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The Growing Prevalence of Wi-Fi Extension with Mesh

April 21st, 2014

Industry professionals have tended to view mesh networking from a “realist” point-of-view as a niche solution to be avoided if possible, and have never considered the technology the most popular of Wi-Fi capabilities. This pragmatism is rooted in the typical negative performance implications of mesh networks. Just a few years ago mesh capability was limited to a few highly targeted products that served niche markets for large-scale outdoor deployments or service provider environments. These solutions typically relied on multi-radio mesh units, which provide frequency separation between uplink and downlink traffic paths as well as between upstream and downstream hops, in an attempt reduce the negative performance impact for high bandwidth backhaul links.

AirTight-Mesh

However, there exists a growing market for mesh networking that utilizes single-radio mesh units to provide an extension of network access across limited mesh hops for hard to wire locations. This is evidenced by the prevalence of single-radio mesh within enterprise wireless manufacturer equipment. Mesh extension capabilities are found in almost every enterprise wireless manufacturer product line and are targeted at a much broader audience ranging from SMB, mid-market, distributed enterprise, to large enterprise. While single-radio mesh units cannot provide the same high-bandwidth performance across multiple hops for backhaul traffic links that multi-radio mesh units can achieve, these products excel for networking deployments with mesh extension. They do so by offering integrated mesh capabilities from the same manufacturer, and often on the same AP hardware platforms, that customers use for their more prevalent Wi-Fi access networks. This allows for unified product procurement, network management, hardware re-use, and vendor support. Single-radio mesh also excels due to lower product cost compared to multi-radio mesh, and are targeted at situations where the focus is on network access and service extension for lower bandwidth use-cases.

Let’s take a look at a few of these use-cases:

Quick service restaurants (QSR) are leveraging  mesh to extend Wi-Fi coverage from the back-office areas into the public areas. Mesh networking allows the central IT teams to deploy new services quickly to the public facing areas of a large distributed number of locations or franchises without incurring large deployment costs by eliminating the requirement for a truck-roll; store employees are able to simply and easily deploy the AP without pulling additional cabling. This allows QSRs to take advantage of new guest Wi-Fi services for Internet access, promotional offers, brand loyalty sign-up, and analytics quickly and without hassle. Some QSRs are also leveraging mesh for outdoor drive-up lanes to increase efficiency of sales transactions and increase order throughput during peak times.

Grocery and supermarket stores are another interesting use-case with seasonal “pop-up” garden centers. The temporary nature of these retail spaces, often located in parking lot space, makes deployment of point-of-sale, inventory tracking, and guest services difficult and costly to deploy. Mesh extension is a simple and cost-effective solution that can enable employees to work more productively, eliminating the time-consuming process of walking inside to perform various tasks or to communicate with indoor personnel. Through the use of handheld barcode scanners, mobile point of sale (mPOS), and even mobile VoIP or push-to-talk devices, employees can use the same processes they use inside the main store outside as well while maintaining a highly secure environment and PCI compliance.

Hotels, casinos, resorts and other hospitality facilities can deploy mesh networks to extend services to outdoor seating and entertainment areas, such as patios, swimming pools, and outdoor bars. This enables availability to a wide range of guest services, such as tourism research, room service, food and beverage ordering, and concierge services.

AirTight introduced single-radio mesh networking capability with release 6.8. Simple to configure, yet completely secure mesh mode operation supports automatic routing and re-routing, automatic load distribution, multiple VLAN support and multiple overlapping mesh networks. Customers can cost-effectively and easily deploy Wi-Fi access, security, and services to new locations to extend coverage for employees and guests. Configuration and deployment is quick for one or numerous locations with our hierarchical and location-aware management console; simply add a mesh SSID into an existing or new device template. The template can be the default template for APs at one or more folders in the location tree, or you can assign the template to only a sub-set of APs that should have mesh networking enabled.

Mesh networking is proving to be more prevalent than you might expect, and a pragmatic approach in more use-cases than ever before. Its performance will never rival that of a wired Ethernet AP, but ultimate throughput and performance are not always the main objectives. But for those instances where cabling or cost become an issue, it’s nice to have integrated mesh capabilities in your arsenal from the same manufacturer you’re already doing business with. Your Procurement or Accounts Payable team will thank you.

Best practices, WiFi Access, Wireless mesh

Distributed Healthcare Needs Wi-Fi That Works at Scale

February 18th, 2014

The growth and adoption of mobile technologies is impacting businesses in multiple industries, and we can see strong evidence of this by looking at the healthcare industry. I just returned from the WLAN Professionals Conference in Austin, TX where I heard first-hand evidence of this in a presentation on Continuous Wireless for Medical Devices. A strong emphasis was placed on improving patient safety through the use of mobile technologies that enabled doctors, nurses, and assistants to effectively handle their ever-increasing workload.

A reliable, stable, cost-effective, and simple to manage WLAN is required that enables healthcare professionals without causing undue distraction from their primary objective to provide high-quality patient care. The question then becomes, “how can WLANs provide these qualities for distributed healthcare organizations?”

Cloud Architecture

Network stability and availability is of primary importance for healthcare professionals relying on mobile devices to provide patient care. What’s more, this network stability must be provided in a cost-effective and simple to manage manner. Rather than relying on expensive wireless LAN controllers that are complex to manage and represent a large risk to the organization as a single point of failure, AirTight has developed a mature cloud architecture over the past 7 years that simplifies the network and is resilient to outages – the network continues to function even if cloud access is disrupted.

AirTight's datacenter locations

AirTight’s datacenter locations

Centralized Management

Distributed healthcare organizations have hundreds or thousands of locations that all require Wi-Fi access. With traditional Wi-Fi solutions, this represents a massive amount of effort to stage, configure, deploy, and manage each site individually. Even with centralized management, most Wi-Fi solutions still fail to effectively deliver simplified network management for a large number of locations.

AirTight solves this problem with hierarchical location-based administration. This allows administrators to configure one policy that is inherited across all locations. If a subset of locations require a deviation from the central policy, it is simple to override the inheritance for only the settings that deviate while still adopting the remainder of the policy. Inheritance and configuration policy can be applied at any level of the location hierarchy, thus providing both the simplified management of a large number of locations while allowing for variations.

Automatic and Reliable Security

The increase of digital information requires solutions that secure patient data and privacy. Most Wi-Fi security solutions focus solely on protecting only the infrastructure, require tedious manual configuration and tuning, and result in error-prone detection and alarming that swamp the user with false alerts.

hipaa

AirTight solves these challenges with integrated wireless intrusion prevention (WIPS) that secures both the infrastructure and mobile devices from attack. Our industry leading wireless intrusion prevention system addresses the physical and technical safeguards defined for protecting Electronic Protected Health Information (EPHI), preventing unauthorized wireless access to online medical records as well as securing the network from wireless security breaches. AirTight wireless security solutions stop wireless threats in their tracks, protect patient privacy and ease the IT burden for maintaining a robust wireless network. AirTight automatically detects, classifies, and remediates wireless threats to protect patient confidentiality, ensuring a robust wireless infrastructure that is performing well and meets HIPAA compliance. (See also our earlier post: Wi-Fi and HIPAA – A Tricky Combination).

Healthcare organizations require a WLAN that enables staff to provide high-quality patient care in a cost-effective, scalable, and highly secure manner. Be sure to visit the AirTight booth at HIMSS to find out more about our solutions for distributed healthcare.

Compliance, Healthcare, WiFi Access ,

Get Soaked in the Future of Wi-Fi

September 5th, 2013

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AirTight Networks is armed with Wi-Fi of the future, and blasting the message out through social media.

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Have you ever noticed that there always seems to be a disconnect in the Wi-Fi industry whereby vendors build and sell their products based on hardware capabilities, tech specs, and geeky feature sets while customers ultimately evaluate products based on how the solution fits with their organizational objectives? That’s a problem.

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The Wi-Fi market is on the cusp of a second-wind of tremendous growth that will be driven by focusing product solutions on the tailored needs of customers in every vertical market.  However, this is a departure from the status-quo as historically the Wi-Fi market has grown by pushing products (not solutions) based on the latest hardware enhancements and improvements in speed that have come with each iteration of the 802.11 standard. But that model is breaking down as the technology matures, and hardware differentiation alone is very minimal. And customers are demanding more tailored solutions as their own markets evolve into a mobile-enabled workforce and customer experience.

|WiFuture tweet

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What’s exciting is that AirTight is already delivering Wi-Fi of the Future (#WiFuture if you’re following along on Twitter). We provide tailored solutions that include social Wi-Fi integration that enable retailers to engage consumers and provide enhanced customer service, presence and location analytics to understand and adapt to customer behavior in-store, and the most robust wireless security solution on the market to secure data well beyond basic PCI compliance requirements. And that’s only the beginning.

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AirTight is building solutions that enable the Wi-Fi of the future through:

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A Software-Centric Approach – leveraging the rich data analytics available through an intelligent access network, and software defined radios that enable flexibility of hardware use for client access, security monitoring, and performance analysis.

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|Intuitive User Experiencemaking Wi-Fi simpler to deploy and troubleshoot so the network isn’t broken or under-performing.

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Operational Expense Model – enabling customers to acquire the latest solutions without breaking the budget.

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Mature Cloud – that is truly elastic with both public cloud and private cloud options, enabling easy expansion to meet growing network demands without causing unnecessary retooling or plumbing of the existing network. Mature cloud offering also enables the coming wave of Managed Service Providers (MSPs) who will serve the mid-market.

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A Culture of Listening – to customers, partners, and industry experts in various industries so that we understand the business drivers for technology solutions and ensure we build products that deliver on those needs.

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@AirTight: Soaking the Industry in the Future of Wi-Fi!

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WiFuture SuperSoaker|

We are also building an incredible team of industry experts to blast this vision to the market through social media.  AirTight is armed with Super Social experts, kind of like those old Super Soaker water gun blasters we all loved from a few decades ago (has it been that long already!). The tank is full of energy and innovation, and the social media team at AirTight is at the trigger!

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So, are you ready to blast away your Wi-Fi woes? Don’t get stuck on the wrong side, soaked and wet in yesterday’s technology.

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802.11ac, 802.11n, WiFi Access, Wireless security, WLAN networks ,