In a Coworking, flexible, or shared office space, Wi-Fi is an essential service – if not the most essential service. Your customers depend on reliable Internet to conduct their business. Coworking and shared workspace Wi-Fi is a key factor in providing mobile and transient workers with a convenient alternative to the often-cumbersome wired connection. Wi-Fi is also the most common reason members leave their workspace. There is no doubt about it; poor Internet is a deal breaker.
To deliver the most optimal shared workspace Wi-Fi experience, you must first understand the many technical factors that play a role in a secure and quality Wi-Fi network before implementing a solution. In a multi-part series, we break down what coworking or shared workspace operators and new market players must know to implement a robust and reliable Wi-Fi network, starting with the nitty gritty technical side of wireless networks.
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Wireless Internet has become a necessary commodity in our society. Younger generations may even find it difficult to think that wireless signals don’t just appear by magic. So, what is Wi-Fi? For starters, it stands for Wireless Fidelity. Wi-Fi uses radio waves to connect mobile devices to a network and supports the two-way transmission of information across a network. That is, information is uploaded to and downloaded from the Internet. Access points and switches translate and decode the data, and it’s then sent to the Internet via a wired ethernet connection. The wireless signal itself is transmitted via a router or an access point, which broadcasts the channels that devices can connect to.
If you’ve ever configured a wireless network in a workspace, depending on how large the space is, you’ll know that wireless access points are a necessity. An access point is a hardware unit that enables a wireless device to connect to a wired network by transmitting signals across Wi-Fi channels. Access points must be strategically installed throughout the location to support the coverage area of the space, scaling larger distances where needed, and for members to pick up a reliable signal. By the nature of Coworking spaces, the number of people and devices connecting to your wireless network will always fluctuate. For your business, the more the merrier, as long as your infrastructure can support all connected devices with no impact on the speed or quality of connectivity.
Speaking of quality, when data packets in transit to and from devices collide in a section of a network, quality is affected – causing slower data rates. It then follows, that only one device can “speak” at a time, demanding an enforced politeness. When a collision between transmissions occur, the device waits a random time and retransmits later. To draw a parallel, any signal on the same frequency as a Wi-Fi signal degrades it in the same way that any noise will interfere with a human conversation. The equivalent of just speaking louder – or transmitting more power – doesn’t work.
The difficulty that comes along with obtaining high performing wireless connectivity is indicative of the conversational way that Wi-Fi technically works. Inefficient, slow or dropped connections are a by-product of congestion caused by collision domains on wireless channels. Without getting too complex, interference falls primarily into three instances: Co-channel, adjacent channel, and non-Wi-Fi device. Co-channel interference occurs when multiple devices overlap on the same channel, while adjacent channel interference is the overlapping of multiple devices and access point channels. Non-Wi-Fi interference is caused by other electronic products such as Bluetooth devices, garage door openers or even an overhead microwave oven.
SSIDs (Service Set Identifiers) are more than a fancy name to refer to how we identify and join a wireless network. SSIDs are broadcast over a channel by an Access Point and are visible when connecting and configuring Wi-Fi settings on a device. They create a degree of overhead that consumes an amount of the available capacity for data traffic in an area and can impact the overall performance of the network. For example, just four SSIDs, on four APs, broadcasting on one channel can generate up to 50% of all available capacity used for up/down and other system-related traffic. Logically then, when configuring your infrastructure you need to keep the number of SSIDs on the same channel as low as possible to reduce overhead traffic and free up the airwaves.
Now that you know the nuts and bolts of a wireless network, you must secure your infrastructure. When Wi-Fi Security is taken too lightly you put your workspace members and their businesses at risk of data and identity theft. Stay tuned for the next feature on how to secure your Coworking and shared workspace Wi-Fi network.
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