What initially started out as consumer mobile devices have become game changers for the way employees do their work. As a result, it behooves businesses to ignore in-office wireless connectivity as an indispensible option to keep office workers in touch and collaborative throughout a building or campus.
Whether referring to Wi-Fi, 3G/4G, or even Bluetooth, in-office wireless connectivity has rocketed from a nice to have technology to a strategic must-have technology for businesses that want to unleash serious employee productivity benefits.
Apple iPhones, iPads, Android OS-based phones and a variety of cellular and Wi-Fi-equipped notebooks and tablet PCs, for example, have spawned what’s rapidly becoming an uber-mobile workforce whether outside or inside the office. In fact, the overarching reality about many of these devices is that they’re Wi-Fi and/or 3G-enabled, offering no Ethernet cable port.
Technically referred to as the 802.11x standard, Wi-Fi networks, today most notably 802.11n offering speeds of up to 100M bits per second, can provide enterprise-level security, reliability and fast wireless connectivity between computers, laptops and netbooks, mobile internet devices, printers, multifunction peripherals, scanners, cameras, audio/video equipment, e-book readers, and other Wi-Fi –enabled devices.
Wi-Fi products can send email, stream video, link international video conference calls and allow simultaneous use of voice and data.
Healthcare professionals, for example, work in one of the fastest growing wireless environments, rely on Wi-Fi for sending real-time patient monitoring information directly to clinician’s mobile devices,
In retail, sales staff uses wireless scanners, Point-of-Sale (POS) systems for order taking, checking inventory for customers, and self-service kiosks, for example.
Wi-Fi provides office workers where ever, whenever access, whether working from their desk, conference room, riding in the elevator, or walking in the corridors or between office campus buildings.
“Wireless, helps to make their lives as successful as possible in the enterprise,” says Ozer Dondurmacioglu, product manager at Aruba Networks.
Cisco’s WebEx, for example, is an online collaborative meeting environment where users can view presentations, applications, and desktops and is as easily accessible from the desktop as it from a smartphone.
A growing net of wireless users
According to a recent report by Dell’Oro Group, worldwide wireless LAN market revenues grew by 28 percent in the second quarter of 2010 over the same period last year, establishing record high levels for the small office, home office (SOHO) and enterprise segments.
In the next five years, In-Stat estimates that the number of Wi-Fi enabled devices will jump from over 500 million in 2009 to almost 2 billion in 2014. Mobile devices with Wi-Fi will continue to dominate shipments.
Enterprise wireless contenders, Avaya, Cisco, HP and RIM, for example, have all recently stocked their arsenals with business tablet devices that are designed for communication and collaboration-the Avaya Desktop Video device, Cius, Slate 500 and Blackberry Playbook, respectively.
Apple’s iPad has seen tremendous success among business users. The company recently reported that about two-thirds of the 100 largest companies in the world on the Fortune 100 list have begun deploying iPads for enterprise use.
Good Technology, a provider of tools to help IT manage and protect the mobile enterprise, sees the greatest adoption rate of iPads in the financial sector and healthcare sectors. Good for Enterprise supports mobile collaboration on popular handhelds, such as the iPad, iPhone and Android devices providing the IT security and control businesses demand.
With mobility raising the ante on security and management, companies can’t forgo addressing device management, provisioning, availability, security and compliance. “For a network of any size, good management pays off,” says Matthias Machowiniski, Directing Analyst, Enterprise Voice and Data at Infonetics.
Fortunately, there are dozens of vendors offering management and security products and services for the mobile infrastructure. In addition to Good Technology, a handful of other players vying in this competitive space include: AirMagnet, AirTight Networks, Aruba Networks, BoxTone, Cisco, MobileIron, Motorola, Trapeze Networks and Zenprise.
From Bluetooth to Broadband
Complimenting Wi-Fi for in-office wireless connectivity is 3G/4G. 3G is the third generation of cellular wireless technology that made smartphones, fast web browsing and apps possible. 4G is the next generation, beefier wireless with expected roll outs beginning in 2011. While 3G can’t match Wi-Fi speeds, mobile users can move back and forth between 3G and Wi-Fi with properly enabled devices and a software VPN client for security.
Mobile devices with integrated 3G modems are the ideal way to connect to mobile broadband and more mobile device manufacturers are taking that route. There are widely available 3G modems that plug into the USB port of a router or laptop. 3G modems should match the mobile broadband service provider network.
With a deluge of data reportedly clogging up 3G networks, the Wi-Fi Alliance expects 500 million Wi-Fi-enabled handsets by 2014 as carriers, mobile device makers and cell phone users embrace Wi-Fi to help off load data traffic.
What’s a mobile device without Bluetooth, a short-range wireless technology that lets users talk and share information like voice, music and video? In the enterprise, the popular use of Bluetooth is among office workers using headsets for their smartphones. Users are also cutting the cord using Bluetooth-enabled keyboard and mouse connectivity, allowing for greater mobility. Bluetooth is often embedded in laptops, phones and headsets.
Companies dragging their feet on office wireless are dragging down business productivity. The latest Cisco Connected World Report, that takes a worldwide look at worker expectations for mobility as they adopt more mobile devices, use social media and increasing amounts of video, indicates that mobility isn’t a wave, it’s a tsunami.
Employees want access to the corporate network and to business apps from their mobile devices. More than two-thirds of workers find corporate policy in this area lacking and two out of every five workers break policy to meet their needs.
For more office productivity news and tips, go to our special Office Productivity Trends & Tactics special report.