Mobilizing Your Workforce
Employees are more mobile than ever, and small and medium-sized businesses are turning to wireless networking to keep them connected. Small businesses have experimented with wireless networking for years. A tech-savvy employee, accustomed to Wi-Fi connectivity at home, might set up a wireless LAN (WLAN) at the office. Or an IT person might add a single wireless access point to the network, usually in a conference room or near a lobby.
Today, however, WLAN adoption by small and medium-sized businesses has come of age. About 50 percent of these businesses are installing WLANs, according to Ellen Daley, vice president and research director of Forrester Research's Telecom & Networks team. And instead of simply installing a wireless access point here or there, many businesses are making wireless coverage available throughout their offices or, with larger companies, across a campus. The increased growth of these pervasive WLANs is helping businesses unlock new benefits as they:
Boost Employee Productivity on the Go
Mobile tools such as cell phones, PDAs, and laptops have long been commonplace. These devices help employees be productive away from their desks or outside the office. But a pervasive, secure WLAN, along with such devices as Wi-Fi phones and barcode scanners, are enabling an even deeper level of connectivity and, as a result, greater productivity.
For example, an insurance agent might need to get approval from a supervisor before taking action on a claim. In the past, the agent might have to play "phone tag," leaving voicemails and e-mails for the supervisor. This process can waste hours or even days.
But with a pervasive WLAN, wireless client devices, and networked messaging software, an agent can immediately tell whether the supervisor is online—no matter where they are. The agent can then send an instant message to the supervisor, requesting a quick conference. The result is faster decisions that help employees be more productive. This ability can make your business more competitive, with more satisfied customers.
Work Together More Effectively
With a pervasive WLAN, wireless IP phones, and wireless laptops, you can easily build workgroups and move people closer together into neighboring offices. Teams working on a long-term project can work together more effectively. To relocate, an employee simply picks up her wireless phone and laptop and moves to a new office. After the project is complete, the employees can return to their original locations or move to a new space for a new project.
In the past, these moves and changes often required an expensive visit from the phone company or a service provider. With a pervasive WLAN and wireless technology, voice and data provisioning costs can cost as little as $26 per person per year, according to one Cisco customer.
In addition WLANs can enable visitors such as consultants, vendors, and customers to have secure wireless access to the network, improving collaboration. At Canadian law firm McMillan Binch, LLP, a pervasive WLAN enables clients and partners to work together in ways that were once impossible. "Many clients and business partners come in with their notebooks and they'll want to collaborate with us on a document," says Chris Duncan, IT director. "In the past, we would have to provide them access from one of our computers. This way they're accessing their own system the way they normally would."
Accomplish More with Less
A pervasive WLAN helps you make your business operations more efficient, helping you save money and accomplish more.
The Samarinda Lodge in Australia is a healthcare organization that is using WLAN technology to improve patient care. This not-for-profit care facility provides essential, round-the-clock care to 40 elderly residents. Responding to resident needs was often inefficient because its traditional nurse call system did not enable staff to prioritize resident requests appropriately.
The healthcare provider installed a pervasive WLAN, together with mobile communications badges and software to provide hands-free voice communications.
As a result, response times to resident requests have improved, because residents can place a call directly to a care provider and reach them on their voice badge. Staff are more productive, and the Samarinda Lodge is saving approximately AU$65,000 a year in employee time.
Deploying a pervasive WLAN, along with devices and software applications to take advantage of it, requires planning. To make the most of your investment, consider mapping specific business goals directly to network equipment before you buy. The goal is to ensure that your technology can grow as your business grows, and let you do things not possible before.
Cisco and its value-added resellers and managed service providers can work closely with you to identify your business challenges and map those challenges to specific solutions. Local Cisco resellers can provide the service and support needed to successfully deploy a pervasive, unified WLAN solution. And Cisco CapitalSM can provide flexible leasing and financing options designed especially for your specific needs.
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