Why Managed Wi-Fi Services Meet the Needs of SMBs


A proliferation of devices at the workplace has made managing Wi-Fi networks a lot more daunting for IT teams. As a result, many organizations are outsourcing a large part of operations to managed Wi-Fi service providers. These providers take care of everything from analysis and equipment installation to network monitoring and maintenance for a fixed annual or monthly subscription fee. Let’s look at the benefits of managed Wi-Fi services and top vendors in the space.

According to market reports, the adoption of managed Wi-Fi services/solutions is expected to double in the next few years. An April report by research firm ReportLinkerOpens a new window shows that the global market for managed Wi-Fi solutions will grow to USD 10 billion by 2027 at a CAGR of 14.2% from USD 4 billion in the year 2020. The US market was estimated at USD 1.2 billion in 2020. 

The key takers for managed Wi-Fi services are small and medium-sized businesses with leaner IT teams. It also makes sense for a large organization with distributed offices across different locations. 

As an acknowledgment of Wi-Fi’s importance on the coming World Wi-Fi Day (June 20), we look at the key challenges of managing Wi-Fi networks internally and how managed Wi-Fi services can solve many of them for an organization. 

The Challenges of Running Wi-Fi Operations 

Deploying, running and securing an office Wi-Fi network on your own can be tricky. Internal IT teams are often not fully equipped to deal with the complexities of managing a Wi-Fi network full-time due to a lack of human resources, time, and budget. 

“For too long Wi-Fi has been one of the pain points for organizations, as it comes with inherent challenges associated with interference, distance and is a shared medium,” said Christian Canales, director analyst, Gartner. 

Lack of proper planning and insights can result in deploying an inadequate number of access points, controllers and switches. On the other hand, deploying too many access points can also become a problem and lead to issues such as co-channel interference (when multiple access points are in operation on the same channel) and improper load balancing (distributing network traffic across multiple access points). 

Learn More: Top 5 Wi-Fi Analyzer Apps to Drive Seamless and High-Speed Connectivity

Poor installation and configuration can also impact Wi-Fi performance. In rooms with high ceilings, access points may not be easily reachable if the router is on the roof. Similarly, in large offices with multiple floors, access points need to be configured to different channels. 

Keeping Wi-Fi devices up to date is also crucial from both the performance and security perspectives. Firmware updates keep devices optimized and protect against any inherent vulnerabilities in routers and switches caused by design flaws and programming errors. Delay in applying updates and patches can expose devices and Wi-Fi networks to cyberattacks. For instance, in the recent Colonial Pipeline attack, hackers had targeted a legacy VPN device. 

These Wi-Fi issues are hard to ignore as they can impact internet speeds, lead to weak signal and latency, resulting in loss of productivity. 

Benefits of Managed Wi-Fi Services

Reduced cost of ownership

Many organizations are only concerned about the quality of Wi-Fi service and do not want to get involved in the procurement of hardware or running of Wi-Fi networks. “There is a shift from CAPEX to OPEX that is attractive for some organizations, when they don’t own the assets and instead pay a fee per Wi-Fi access point managed by the provider,” said Canales.   

“The leading candidates tend to be small or remote offices where, typically, there is no IT person on site. Distributed enterprises as well, since they have many branch offices,” he added. 

The company doesn’t have to worry about the logistics of scaling up or recurring costs on repair and upgrades anymore. If any device breaks down or has become obsolete, managed Wi-Fi service providers will repair or replace it without charging anything extra. 

Improves work experience

Poor internet speeds and frequent downtime can impact productivity. With better visibility into the network, devices and access points, managed Wi-Fi service can reduce downtime triggered by technical issues.

Room for innovation 

Managed Wi-Fi service solutions are more likely to tap into artificial intelligence (AI) and its various branches to better understand Wi-Fi networks and detect technical issues faster. As a matter of fact, many of them are already leveraging AI in some form.

“As Wi-Fi offerings with AI/ML functionality continue to evolve and further mature, it will help providers of managed WLAN services to offer better and more reliable services,” adds Canales. 

Improves visibility

Cloud-based Wi-Fi dashboards can enhance visibility into the network, detect vulnerabilities, and track authorized and unauthorized access. 

Learn more: Wi-Fi 6 vs 5G: Which One Meets Your Connectivity Needs the Best?

Does Managed Wi-Fi Improve Security? 

Security is not the primary objective of a managed Wi-Fi service. Easing the burden of running and managing the network is. However, they can improve overall security by ensuring that all Wi-Fi access points have been configured with the right security protocols, keeping devices proactively patched for vulnerabilities, and segmenting Wi-Fi networks for devices based on their vulnerability level. 

Canales believes that using a managed Wi-Fi service will not make the implementation more secure or less secure. An organization can still be at risk if it fails to have proper security in place due to outsourcing Wi-Fi management, under the assumption that using an external provider will take care of those issues.

4 Managed Wi-Fi Solutions and Services You Should Consider

Outsourcing Wi-Fi management as a practice has been around for some time, but it has started getting traction only recently. The market for managed Wi-Fi services is a lot more crowded now. It includes several telecom operators, managed network service providers, system integrators and channel partners of network equipment manufacturers.

Here are some managed Wi-Fi solutions and services:

Ekahau Connect

Ekahau Connect is ideal for organizations that do not want to outsource Wi-Fi management but still need a comprehensive solution that can help them manage their Wi-Fi networks. It includes a survey tool to survey Wi-Fi site, and one for diagnostics and measurement. The Capture tool collects data to analyze Wi-Fi problems that are tough to diagnose. In contrast, the Analyser tool can detect rogue devices and identify radios suffering from high noise floor or low signal level. 

(Editors’ note: Ekahau is owned by j2 Global, the parent company of SWZD, the publisher of Toolbox.com.)

Comcast Managed Wi-Fi

This solution offers different levels of Wi-Fi management depending on the size and requirement of a company. The advanced plan provides unlimited access points, has the option to set the maximum time a guest user may have access, and offers analytics along with a standard report of Wi-Fi users. The premium plan also takes care of installation and configuration and offers an analysis of traffic.

Aruba Central

Central can manage everything from WLAN to SD-WAN and VPN services. Its WLAN solution uses machine learning to identify issues, suggest corrective measures, and provide service assurance. It allows customers to monitor their network and performance, set up a guest Wi-Fi with user-defined portals, leverage analytics and troubleshoot network remotely.

Cisco Meraki Cloud Managed Wi-Fi

This end-to-end solution brings management of WAN, LAN, wireless LAN, and mobile devices under one roof. It improves visibility over network users, their devices and applications. Based on insights generated by the solution, they can set access control and application usage policies. 

Do you think that managed Wi-Fi service is the future of Wi-Fi access in corporate offices? Comment below or let us know on LinkedInOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , or FacebookOpens a new window . We would love to hear from you!