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Wireless LAN best practices

Aberdeen Group survey of wireless LAN deployments outlines best practices

By , Network World
August 01, 2007 05:00 PM ET

Network World - A study of corporate wireless LAN deployments reveals that the most successful ones are based on a set of practices that can dramatically improve employee flexibility and collaboration.

The survey compares practices and results of companies represented by 315 IT respondents. Best-in-class companies reported consistently higher results in performance measures compared with “industry average” companies and “laggards” in the study, by Aberdeen Group.

The results detailed in “Measuring the Real Value of Wireless LAN Deployments,” released in June, show that the best-in-class companies on average reported:

•  A 27% increase in “flexibility of the workforce” (the ability to move anywhere in a building or campus and still access corporate data), which these companies attributed to the WLAN. This was 50% higher than all other respondents, Aberdeen says.

•  A 26% increase in “collaboration of the workforce” (being able to work together anywhere, anytime) due to the wireless network, over two times as high as the industry average.

•  A 29% increase in the “quality of meetings,” again attributable to having wireless access for laptops and other collaboration technologies. This is nearly three times the increase reported by the other respondents, according to Aberdeen.

The middle group of industry average companies and the bottom 30% of respondents (the “laggards) also reported increases in all three categories, because of their WLAN deployments. But these increases were all less, sometimes far less, than the top 20% of the respondents.

The top performers all were far more likely (67%) to have and enforce policies for centralized WLAN management, twice as likely to assign trained IT professionals to specifically manage the wireless network, and 25% more likely to allow guest WLAN access for customers and business partners, according to Philippe Winthrop, Aberdeen’s director of research for wireless and mobility, and the report’s author.

WLAN details pay off

In general, the best-in-class deployments reflected thoroughness in following through on network details, an approach dictated by a firm commitment to make employees more productive in a highly competitive business environment.

For example, 88% of best-in-class companies had policies for centralized WLAN management, compared to 58% of the average companies and 52% of the laggards. Having IT staff that know WLAN technology was the practice of 53% of the top scorers, but just 30% of the average scorers, and only 17% of the low scorers. Nearly all of the best-in-class performers had manual procedures in place for RF site surveys, compared with 65% of middle scorers and 58% of low scorers.

In addition, 44% of the top performers monitor the overall wireless network at least monthly, compared with 33% of the average performers and 25% of the lowest performers.

This attention to detail had some startling results, according to Winthrop.

“One thing that really shocked me was the average cost of $93 to add a person to their wireless net by the best-in-class organizations, and that is less than one-quarter of the cost of adding someone to a wired Ethernet,” he says. It is also less than half the cost of wireless adds compared to the rest of the companies in the study.

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