The unexpected benefits of wireless for SMBs

Three-quarters of small and medium-sized firms say that having a reliable wireless network in place is now essential for business success.

It doesn’t matter if the company has two, twenty or two hundred employees, all agree that a wireless network keeps employees connected wherever they are on site, and that this boosts productivity, strengthens competitiveness and enhances customer service.

As a result, all over the UK, employees clutching a growing range of connected devices are walking around SMB offices, shop floors, restaurants, warehouses, greenhouses and more, sharing information, making decisions, responding to customer enquiries, booking appointments, processing orders and billing customers. The business benefits speak for themselves.

This growing dependence on wireless is not totally unexpected. As our personal lives become more connected and mobile it is almost inevitable that the businesses we own, manage or work in will follow a similar path.

However, our study into SMBs and wireless also revealed something else. It showed that wireless connectivity is enhancing aspects of the business many might consider to be beyond the reach of technology, namely brand image and employee morale.

Two-thirds of the 500 small to mid-size firms we spoke to say that having a wireless network makes their business look vibrant and up-to-date. Three quarters (72 per cent) believe that not having WiFi makes a firm look old-fashioned. In other words, firms like what wireless capability says to the outside world about the kind of company they are.

A third (33 per cent) believe it helps them to recruit fresh, new talent into the business – young people drawn from a generation of digital natives who expect wireless mobility and flexibility as standard. Three-quarters of firms with more than 11 employees say wireless is essential for meeting employees’ demands to be able to work anywhere on any device.

Last, but definitely not least, half (54 per cent) of the firms surveyed say the introduction of a wireless network has boosted company morale and team building as people are not stuck to their desks but can mix freely with colleagues across the workplace.

This appears to become increasingly important as a company grows in size. Two-thirds (64 per cent) of firms with between 11 and 50 employees and three-quarters (76 per cent) of those with more than 100 staff have experienced this.

The case for installing a wireless network in the workplace is therefore a strong one. Yet some firms are still reluctant to introduce it. Our study revealed some of the main reasons behind this.

Just under a third (31 per cent) of the companies we spoke to had considered abandoning all wireless plans after a bad experience with poor network quality and reliability, while 33 per cent feared a possible data security risk. A quarter (25 per cent) was unsure how to introduce wireless into their existing IT infrastructure, rising to 35 per cent of firms with more than 100 employees.

Fortunately these are issues that can be addressed easily. There are solutions on the market that are designed specifically to meet the needs of smaller firms. Easy-to-implement and cost-effective solutions that do not require any advanced IT knowledge or skills, can be installed quickly using existing infrastructure to deliver consistent, secure, high quality wireless access across the workplace.

A seamless, high performing wireless network is within the reach of every firm – and there are products and providers out there who will help you to get going. As our survey discovered, it doesn’t matter if you have a law firm, a hairdressing salon, a veterinary surgery or a café, once you have a network in place and the benefits start to pour in, you will wonder how you ever managed without it.

Jonathan Hallatt is the regional director for UK, Ireland & South Africa at NETGEAR.