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Forecast 2014: Boost your mobile bandwidth

Sandra Gittlen | Sept. 24, 2013
Wireless networks rule, but wired systems will still have an important place in the hierarchy in the coming year.

Look Before You Leap Into Cloud Computing
Eric Hanselman, an analyst at 451 Research, says bandwidth should be a primary consideration for any organization considering a wholesale move to the cloud. "It can be tempting to take all core applications and key databases and run them in a cloud environment," he says, but if you don't have high-powered wireless access, high-capacity connectivity and secondary circuits, you'll likely face problems that can critically affect your operations.

Sanchit Vir Gogia, chief analyst and group CEO at Greyhound Research, offers similar warnings about throwing everything on the wireless network. "Wireless is not always the solution," he says. Companies should study usage and then develop an intelligent strategy. For instance, they can segment their networks by categories of users and by type of traffic, which might alleviate bandwidth strain to not only their wireless access points but also their core switches.

The Weber County, Utah, government did just that. Information security officer Matt Mortensen worried that allowing employees to freely use the county's network would eat up bandwidth and jeopardize security. But he had to meet the demands of the county's 1,200 users, half of whom increasingly wanted wireless access for their personal devices.

Mortensen uses firewalls to split the network into separate segments for private and public use. The firewalls are also capable of blocking or throttling bandwidth for productivity-draining applications such as streaming video. While that approach is working today, Mortensen says he fully expects to revisit his strategies as video platforms become integrated into county workflow and more users come onto the public network wanting to do more with their devices.

Gogia says applying intelligence to bandwidth use could buy an organization enough headroom to ward off the need for a major increase. One example of intelligent bandwidth management, he says, is scanning each packet of network traffic to help determine which applications and users require more resources. That approach helps IT maintain more granular control. --Sandra Gittlen

Targeting Wireless
While Armstrong focused on providing as much wireless access as possible, Chicago's Advocate Health Care is trying to improve wireless access for specific needs, says Gary Horn, CTO and vice president of technical services.

Advocate Health Care, which provides medical care at 250 sites, including 10 acute-care hospitals and two integrated children's hospitals, initially deployed 802.11 a/g/n access points throughout its facilities and untethered a host of traditionally wired devices such as floor workstations. Over time, though, the IT team observed interference among the growing access point clusters and wireless access bottlenecks became a concern.

"There has been an exponential growth in the use of wireless in healthcare overall — everything is wireless whether it needs to be or not," Horn says. "Yet we haven't cracked the wireless bandwidth nut — rarely do you attain the speed and performance users need, even if they are close to the access point."


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