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Tangled: Figuring Out Where Wireless Fits

Greg Gordon, Iron Bow Technologies

June 20, 2018  |  Cyber Security  •  IT Modernization  •  Networking  •  Wireless

Wireless networks that stretch through hundreds or even thousands of square feet of agency office space can be complicated at best and downright baffling at worst. When federal workers require access to information quickly or need a solid connection to video conference with a colleague, a properly set up and managed wireless network can mean the difference between mission success and failure.

The proliferation of IoT devices has created a drastic effect on wireless networks. Ten years ago, government agencies installed networks with far fewer devices and a much lower system load. Now, there are hundreds of devices vying for connectivity at once on the same wireless system.

Starting from Scratch

When everyone in the office is wondering why the wireless isn’t working, the answer is often clear to a professional. The network wasn’t designed and isn’t being managed to handle the burden of today’s digital demands.

Deploying more access points, which act as radios that extend signals, seems like the simplest solution to expanding a wireless network and priming it for a more robust workload. Unfortunately, scaling up the system that way will do more harm than good because it prevents the network from differentiating between noise and a real signal, slowing down connections.

Placement of these access points also plays a huge role in how well a network performs. Ideally, signals should be spread out, radiating in as wide a spectrum as possible.

Think of it this way. If you’re developing a surround sound stereo system, you don’t just group all the speakers together or in random places. Instead, you place them at the perimeters of the room, facing in different directions so the sound doesn’t bounce off itself, causing a wall of distortion.

Agencies looking to expand, need to reassess their wireless situation entirely. That may not be the easy way out, but it’s the best path forward.

Fortunately, experienced radio frequency engineers like those at Iron Bow understand that extending wireless networks means reassessing the current system, making sure the access points are deployed in the proper spots and scaling up as needed. Taking a step back with a seasoned professional can prevent a lot of headaches in the future.

Managing the Network

The work doesn’t end once everything starts running smoothly and an agency’s wireless is humming along. We live in an age of extreme innovation and the federal government must scale its networks to fit ever-changing demands. No longer can you just set it and forget it.

With constrained budgets and IT staffs already stretched to the limit, it’s easy to let wireless upgrades slip under the radar. Thankfully, the burden of managing the network doesn’t have to fall on federal workers focused on more pressing missions.

Through a managed services model, the federal government can use an experienced service provider like Iron Bow to customize and manage a highly agile IT plan that includes wireless as a key component. Agencies don’t have to host their own operations, the industry provider manages and supports the entire back-end infrastructure.

Not only does this free up feds to focus on mission-specific tasks, but it also drives down operating costs. With these solutions, agencies only pay for what they use, which makes it easier to separate costs and figure out what is really required for mission success. It also allows for a better way to manage the whole IT environment as one big system rather than thousands of moving parts.

Taking a Holistic View

Wireless networks don’t exist in a vacuum. They’re part of the larger IT ecosystem and it’s important to understand how those networks play a part in cyber security, data management, mobility and modernization.

When agencies think about IT environments as separate parts rather than whole systems on which everything runs, cyber security breaches and data loss are much more likely to occur. While bad actors infiltrate networks in a number of ways, their entry points almost always involve tapping into wireless. Whether it be a phishing scam or a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, their goal is to shut down an agency’s system and that often happens because of network vulnerabilities.

With the threat landscape widening, hackers will never stop attempting to pierce networks. But most attempts can be thwarted with the right plan and managed services provider. Because they can see your entire attack surface, service providers can adjust quickly to shut down individual devices or even segment out parts of the network.

All of this might seem complicated, but fear not. Experts at Iron Bow can take care of your wireless needs, not only deploying a system that works for your office, but also making sure the network grows quickly and safely as your needs expands.

When you employ someone with vast wireless knowledge to build and manage your system, that expert will be able to foresee future pitfalls and adjust your network, access points, controllers and cyber security measures as your agency scales up and down.

For example, we can assess what wireless controller is best, whether it be the Cisco 5520 for mid-size offices or Cisco 8540 for large agency networks, and which Cisco access points will perform at the highest level for agency needs

We can also set in motion a cyber security and data management plan that allows feds the flexibility they need to move about in the field or inside the office. This means government workers, who already have enough on their plates, will be able to do their jobs without worrying about connectivity.

For more information about Iron Bow’s wireless solutions, visit our newly redesigned website at ironbow.com.

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