As wireless connectivity expands to support and include not only a lobby or a sales floor here and there, but also your entire organization, you may need to invest in a different approach to your wireless local area network (WLAN). Most enterprises need to work through several considerations before determining whether a managed WLAN or an on-premises solution will better fit their needs.
As your need for broader WLAN coverage expands, so will your need for the infrastructure necessary to support your network. If your network administrators are getting bogged down with hundreds, or even thousands, of access points (APs) in an attempt to cover entire buildings or branch locations, they may have the added challenges of co-channel interference and client roaming. These factors contribute to a network that is unpredictable and lacks stability.
To address these challenges, providers offer WLAN controllers that direct data and control-plane data into a single location, offering a single point for AP configuration and functions like policy enforcement. The controller takes over the “intelligence” of the APs and controls the entire WLAN. This offers visibility over the entire WLAN and allows administrators to make adjustments to handle interference or switch clients from one AP to another.
Enterprises need to determine whether managed WLAN or an on-premises option is better for their needs. With an on-premises solution, data-plane and control-plane communications are sent to the controller, also called wireless backhaul. In a managed WLAN controller, data-plane information is dropped off at the LAN. With policy enforcement occurring at the AP and retaining the intelligence at the AP site.
The benefits of on-premises architecture for WLAN: If you already have an on-premises wireless controller, it may make sense to simply upgrade. Additionally, on-premises often makes sense for companies with spotty internet connectivity or a strain on bandwidth due to the cloud alternative relying heavily on that connection quality. On-premises controllers generally offer more flexibility in terms of deployment and design of the WLAN, with better support for legacy WiFi devices and more granular control over wireless settings.
The benefits of managed WLAN: For an enterprise with numerous branches spread over a wide geography, managed WLAN offers centralized management in a single control dashboard, no matter where your network administrators are working. You won’t need controllers at each site, and administrators won’t need to travel to troubleshoot or configure the network. You also have the option of cloud-managed switches, firewalls, and routers to handle all network functions in the cloud.
While an on-premises solution would limit you to your existing hardware and its limitations for APs, a WLAN solution can handle a range of a few APs up to thousands. And as new features come out, there’s no need to invest in new hardware as there would be with an on-premises solution. In addition, your backups are handled as part of the cloud service so it’s no longer the responsibility of your network administrator.
There’s no wrong or right solution when debating the merits of on-premises versus managed WLAN. If you determine that a managed WLAN is right for your enterprise, contact us at TailWind. We offer high-speed broadband connectivity and certified, onsite technician support for a better-managed WLAN experience.