SME networks

Wired vs. Wireless for SME’s

Wired vs. Wireless for SME’s 150 150 Simon Randall

Wi-Fi is nothing new but it has rocketed in popularity over the course of the last decade. For the individual private consumer, it is both the height of fashion and the height of convenience too. In addition, with more and more people now taking their personal devices into the workplace, under the auspices of BYOD, the decision to use a structured cabling solution, or a wireless one can be tricky.

The Dividing Line between Large Enterprises and SMEs

The only thing that is quite clear in the wireless v wired debate in the business world, is the easily seen dividing line being drawn between large enterprises, and SMEs, whereby the decision of bigger businesses is often more straight forward to make. The larger enterprises are for now sticking with wired LANs in the main, using wireless only as an addition for the convenience of top brass, and facilitate visitor access. But for how long?

For SMEs, the debate between wired versus wireless continues to run on in view of the various pros and cons which exist for both technologies.

Structured Cabling Easy Choice for Large Organisations?

One thing that makes it much easier for large enterprises to make a decision is the fact that their pockets are so much larger than those of the SME. It means that things like the possibility of having to invest more money to cope with expanding a wired network, or having to pay out for expensive repairs are not so much of a concern.

In addition to having bigger pockets, large enterprises also have bigger concerns about handling the amount of data that is generated by a large organisation, and the bigger distances (distances between departments and floors) across which the data has to be transmitted. Wired networks are essentially faster and more stable, and the signal travels for much greater distances, not inhibited by walls and floors.

IT Cabling for SMEs

The limitations that being an SME imposes on any business, is heightened by the question of affordability. So let’s just part of that to one side for the moment and take a quick look at the other pros and cons, taking a small enterprise as being one that employs between 1 to 10 employees, and a medium enterprise as being one that employs between 10 to 50 employees.

Controlling a smaller workforce is easier

Generally speaking, the smaller an enterprise is, the easier that enterprise is to control from a personnel point of view. The business structure is often more informal, but communication between a small number of employees is that much simpler. This is a positive aspect when it comes down to running a wireless network and managing BYOD.

The Challenges of Managing BYOD

For medium-size enterprises, and indeed for large enterprises, managing BYOD is much more of a headache. Personally owned devices are more likely to contain hidden malware, and this malware can infect any network once connected. There is also the problem that many employees connect their personal devices to the network without gaining authority to do so from the IT department. It’s one of the major concerns that medium and large enterprises have to consider, and it requires strong corporate policies to be formulated and adopted. Educating personnel is key, but the problem is not insoluble.

Of course, there are also mobile management solutions on hand to help manage BYOD schemes, but for the SME, this is also another cost to consider.

For small enterprises a wired network can often turn out to be a more expensive option than an unwired one. The cost of the cable itself may be relatively cheap, but the installation can be expensive in terms of labour costs. Another disadvantage with wired networks for the SME is that if small businesses choose to simply lay cables across floors and desks, this poses a hazard in terms of health and safety. Using a wireless connection instead can therefore be both cheaper and safer, in theory at least.

However, a wireless network is more open to hacking than a cabled network as the routers are often all too easy to access, especially if the installer doesn’t change default admin passwords or makes them too simple to crack.

The Impact of Cloud Computing

The advent of cloud computing is making a huge impact across all sizes of enterprises. For the small and medium sized businesses the cloud presents an opportunity to take advantage of applications that were previously only affordable to their bigger brothers. Not only that but the security that cloud computing now offers, is often far superior to that which SMEs themselves employ.

Security and the Cloud

Security is one of the biggest concerns of the larger enterprise. But even that is now being circumvented by the use of hybrid cloud computing, whereby businesses can hide confidential and sensitive data away from prying eyes behind their own firewall, and yet still enjoyed the cost savings and convenience that public cloud computing offers.

The Scalability of Cloud and Wireless Networking

Finally, the ability that wireless networking brings in terms of scalability are an advantage to every size of company. But for smaller companies, who operate on smaller budgets, the ability to be able to turn cloud services on and off, and to be able to scale both up and down almost at a moment’s notice, is significant.

Jumping on the Bandwagon

More and more businesses of all sizes are beginning to jump on the wireless networking bandwagon, but for the SME, with their smaller pocket sizes, it represents an excellent ROI, as indeed does cloud computing.

Wireless Cabling ROI

The larger companies will almost certainly stay with wired networking in the immediate future, supplemented with wireless networking running alongside. Add to this fibre cabling which offers better speeds and there’s future proofing available when it comes to what could be called a hybrid network, using wired and wireless.

But for SMEs, more will be turning to wireless networking and cloud computing as old servers begin to become redundant, especially bearing in mind the larger the size of the investment required to purchase new hardware, an investment that has a lower return than taking the virtual, wireless route.

Image: Photosteve101