THESE DAYS, NEARLY EVERY adult has a smartphone, and almost everyone uses them in the workplace. Even people in cubicle farms with hard-wired workstations expect access to fast and reliable Wi-Fi. That presumption creates new opportunities for VARs and IT service providers.
Mesh Wi-Fi is one of the most significant. Originally designed for consumer use, mesh Wi-Fi systems utilize radio nodes, like routers, to blanket a given area with signal coverage. Most are extremely easy to set up and manage as well. Users employ an app to connect nodes, and the network self-configures automatically from there. Unlike most standard routers and extenders, moreover, mesh Wi-Fi solutions typically have self-healing functionality, so if one or more nodes goes down, the system can dynamically compensate for the outage.
The end result for IT providers is a way to offer scalable, efficient connectivity to SMB clients while avoiding many of the profit-draining manual intervention processes associated with other network technologies, according to Peter DiMarco, vice president of VAR sales at Harrisburg, Pa.-based D&H Distributing Co.
“They can literally manage a wireless network from the cloud, from their Android or their iOS device,” he says.
Some of the names associated with mesh Wi-Fi routers will sound familiar to anyone who supports other types of wireless solutions. Linksys, NETGEAR, and D-Link are among the list of current suppliers, and Google Wi-Fi has a made a splash in the residential sector. The market leaders for D&H, according to DiMarco, are Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s OfficeConnect product line and Cisco’s Meraki portfolio.
Mesh Wi-Fi revenue opportunities don’t stop with hardware, however. Security is always a consideration as well. Good mesh Wi-Fi products employ the same protection standards as router-extender systems and automatically install security updates, reducing firmware maintenance burdens. Channel pros must ensure that their SMB clients employ robust security across all layers of the network, though, by deploying anti-virus, identity management, and VPN solutions. All those options increase deal sizes and long-term support requirements.
Training is important too, suggests DiMarco. “Teach [SMB end users] what to do and how to manage the emails and/or content that’s provided to them that could be criminal in nature,” he says. You’ll not only end up with safer customers but produce added income as well.
Millennials and Gen Xers love their smartphones and expect to use them everywhere they go. When they start businesses, they want modular solutions that provide flexibility and scalability. For the channel pros who service these device-dependent clients, mesh Wi-Fi could make sense as an easy-to-deploy, low-maintenance solution.
Image: Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s OfficeConnect OC20