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Preparing your business for mobility

Talking Tech By Howard Weiss, field solutions team manager, CDW, Network World
October 25, 2012 03:27 PM ET
Howard Weiss

Network World - Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) are in a state of transition when it comes to juggling network needs with mobile device use. A recent CDW report on small-business mobility found that more than three-quarters of IT managers have deployed smartphones to their workforce, and more than half have deployed tablets. However, many employees prefer using their own devices: Almost 90% of IT managers recognized that employees are using personal devices for work.

With the rise of mobility, network capabilities are more important than ever. In order to manage your mobile workforce successfully, it is vital to understand how mobile technology can affect network connections.

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In the past, businesses had an occasional guest who needed to connect a mobile device to the network. Now, most employees connect multiple devices to the business network. With music, movies, video calls and other downloadable media available at employees' fingertips, they sometimes access large media files via the business network -- even against the wishes of IT managers. This combination of multiple devices and large file downloads can strain your bandwidth and connection speeds.

Instead of trying to fight the tide, some companies simply allow any device on the network. Unfortunately, this can strain connectivity and invite internal security threats or even hackers. To maintain strong connection speeds and a secure network, it is critical to restrict connectivity and monitor your network.

Building a mobile-friendly network

There are two different aspects of your network that are important -- the distribution/access portion and the core data network.

When considering distribution/access, one size does not fit all. Desktops, thin clients, video, voice over IP (VoIP) and wireless -- as well as other devices and network data -- all have unique switch configuration needs. To maximize network efficiency, avoid simply buying switches off the shelf and plugging them in. While this basic setup will move data, various devices and high-end content will start eating up bandwidth.

A better way to configure your network is to survey "what" and "who." What devices will have permission to access the network? What type of data will the network transfer? Who will access the network? Should a CEO have more privileges or a better connection than a guest?

These may seem like simple questions, but each answer builds your understanding of network requirements and routing protocols. Building network restrictions and accessibility based on these preferences -- such as bandwidth limitations by device and priority connections for employees rather than guests -- will enable a quick and efficient network.

Securing a mobile-friendly network

Security is just as important as network design. Limiting your network to employees and approved guests avoids excessive bandwidth spikes from unwanted users. Network security can further enhance connectivity by preventing malicious attacks that slow connectivity and put business data at risk.

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