipment, to guarantee consistent, high levels of performance throughout the office, and support increased demand and employee mobility. This requires a wi-fi survey, which matches the end users’ requirements to the physical layout of the office and the expected device density and mobility requirements. The survey data allows the engineers to design an appropriate network.

It might be hidden behind walls, ceilings and floors, but a structured cable network, with large amounts of hard cabling, is vital to the success of wi-fi. Adequate capacity through the correct choice of cables, their positioning and accompanying equipment, such as wireless routers, needs careful planning. The inaccessible locations of the cables often makes subsequent changes time-consuming and a drain on productivity, so upfront planning and project management is vital. A good network design will also be easier to support.

As networks in buildings grow, and there is an inevitable requirement for a digital upgrade, or for new security systems to be installed, the quality of the original back-end design will determine how easily extensions can be made and future wireless technologies integrated. This means that specialist cabling experts are fundamental to the success of modern smart buildings.

About Sarah OBeirne

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