Setup and maintenance of wireless networks as managed services is no longer reserved for large-scale telecommunications companies and other organizations with access to resources for creating highly-customized wired and wireless networks. Aruba provides a simplified and streamlined method for building Wi-Fi-as-a-Service platforms to smaller partners and regional service providers.
In today’s developed countries Internet has become one of our basic necessities in everyday life, on par with electricity or water. With the emergence and continued evolution of smartphones, tablets and IoT devices, as well as exponential growth of mobile and cloud applications, wireless Internet access moved into the spotlight and became leading connectivity enabler. Productivity and performance of individuals as well as small or large-scale businesses greatly depend on the quality of wireless Internet. Lagging and sluggish performance or critical failures in your wireless network can have direct consequences on financial results of your organization. Since Wi-Fi and Internet access are not considered core business for most enterprises, more and more are opting to outsource this functionality, i.e. leave network management to experts who consider these technologies as their core business. This brings us to WiFi-as-a-Service (WaaS) – WiFi provided as a managed service.
What does WaaS consist of?
In its basic form, WaaS is a combination of the following:
1) Hardware (infrastructure) – entire network equipment, which does not only include access points, but also switches, routers, controllers, firewalls, and other network equipment.
2) Software – centralized access control and management, insight into relevant real-time data, custom captive portals, reporting systems, location services and analytics, access control, etc.
3) Services – everything required to deploy the network and ensure the quality and uninterrupted operation of the system, such as:
- Routing the wireless signal before deployment
- Network setup and initial configuration
- Hardware and software management
- Network maintenance, adding on-demand functionalities, eliminating possible interferences
Basic business challenges addressed and mitigated by WiFi-as-a-Service include:
Purchasing hardware and software for business-class wireless networks can require huge capital investments, not to mention the cost of recruiting highly specialized personnel required to maintain such complex systems. WaaS model provides the user with cost-effective and advanced solutions which may exceed his budgetary restrictions if approached from the traditional route.
- Short equipment lifespan:
How often do you upgrade your smartphone? Average user buys a new smartphone every 12-18 months. Technology you carry around in your pocket is usually obsolete after only two lifecycles. This also applies to wireless networks. Technology is advancing so rapidly that the average lifespan of wireless network equipment is approx. 3-5 years. After that, such systems require a complete redesign and upgrade at best, and very often completely new infrastructure is needed and that can get very expensive, very quickly. WaaS model ensures upgrades are closely following all changes in technology (users are paying for the service and guaranteed quality, not equipment).
Building, deploying and maintaining enterprise-level wireless networks implies a combination of highly specialized skills, know-how, experience and competencies. Instead of recruiting qualified personnel with these characteristics, and suffering associated costs, users increasingly opt for a service that already provides access to such experts.
In the early days of wireless networks, we had to manually manage and configure each individual device connected to the implemented network in order to ensure a certain level of security. Nowadays we observe network security in an entirely different light due to hundreds of millions of smartphones and IoT devices connect to countless wireless networks around the globe. Generally speaking, large number of devices accessing a single user network are not owned by that user. However, he has to be aware of who is accessing the network and which device they are using. This requires advanced access control. Systems meeting these requirements are often not available to smaller businesses due to cost-prohibiting factors. However, WaaS subscription models make such solutions more accessible to companies with limited IT budgets.
Core benefits of WaaS managed services based on the Aruba platform:
- High-speed wireless access with guaranteed QoS and no interruptions
- Centralized management of all APs via a web interface regardless of the number of physical deployment locations and total APs
- Network insight and analysis of access link utilization
- Automatic system updates (software and firmware upgrades, bug fixes, etc …)
- Advanced access management with access control across groups and roles
- Guest access management feature
- Content inspection and filtering from L3 (network) to L7 (application) levels
- Setting QoS profiles and prioritizing traffic generated by specific apps
- System growth and scalability, flexibility of provided solutions (from 1 to 10,000 access points)
- Option to choose management features without any hardware modifications (public cloud, private cloud, on-premise) with or without cloud licenses
- Content filtering included, no additional licenses needed
- When a cloud license expires, devices continue to operate locally/offline
- Access to upgrades and integration with advanced technologies such as location services and analytics, advanced access management (guest, NAC, BYOD …), etc.
- Open to integration with 3rd party services via APIs
- Capital investment savings (CAPEX) and optional monthly installments (subscriptions)
- 1, 2, 3 or 5-year contracts
- Optimized IT costs
- Reduced total operating costs
- Quality assurance via SLA contracts
In our next article we will detail ways of deploying WiFi-as-a-Service by using different Aruba technologies – both from a technical and business perspectives.
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