Get Beyond BYOD, Seriously

By Tracy Matteson, Information Technology Manager, Fentress Architects — February 03, 2014

Part one of “BYOD and Beyond: How to Turn BYOD into Productivity” discussed the need for companies to meet the mission critical connectivity requirements of access, authentication and security to transform BYOD into productivity in corporate environments. But now the next, and biggest, challenge presents itself: how to keep these devices connected and provide a seamless and productive working experience while they’re on the network.
 
Enhanced Connectivity
Since many bring your own (BYO) devices are especially designed for consumer use on a home-network, they are often optimized for enhanced battery life and user experience, rather than the best Wi-Fi transmission or receive capability. To enhance Wi-Fi experience for consumer grade radios in mobile devices in corporate environments, IT administrators should turn to modern, more intelligent access points and routers.  
 
One of the most misunderstood aspects of building a Wi-Fi network is focusing purely on access point power to transmit farther and louder. Even if government agencies didn’t impose limits on the power a Wi-Fi radio can transmit, simply increasing the transmission power would only solve half the problem.

Despite the client device’s ability to hear the access point’s high-power transmission, the client device likely cannot respond at the same transmission power level, rendering the access point unable to hear the client responses.
 
There are modern access points and routers designed to enhance Wi-Fi experience for low-transmit power, consumer-grade devices. Some access points have a custom-designed antenna that specifically enhance receive sensitivity, which allows the access point to hear transmissions from lower-power devices, such as smart phones and tablets. Enhanced receive sensitivity – as much as 5dBM per band – allows these devices to receive more quality radio transmissions with fewer errors, which increases the overall speed of the transmission and lowers the errors and retransmissions.
 
Enhanced receive sensitivity also has the added benefit of making 5Ghz coverage much broader and available to more clients who support the 5Ghz band, which helps to free up the over-used and crowded 2.4Ghz spectrum and allows higher speed radio communication on both spectrums.
 
Efficient Management of BYOD
Often, devices have trouble accessing resources and users blame the network. However, the network is not always the issue, as problems often lie within the device. Therefore, managing and monitoring additional devices on the network is another common issue administrators face.
 
The first step in identifying any problem with attached clients is to understand if a problem exists. While many IT professionals are networking experts, they may not all be radio experts. As a result, translating retransmissions, CRC errors and selected radio rates may be completely foreign to them, making identifying a problem difficult.

However, there are networking features available that take the guesswork out of monitoring attached clients. Such solutions determine the best possible transmission speed for an individual client, and then tracks the statistics and potential issues with that client.
 
Making BYOD a Productivity Tool
In a perfect world, all the attached clients are perfectly connected, the network is working like a dream at full performance, and every single user is perfectly happy with his or her ability to connect any device to the network and receive the proper permissions defined by the administrator. Enabling BYOD, and especially company-issued consumer devices, means users will want to actually use their device to connect and interact with network resources and services.

Printing and projecting are two common requests that come up almost immediately, which means another necessary feature for making a BYOD policy successful is a truly service-aware network solution, where the network aids clients in finding necessary resources, without requiring IT intervention.
 
Ensuring the Network is Prepared for BYOD Density
Now that the devices are on the network and functioning as productive clients, the focus must shift to the ongoing maintenance of the network. Many consumer devices used for BYOD, especially mobile phones, are limited to supporting the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi spectrum. This could wreak havoc in a network that was designed to support fewer clients, or is already running at high capacity.
 
As we’ve seen from the release of the new 11ac standard access points, the 2.4GHz radio spectrum has officially reached its peak. Limited by channel capacity and general over-use by a myriad of Wi-Fi and non-802.11 devices alike, the 2.4GHz will not be joining its 5GHz brother in suppporting gigabit Wi-Fi. However, since many of the devices on the market still support only this band, it is important that Wi-Fi vendors provide adequate functionality to deal with the ever-expanding load on this struggling spectrum.
 
Another problem often encountered with a high volume of BYO devices is that in order to fairly implement a policy allowing the devices on the network, an administrator can’t limit which devices users might bring to it. In other words, the network and the administrator must accept and be able to compensate for the latest devices that support high-speed 802.11ac, 802.11n, and less efficient legacy devices.
 
Going Forward
As smartphone and tablet usage continues to grow at exponential rates, and BYOD adoption continues to increase in corporate environments, the days of designing a network purely for enterprise-grade corporate-deployed devices are gone.

When more and more devices are added to the network, and as user expectations of what can be delivered to them anytime and anywhere soar to all-time highs, it is necessary to first have connectivity requirements, including access, authentication and security options, to ensure the network is truly equipped for this mobility explosion, and then focus on the essential features required, such as monitoring and managing BYO devices, to ensure the network is prepared to make all devices attached compliant to successfully turn BYOD into productivity.

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