Three quarters of SMBs say workplace WiFi is now business-critical

Small and medium sized businesses, from accountants to hairdressers, are embracing mobile devices and WiFi to boost productivity and customer service, but a third has been held back by poor network reliability and concerns about data breaches, according to a new study by global networking company Netgear, Inc.

The study of 500 firms with between one and 250 employees, across all business sectors, confirms that technology-enabled business is no longer the preserve of large firms.  Three quarters (75 per cent) of SMBs, from art galleries to manufacturers, say that having a wireless network has become essential to the running of their business, rising to 84 per cent of firms with more than 100 employees.

The benefits of wireless include the fact that employees can move freely around the workplace while staying connected to colleagues and customers.  This is making 74 per cent of firms more productive, and improving customer service by 75 per cent. A significant 67 per cent say it is how they keep pace with the competition, and 53 per cent rely on the wireless network to connect an ever-growing range of employee and company owned mobile devices to the business.

In the light of this growing business dependence on WiFi it is worrying to note that one in three firms have struggled to implement an effective and secure wireless service.

Just under a third (31 per cent) had considered abandoning all plans after a bad experience with poor network quality and reliability, while 33 per cent feared a possible data security risk. A quarter (25 per cent) were unsure how to introduce wireless into their existing IT infrastructure, rising to 35 per cent of firms with more than 100 employees.

‘Successful small and medium sized companies often rely on their employees to do many varied tasks and adapt quickly to customer demands,’ said Jonathan Hallatt, regional director UK, Ireland & South Africa for Netgear. ‘People quite simply work better when they can communicate, access and share information from wherever they are in the workplace. A resilient wireless network allows you to respond to guests and colleagues, and take bookings or orders using an internet-enabled device wherever you happen to be. Productivity will improve and your customers will be happier.’

Netgear advises SMBs to opt for an easy-to-implement, cost effective solution that does not require advanced IT skills, can be installed quickly using existing infrastructure and that delivers consistent and secure wireless access across the workplace with WPA and WPA2 support. For example, venues can deploy wireless access points that provide fast and reliable downloads speeds, using a wireless controller to manage them all centrally and protect against intruders via advanced wireless rogue AP detection algorithms. This provides a single view of performance so the business can react quickly to any changes and better protect the network against malicious intrusions. Guest and corporate access can be segmented with multiple SSIDs and standard based VLAN configurations and software updates and configuration changes can be pushed across all access points at the same time, to simplify management and improve the user experience.

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