Let’s make a mesh of networking

REMOTE working has many advantages and we’ve all experienced the highs and lows after a difficult year.

You and your colleagues are probably still at home and, while restrictions remain in place for now, it’s looking increasingly likely they will ease as the summer approaches.

Will it mean a full return to the office? Probably not, but there should be some headroom for a phased or partial return with social distancing still a likely feature for some time yet.

Because of Covid-19, many businesses are well ahead in the digital journey. You’re already using the cloud, seamlessly sharing files and collaborating effectively through digital video, voice and chat – even the ‘old’ office number rings through on your mobile via your own home wi-fi.

But as you think about getting back to your desk, you might want to think about how you can consolidate your best tech efforts to get the payback you deserve – and it’s simple, cost-effective and will help keep your office environment safer for everyone.

Demand for fast, reliable wi-fi is at an all-time high, particularly at home, though many local office environments are still using a ‘fixed’ LAN network – those red or black cables that stick into the back of PCs and laptops. Or, they have wi-fi which only reaches certain parts of the building effectively.

In an era where safe space and flexibility have never been so important, it makes sense to address this early so you can fully utilise the space you have. It means returning staff can freely and safely manoeuvre themselves around the office, use meeting rooms wisely or simply enjoy some peace and quiet when they need it.

So instead of relying on a conventional wi-fi router and access points or range extenders, there’s an excellent new alternative that’s quick and easy to instal and it’s ready to meet the big data demands put on it.

A ‘mesh’ wi-fi network is a group of devices that act as a single wi-fi network, so there are multiple sources of wi-fi around your office or workplace instead of just a single router – and all ‘points’ or ‘nodes’ are connected to each other wirelessly. As long as you’re in range, you will seamlessly connect no matter where you are, allowing fast and efficient data routing.

In a traditional wi-fi network, your phone or laptop is always connected to a single router and all communication passes through that. The further you are from the router, the weaker the signal.

So what does it all mean for your business? You won’t get any ‘dead zones’ so you can better utilise the space, or open areas previously unusable. You will also get better coverage throughout your building and with additional built-in security features – including the ability to set up separate wi-fi guest access, there’s even less to worry about.

A new, next-generation firewall will add extra protection to your mesh networking wi-fi system, which will monitor and filter all incoming and outcoming data to keep you well out of reach of anything dangerous.

Mesh networks are also easier to manage – there are less wires, they are fully automated and you can easily manage them, scan speeds and even disable them through an app on your mobile phone - even if you’re not in the building.

You can scale up and scale down whenever you like too, but you’re always in control.

Public spaces are also seeing the advantages of mesh networks, with colleges, hospitals, libraries, hospitality and even supermarkets are all seeing the advantages of expanding instant high-speed connectivity.

If there were any doubts about digital transformation, there’s no question that Covid-19 has vastly accelerated the process, but the advantages to this fast-paced change have been broadly positive, creating new opportunities and accelerated innovation for a new generation.

Let’s stay connected.

:: Eric Carson is co-founder, owner and chair of Rainbow, Northern Ireland’s largest independent supplier of telecommunications services