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Managed WiFi For Business
How cloud managed wireless access points can help your business

By: John Shepler

Broadband is everywhere now. In fact, its become an expectation. For consumers, it’s their way to stay connected when there isn’t a wire to plug into. For businesses, it’s a way to offer the benefit of connectivity to their customers and to unchain their employees from the cable tether.

What about 3G and 4G cellular?
Isn’t cellular the true way to go mobile? Over wide areas, yes. It’s hard to beat cellular broadband on your smartphone. That is, until you reach your monthly usage limit. Then it gets expensive fast. Also, many computers, tablets and other devices don’t have the radios built-in to work on cellular, even if you wanted to pay to add them to your account. The one thing most every device does have is WiFi connectivity.

Enabling WiFi
At the most basic level, you can create a WiFi “hotspot” by simply connecting a wireless access point or WiFi router to your network or broadband connection. This is how it’s done at home and in smaller businesses. As the number of users increases and the area to be covered expands, suddenly managing a WiFi network isn’t so simple anymore. You can either grin and bear the extra effort involved or you can consider moving to a managed WiFi solution.

Managed WiFi in the Cloud
Managed WiFi simply means that a service provider, rather than you, does the heavy lifting of making the larger WiFi network work. A new wrinkle is cloud managed WiFi. This allows a service provider to deploy software updates and generate reports for you behind the scenes. A comprehensive system for cloud managed wireless is the Cisco Meraki system.

What Cisco Offers
The Cisco Meraki access point features high power radios for solid coverage with enhanced receive sensitivity compared to thegarden variety WiFi AP. It includes MIMO and beamforming technology to met enterprise-class 802.11ac and 802.11n standards on the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. The MR34 AP also has a dedicated security radio that scans and protects against security threats, adapts to interference and automatically configures the RF settings for maximum performance.

Security Features
BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) has become a user demand and a major headache for the IT department. If anyone can bring anything onto the network, security goes out the window. Who knows what’s going on?

The Cisco Meraki wireless solution feature set accommodates BYOD by identifying clients and automatically applying access policies by device or user groups. The system automatically assigns firewall and traffic shaping rules, VLAN tags and bandwidth limits to enforce policies by user class. Critical apps are prioritized and recreational apps can be limited for management control.

The cloud based analytics generate extensive metrics such as user visit time, repeat visits, apps used. You can manage WAN, LAN , wireless LAN and mobile devices on your control panel. That includes everything from a single location to a campus wide solution. There’s even an iOS and Android mobile app for network management on the go.

Acquiring Managed WiFi
An excellent approach that works well for both large and small installations is to get your managed wireless solution from a bandwidth provider such as MegaPath. Thisway you have one supplier for all of your connections, including MAN, WAN and WiFi. MegaPath’s network operations center will continuously monitor, configure and troubleshoot your wireless network on your behalf. They also have the most up to date security features the meet the requirements of the PCI (Payment Card Industry) data security standards.

If you are considering a major wireless expansion or installing WiFi access for the first time, get the details on cloud managed WiFi now.

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