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Will your corporate wi-fi take home gold during the 2016 Olympics?

Team GB is now in second place in the medal standings - only one place behind the USA!

The team is now pushing for a “Terrific Tuesday” and targeting six more gold medals. Laura Trott, Janson Kenny and Becky James will be competing in the velodrome and Nile Wilson will be aiming high in gymnastics. And there’s still Jack Laugher and Giles Scott to consider as serious gold contenders too!

But what exactly does this have to do with corporate Wi-Fi networks and how will it impact on Network Managers? Actually, quite a lot – especially now that enthusiasm is growing across the country and lots of people will be trying to sneak in a cheeky catch-up of the days events while they’re at work.

Many administrators view application control features as great tools for blocking application usage, which they are. However, what makes them even more valuable - especially during major sports events like The Olympics - is the way they ensure network reliability even in the face of excessive use.

It’s also worth remembering that acquiring the ability to view and manage all your network traffic doesn’t make you nosy or overly controlling – it just means you can guarantee the appropriate level of service to all applications, and in turn maintain consistent performance. Some highly essentials apps, like point of sale platforms, require the strongest service possible.

Application Control Usage

One of the most useful features of many application control solutions is prioritisation. If the day’s events in Rio consist of something low-profile like Greco-Roman wrestling, you might not need to make any adjustments to de-prioritise more conventional traffic (e.g. social media browsing). However, if a hugely popular sport like football gets broadcast, this may demand a higher level of service for any streaming use.

Bandwidth Management

From your home to your business to that coffee shop down the street, practically 99 per cent of facilities have a fixed amount of available bandwidth. The conundrum then becomes identifying which applications deserve how much bandwidth, and when. Again, application control is key. Using your own policies as a guide, you want to ensure you assign the right amount of bandwidth to each application depending on your business needs, while also balancing these priorities against your desired customer experience.

Location-Based Rules

OK, so maybe there’s at least one loophole you can use to solve these problems: location-specific rules. In this case, you assign policies to specific Wi-Fi access points based on their location. In areas dedicated for downtime such as the break room or the cafeteria, you can prioritise streaming video of events like the Olympics over more mundane traffic, like the kind that runs your day-to-day business. Meanwhile, the rest of your network remains prioritised for business functioning, including APs in conference rooms and employee offices.

Time of Day

And the final arrow in your quiver? Setting application control policies by time of day, and even by day of the week. This allows you to set prioritisation rules that optimise streaming performance outside of key business hours. Between 9 and 5, business-focused applications take precedent. But after that, the fans get free rein. You might even relax application control rules for an entire day when you know a major competition will occur, but then put them back in place once the dust settles.

Big events like the Olympics remind us of the many competing demands which our Wi-Fi networks must face. Like a gymnast on the high beam or a diver prepping for a jump, Wi-Fi-equipped businesses must negotiate a delicate balancing act – in this case, between satisfying customer expectations and safeguarding mission-critical programmes.

Application control policies provide the flexibility to handle these conflicting needs and still perform at top levels. Whether you prioritise by application type, bandwidth availability, location, or time of day, there exist plenty of ways to keep your customers cheering while ensuring your business makes it to the finish line.

Dirk Gates, Founder and Executive Chairman, Xirrus

Image source: Shutterstock/Shutter_M

Dirk Gates
Dirk Gates is the Founder of Wi-Fi specialist Xirrus. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from California State University at Northridge and an MBA from Pepperdine University.