Wi-Fi networks for resimercial and work-from-home environments demand a different mindset and design approach than traditional residential projects. Light commercial and work-from-home settings — and the Wi-Fi networks that serve them — are completely different animals than the traditional residential environments most integrators are familiar with. The way the network is used, the people using it, customer expectations, and the types of devices connected to the network vary greatly from typical household applications. Even within the resimercial category, home office and light commercial environments differ widely, making it difficult to pin down a specific set of rules and best practices. Still, there are some general guidelines that integrators should follow.
Here’re some tips on how to deliver an enterprise-level system to support these networks.
Recognize Inherent Challenges
Is your WFH client using the internet to access word documents on a cloud server or is he/she logging into financial records on a corporation’s local VPN? In light commercial applications, the use cases are even more disparate. For example, there are not many similarities between the networking needs of a doctor’s office compared to a restaurant. The types of devices connected, the security parameters required, and the number of users vary widely. Bottom line: There are few opportunities for repeatable designs, so you’ll likely need more resources — time and manpower — to succeed.
Identify Users and Use Cases
In a typical household setting, the network needs to support a certain number of family members and guests. A home office changes everything. That same residential network likely won’t be able to provide the level of connectivity and security required of a WFH employee. Chances are you’ll need to assign the office to its own VLAN or even its own ISP should the client require super-tight security. Either way, a dedicated VLAN ensures ample bandwidth for conducting Zoom calls, streaming live presentations, downloading and uploading large files, and other business matters. No traffic on the household VLAN can monopolize office productivity; plus, the VLAN boosts security to help prevent viruses, malware and other cyber-threats from infiltrating the office.
This same logic applies to light commercial applications. Is your customer a bank where each meeting room should function on its own VLAN or is it a retail boutique where prioritization and are less stringent? Is the customer a small office that entertains few guests or a gym where many visitors come and go? Get a handle on the users and the use cases to commission the appropriate network security and prioritization protocols.
Determine Connected Devices
What type of network devices does your WFH customer need to access? A printer, desktop computer, laptop computer and smartphone? Do they need to also connect to a surveillance camera at the front door or a distributed audio system? Is work conducted in the office only or sometimes on the patio, kitchen, and other places? The more devices, the more bandwidth. The more roaming, the greater the coverage. Make sure you have a clear idea of the devices on the roadmap before you lay the networking pavement.
Device diversity is the only aspect that can be easier to gauge in light commercial. Typically, employees access the same equipment from the same type of devices. Also, unlike a WFH environment where family members introduce new devices to the network frequently, commercial settings maintain a relative status quo. Still, be sure to conduct a thorough analysis and build in headroom to account for devices or people you may have missed. “It’s common to underestimate,” says Jason Barth, CEO and principal designer at The Premier Group, Carmel, Ind. “Each person who walks into the business could be carrying four or more Wi-Fi-enabled devices, so based on who’s visiting and how frequently, the number of devices the network needs to support can fluctuate dramatically.”
Related: Case Study: Covering an 18,000-Square-Foot Estate in Reliable Wi-Fi
Hardwire. Always. Without Question.
Connectivity speed, reliability, and security are always better when devices and access points are hardwired to the LAN. Deploy networks with this mantra in mind: Wi-Fi is designed for convenience; hardwired connections are used for performance. Client devices perform better and are more secure when hardwired. Although a mesh topology might be simpler to deploy than wiring each AP to the router individually, in home office and light commercial applications the inherent signal latency that occurs is often unacceptable.
To further optimize performance, configure the network so that devices stay on the 5 GHz frequency band. If you don’t, they’ll transition automatically between 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz, which impedes speed and coverage.
Adhere to Current Enterprise-Level Standards
This should go without saying but bears repeating: Use equipment that complies with the most current Wi-Fi standard and install APs generously. In residential, the goal is often to install as few APs as possible, but in resimercial it’s quite the opposite. The higher bandwidth requirements and greater number of users demands more APs. Also, it’s likely that an off-the-shelf networking solution cannot provide the security, speed, coverage, bandwidth, and reliability that resimercial clients need. Be sure to have an enterprise-grade system in your portfolio to address the requirements of WFH and light commercial applications. Doing so not only keeps them securely and quickly connected but provides critical IT support. Enterprise-grade systems enable comprehensive remote monitoring to mitigate costly downtime should the network experience a snafu. Automatic notification of a dropped device or another ailment combined with products that provide full remote visibility allows your team to react quickly, often fixing the problem remotely. Rapid support and remediation without a truck roll — it’s a win for your client and a win for your company.
Integrate a Double Online Conversion Battery Backup
The devices on a network need power. Sometimes that power is unstable. A double online conversion battery backup maintains an even flow of power to each device to protect them — and the entire network — from power surges and other electrical anomalies.
Be Business-Minded in Your Intent
Implementing a network for resimercial customers requires plenty of due diligence, starting with a thorough client needs analysis and site survey. The environment, customers, uses, and requirements will fluctuate from job to job, making resimercial an exciting yet challenging market. By treating each project uniquely, focusing on performance first and convenience second, utilizing enterprise-grade hardware, and providing corporate-level service and support, systems integrators can capitalize on this very lucrative category.
Case Study: Resimerical Networking
Dynamic presentations populate onto screens in private offices and infuse life and energy into the lobby with vibrant colors, motion, and sound. Employees connect effortlessly via their personal mobile devices to gain access into the building, and control lights, thermostats, motorized shades, and surveillance cameras. Internet connectivity is quick, painless, and consistent for anyone who walks through the doors. Robust, reliable Wi-Fi connectivity keeps a Carmel, Indiana-based wealth management firm running smoothly and securely.
Hired to install all technology into the company headquarters mid-construction was local systems integration firm The Premier Group. Having worked for the company CEO before on a residential project, they knew he was a “technologically progressive” client. The networking foundation in the office building, therefore, would need to be top-notch to support a wide variety of systems specified for the space, including a Control4 system to manage lights, motorized shades, and thermostats, plus security, audio/video conferencing, distributed audio, streaming media, and a golf simulator. “The network had to support the systems we installed initially and provide enough headroom to support heavier than expected Internet traffic,” says The Premier Group CEO and principal designer Jason Barth. Nothing less than an enterprise-grade networking infrastructure would be able to handle the incredible demand, so Barth specified an Access Networks solution.
Related: Need to Know — Home Mesh Networks
The Premier Group commenced with an audit of network users and devices. “There were a lot more of both than we originally thought,” Barth says. Next, they used a heat map to lay out the components comprising the network. Based on the results, they placed an Access Networks Wi-Fi 6 AP every 1200 feet to ensure consistent coverage throughout the facility. Given the diverse assortment of technologies that would ride the network, The Premier Group segmented camera, streaming media, control, and business Wi-Fi traffic into separate VLANs. An important step was validating the design with Access Networks IT support team. “They do a lot of the heavy lifting for us on jobs that are particularly challenging and ship the system to us preconfigured, which saves us a lot of time and manpower,” Barth remarks.
All of this necessary groundwork streamlined the installation process and mitigated post-installation modifications. Still, problems are bound to surface, so as they do with all clients — residential and commercial — The Premier Group provided the customer with comprehensive 24/7 monitoring of the network through its own tech team and the IT team at Access Networks.
With the Access Networks foundation firmly in place, employees and clients experience seamless connectivity and widespread technology that evokes modernity and professionalism. The entire space is set to conduct business or entertain at the press of a button. Customized and configured to the unique Wi-Fi environment, the Access Networks Wi-Fi network achieves a perfect balance of useful business technology and building automation to save time, energy, and money and sets a networking precedent for the firm’s additional locations along the East Coast.