Keeping your team connected to the network is essential for modern businesses. While wired connections are fast and reliable, they require everyone to stay at their desk to connect to the network, which is not practical in many cases. This is why most businesses are turning to Wi-Fi connections for their laptops, tablets, and other mobile devices. When setting up a Wi-Fi network, you must ensure you do it right to get the best performance possible. For many businesses, this will mean setting up a mesh Wi-Fi system. Learn more about a mesh Wi-Fi system and how it can benefit your business today.
What is a Mesh Wi-Fi Network?
To explain what a mesh Wi-Fi network is, you will need to know some basics about a traditional Wi-Fi system so you can make the proper comparisons. A traditional Wi-Fi network has one router ideally located in a central place. This router broadcasts and receives the Wi-Fi signal to which all wireless devices connect. All the traffic goes to this router, which then passes it on to the Internet, a switch, or some other network device, depending on the traffic type.
With a mesh Wi-Fi network, multiple different Wi-Fi nodes are installed throughout your building. One of the nodes is designated as the primary router, which is hardwired into some type of gateway for your local network. All nodes will send their signals back to the primary node, where traffic can be passed on toward its destination.
Each device in your facility will connect to the nearest Wi-Fi node (or the one with the strongest signal) to get the fastest and most reliable connection possible. So if someone is walking through the building, their device can ‘hop’ seamlessly from one node to another based on signal strength. This added signal coverage helps to ensure that no matter where a device is in the building, it will have a solid connection to the network.
Benefits of a Mesh Wi-Fi Network
There are many advantages to using a mesh Wi-Fi network for most businesses. Understanding these benefits can help determine if installing this type of network is right for your business.
- Even Signal Strength – One of the biggest reasons businesses often prefer a mesh network is that it allows consistent signal strength throughout a building. This uniform coverage eliminates Wi-Fi ‘dead zones’ so your entire facility can be used efficiently.
- Reduced Network Congestion – Every device will connect to the nearest node to get the best connectivity. This process helps to spread out the bandwidth usage, so congestion is less of a problem. The primary node will use its total bandwidth to pass traffic on to the network gateway, which is done through a higher-capacity wired connection.
- Increased Speed – Since each device will be connecting to a nearby Wi-Fi node, it will generally get faster connection speeds. It is important to note, however, that signal strength is not the only factor that impacts speed. This is why choosing a good quality router (mesh or traditional) is extremely important.
- Easy to Expand Coverage – If signal strength in one area of your building is low or network congestion in another area is still high, you can simply add a new Wi-Fi node to your system to resolve the issues quickly.
- Appears as One Network – While devices can connect to multiple physical Wi-Fi nodes, they all appear as one network. This utility ensures that employees do not need numerous Wi-Fi connections to access the network.
Disadvantages of a Mesh Wi-Fi Network
Mesh Wi-Fi certainly provides some significant benefits, but there are also some downsides to consider. Most of these disadvantages can be addressed quickly, but you need to know about them to plan your network strategy.
- Power Requirements – Every Wi-Fi node will need to have reliable power. This condition means you must ensure that the node locations are next to a power outlet. If that is not possible, you will have to run new power to the area for each node.
- Node Placement – You must plan your node placement properly to get the best results. Depending on your facility, this may mean having Wi-Fi nodes placed in conspicuous areas of the building. The node placement might not look how you want or could even represent a theft risk if you have customers or others coming through the area.
- Initial Configuration Complexity – While mesh Wi-Fi is easy for the end user to connect to, it is slightly more complex to set up. If your IT team does not have experience with this type of network, it may take some research to get it done right.
Is a Mesh Wi-Fi Network Right for Your Business?
While there is no doubt that a mesh Wi-Fi network offers many advantages, it is not right in every situation. For example, suppose your business operates out of a modestly sized facility, and you can install your router in a central location. In that case, moving to a mesh solution is likely not necessary. A good Wi-Fi 6 traditional router will offer plenty of bandwidth and speed for everyone.
It is also important to note that, on average, a mesh Wi-Fi system will be somewhat more expensive than a traditional option. There are, however, some great deals that can help you balance performance and cost. For example, the Netgear Nighthawk Advanced system is an excellent mesh Wi-Fi setup and is still very affordable.
Whether you are setting up your local area network for the first time or you are looking to upgrade from a traditional system to a mesh Wi-Fi environment, you need to consider your options carefully. Choosing the right hardware and properly setting that hardware up will ensure you get fast and reliable performance throughout your facility.