Do More With Less: Wireless

Economical Ways to Make Your Network Connect More

A winery needed to automate its inventory process.

A job placement agency wanted to merge its cellular and office phone systems to get calls and messages to mobile employees faster.

A warehouse distribution center wanted to let visiting truckers use the Internet.

All these businesses, with 30 or fewer employees, got the improvements they wanted, quickly and economically. They chose wireless solutions to provide secure access for guests, extend their network to more areas, and connect special digital devices.

Secure Guest Access

Providing this benefit to your customers and partners may create a competitive advantage for your business. Secure wireless guest access lets you assign special network use privileges to visitors, using features in a wireless access point or controller.

Here, for example, are ways to enable guest access with Cisco access points:

  1. The simplest way is to create two network traffic boundaries using Service Set Identifiers (SSIDs), one for guests and the other for employees. This can be done with a variety of configuration tools, including the access point's embedded GUI or the Cisco Configuration Assistant for the Cisco 521 Wireless Access Point.
  2. Another option is to use a Cisco wireless controller to configure full guest access support, including captive portal and lobby ambassador features.

"Guests can access only a separate, protected part of the network that connects them to the Internet," explains Kai Figwer, vice president at Cisco Select Certified Partner LXE. "It keeps guest access totally separate from the business network and its internal resources." Cisco access points also have other security features to protect your network against hackers and rogue devices, including the 802.11i standard and WiFi Protected Access (WPA) and WPA2 encryption.

Back at the warehouse, truckers can now quickly and easily get Internet connections. The warehouse company sees a productivity benefit because instead of truckers wandering off, they remain nearby and can drive out the moment the truck is loaded or unloaded.

Extending Coverage

Providing network access in more areas, such as patios, lunchrooms, and lobbies, is as easy as adding access points to your existing wireless network.

The warehouse company installed access points in meeting rooms to help participants find and share online information. It also gave employees mobile voice-over-IP phones so they can be reached anywhere in the warehouse, over the same wireless network. This improved efficiency and customer responsiveness, replacing a paging system that could leave callers on hold for as long as 10 minutes.

The staffing agency extended its wireless connections to employees in a different way. "We installed special software for their cell phones that enabled outside callers to reach them through the central phone number and extension," says Farrukh Khan, manager of professional services for Sfronics, a Cisco Select Certified Partner.

Staff have access to voicemail even when out of the office, because their voicemail can be automatically transferred to their cell phones. And when employees on the go are near a WiFi hotspot, they simply press a button on their phone to route the service through the agency's phone system, instead of using a service provider. This saves the agency $150 per phone per month in toll charges; these savings paid for the software solution within two months.

Connecting Special Devices

Scanners, smartphones, wireless tablets, handheld medical devices...the list of business digital devices for the network is growing.

At the winery, staff attach a tiny radio frequency identification (RFID) tag to each case of wine. Instead of manually building and managing the inventory, the winery saves time and labor costs, and reduces errors, with the automated system. It uses wireless scanners to query any case for the type of wine, year, quantity, and shipping destination, as well as generate inventory reports.

Unlike the wireless solutions chosen by the warehouse company and staffing agency, an RFID solution can cost more than $20,000 and requires specialized industrial expertise.

Getting the Expertise You Need

Maybe you already have the skills required to create the wireless solution your business wants. If not, a Cisco Select Certified Partner with specialization in Advanced Wireless LAN (such as LXE and Sfronics) could cost-efficiently meet your needs for solution design, installation and configuration, training, or support.

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