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Your Wireless Network: Signs That the Tail has Begun to Wag the Dog

network management - wireless networks have become the primary network

In many companies, the wireless capability added on to their enterprise network a few years ago has become some employees’ primary network.

It’s a development that signals just how quickly mobile devices are proliferating the workplace. The so-called “consumerization of business” changes the way we work — and our data networks have to keep up.

This transformation has been in the works for a while. In 2011, market analyst firm Gartner predicted 80% of corporate wireless network technologies would be obsolete by 2015. Gartner may well be right, given the findings of more recent research.

Wireless connection primacy by the numbers

Cisco’s latest Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update reveals that average smartphone usage grew 50% last year, while mobile network connection speeds more than doubled and worldwide mobile data traffic increased 81%.

Gartner, meanwhile, has predicted nearly 2.2 billion smartphones and tablets will be sold to end users this year.

This shift to wireless mobility is not slowing down. Between 2013 and 2018, global mobile data traffic will increase nearly 11-fold, according to a Cisco forecast.

And by 2018, Cisco expects:

  • 10+ billion mobile-connected devices, 4.9 million of which will be IPv6-capable
  • More than two-thirds of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video
  • Mobile-connected tablets will generate nearly double the traffic generated by the entire global mobile network in 2013
  • Mobile IPv6 data traffic will be 73 times greater (at 6.6 exabytes per month) than it was in 2013

These astonishing numbers would be higher still if not for all the mobile data traffic — 45% of the global total by Cisco’s count, or 1.2 exabytes per month last year — offloaded onto fixed networks via wi-fi or femtocell. By 2018, that amount will balloon to almost 17 exabytes per month.

Signs of strain

No doubt about it: unless you live on the bleeding edge of wireless technologies, your network will be feeling the strain soon, if it isn’t already. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • BYOD. Your network connectivity and performance are slipping, but you don’t know what mobile devices, or how many, employees are introducing to your network, and whether they adhere to your bandwidth usage policies.
  • Rogue users and devices. You don’t know what’s in your airspace or on your network, and you can’t tell whether rogue devices are compromising your wireless network security or data.
  • Access point hassles. Users complain about poor wireless connectivity or interruption of service, but you don’t know if the problem concerns the number of wireless access points or where they’re located or…?
  • Who’s using all that bandwidth? You don’t know which apps are being accessed or by whom.

Next time, I’ll take a look at some of the wireless technologies and solutions that can help your enterprise embrace this brave new mobile world and thrive in it.

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