Cloud-Based WLANs Provided by WiFi Companies – Separating Fact from Fiction

Over recent years, wireless network technology has advanced considerably. Today, WiFi companies are offering cloud-based solutions for wireless LANs (WLANs). But what does this mean for your business? Do the benefits outweigh the costs?

As with any new technology or service, some decision-makers will have reservations. A certain amount of myth busting will be necessary to discern the benefits of cloud-based WLAN solutions. Here are a few common myths:

  • Myth: Greater Complexity – Reality: Greater Simplicity

The goal of many new technologies is to simplify both the administrative and user experiences. By removing the on-premises hardware controller, cloud-based WLANs are simpler by design. With cloud-based WLANs, you can control wireless access points across multiple locations anywhere in the networked world. Cloud management ensures seamless mobility across all locations. You can troubleshoot wireless access points without physically traveling to each site.

  • Myth: Reliability Issues – Reality: Improved Reliability

Cloud-based WLANs can improve the reliability of your wireless network. With no hardware controller in the configuration, you will eliminate single points of failure. When you separate the control and data planes, user connectivity is not affected should you experience an interruption in the control plane. A failover can take place with zero packet loss to any of the data sessions.

  • Myth: More Traffic Issues – Reality: No Traffic Bottlenecks

In a cloud-based WLAN, management tasks are centralized, so they will not create traffic bottlenecks. Things like maintenance and monitoring do not lie in the data path. Traditional WLANs use controllers to perform both management and control tasks. As a result, traffic bottlenecks could result. However, in cloud-based, managed WLANs, the hardware controller is removed – management and control functions are separated.

  • Myth: Fewer Features – Reality: More Feature-Rich

Some believe that cloud-based WLANs are less mature, and have fewer features than conventional in-house wireless networks. Although solutions can vary among WiFi companies, cloud-based WLANs typically provide robust capabilities.

  • Myth: Lack of Scalability – Reality: Seamless Scalability

Scalability is one of the prime advantages of a cloud-based WLAN solution. Because the solution is software-driven, you gain greater control over your network and can scale it as required. You’re able to add wireless access points anywhere in the world. With a single instance of a managed WLAN, you can support thousands of access points and users across multiple locations.

  • Myth: Cumbersome Upgrades – Reality: Streamlined Upgrades

Traditional WiFi networks often require forklift upgrades every three to five years. You’ll need to replace costly hardware to access the latest capabilities. However, cloud-based WLANs can deliver upgrades through downloadable firmware. With a cloud solution, you can access the latest technologies and features more easily and economically.

  • Myth: Increased Security Risks – Reality: Enhanced Security

With a hardware-based controller, harmful traffic is only discarded after it enters the network and reaches the controller. Since the controller is in the data path, it becomes a prime target for hackers. However, cloud-based WLANs eliminate both of these threats. They provide built-in firewalls to keep dangerous traffic out of the network, keep data sessions on the LAN, and centralize control traffic in the data center.

  • Myth: Higher Costs – Reality: Cost Savings

The cost of managing an in-house WLAN can be substantial. You’ll need to invest in equipment, maintenance, monitoring and staff. By leveraging a service provider’s infrastructure and expertise, you can reduce the cost of operating a wireless LAN. For example, you can remove all controller hardware when you virtualize the management and control function of your WLAN. By doing so, you eliminate hardware investments, cabling costs and the associated operating costs.

Once the misconceptions regarding cloud-based WLANS are put to rest, you can begin to see the significant advantages of partnering with WiFi companies for your wireless services. To learn more about managed WLAN solutions, download FairPoint Communications’ latest white paper titled “How Managed Wireless LAN Solutions Transform Business Operations.”

Bob is the Product Manager responsible for Hosted PBX at FairPoint Communications, a leading provider of advanced communications technology in northern New England and 14 other states across the U.S.