Don’t Miss the Boat!

Mark-Shane-icon3

Driven largely by the move towards Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) the market for wireless connectivity in the workplace is expanding rapidly and represents a great opportunity for resellers. It’s not just about creating hotspots and there are some great applications out there that really build margin and lock in the customer for the reseller.

Let’s start of by saying that the market for wireless connectivity in business is poorly covered by the channel. Of course there are some very successful exceptions but from where we sit there is very little attention paid to non-fixed line access.

There is very little difference between wired or wireless access speeds or features these days and what about Satellite access?

I hear groans about the cost but let me tell you that the price of satellite access has plummeted – say around £20.00 a month for up to 20 Meg service. Just what you need in out of town and rural areas where 2 Meg is little more than a pipedream.

Talking to channel suppliers is interesting. How they can help resellers expand in to this market and build new revenue streams?

Jonathan Hallatt, Regional Director UKISA at NETGEAR says, “Resellers wishing to expand into this market must think about what the end customer really needs. In reality, they just want basic, reliable, fast Wi-Fi and the ability to control and secure the access of the BYOD client device. Resellers should resist the temptation to over-complicate the solution as customers can get lost in the features, acronyms etc. NETGEAR has the perfect blend of simplicity, functionality and affordability for resellers to offer a great solution.”

Alexis Argent, founder and director, VoIPon Solutions, 4Gon Solutions, says that the rapid expansion of BYOD practices is a huge opportunity for resellers,

“It’s the hottest CPE trend around. Wireless manufacturers and vendors in particular are booming and wireless access points are doing particularly well. Everyone wants to get on the web, and through it access company infrastructure and functionality such as CRM, email and so on.

I’d actually argue customers are moving away from being ‘locked in’ as IT departments are displaced and more control is handed to the client. This means the margin opportunities and potential revenue streams for resellers are consultancy, hardware sales, installation and maintenance, in that order. The margin available with each opportunity will of course depend on the type of customer, the hardware manufacturer and the application in question.”

Alexis-Argent---founder-and-director---VoIPon-and-4Gon

Alexis Argent

John Bird, Head of Systems and Support Services, Micro-P Unified Communications, says the distributor has begun to see a move towards BYOD and believes this trend will begin to show significant growth over the next 12 months

“This is being driven by many contributing factors including the requirements towards bringing a diversely spread workforce back into the office communications infrastructure. Add to this the requirement to cater for flexible working hours and the continued pressure on company bottom lines, a mobile solution will often allow an end user to increase productivity and efficiency whilst reducing overall operating costs.”

Jeremy Payne, International VP Marketing, Enghouse Interactive, observes the market is being driven from the home.

“The spending power that consumers have to exercise on technology far outweighs what businesses can spend. So, consumer technology is going to lead the way in shaping the future of business technology. The iPhone has already changed the way that businesses work, driving the uptake of video phone calls in the office for example. So, the reality is that BYOD applications are likely to increase over time. Yet, at the moment, no enterprises will offer hardware support to employees who bring their own device to work.

There is a disconnect here in the way people have adopted new technology for the office and the way that most IT departments are supporting that capability. As a result, there is huge gap in the market for an outsource BYOD technical support facility that supports internal IT help desks within businesses. This could be addressed by a reseller working with support from a distributor or vendor.

In particular, there is an opportunity for resellers to take different solutions and applications from a range of vendors to create their own unique app that might fit on an iPad or smartphone, for example, sell that into a particular market niche, backed up by professional services and support, and build new revenue streams as a result.”

Mark Shane of distributor ICON believes that the need to deliver a robust quality service for mass public logons and mobility, which is a de-facto requirement with BYOD and voice and data mobility services, is a game changer for wireless connectivity.

“In short” says Shane “although wireless has been around for a number of years it is only recently with the demand for BOYD and VoWiFi that it is developing as a technology. When these are deployed the channel is really at the very start of the technology learning curve and that’s where the vendor/distributor comes in by taking the channel up the curve with education assistance and support.

The problem with wireless connectivity is that with BYOD trend and the move to VoWiFi people think that Wireless Connectivity is Wireless mobility. It’s not. Wireless connectivity and wireless mobility are as different as chalk and cheese.”

Shane would appear to agree with our synopsis of the market when he says, “There are very few companies in the channel with the knowledge and experience needed to deploy a trouble free wireless solution. Working closely with a vendor or skilled distributor is the only way forward for resellers wanting to build a new revenue stream in this lucrative market. ICON with its vendor partners Extricom and Spectralink is actively pursuing a programme of knowledge transfer for the traditional comms reseller needing a primer in wireless and the IT networking company facing with the need to deliver a VoWiFi solution. Even the experienced wireless installer can face difficulties when VoWiFI and is factored in. Mark Shane observed,

Wireless connectivity in the workplace is a minefield for the inexperienced. Once a solution gets beyond a single base station, as it will in an SMB or enterprise deployment, the game changes.

With a demand for BYOD that is expected to soar over the next few years wireless connectivity and mobility services are the next big growth opportunity for the channel. An understanding of the business capabilities and applications that are available, and a mastery of the technology, are the key to being able to sell, design, and deploy a trouble free solution.

In the SOHO environment where a single base station is all that it needed, wireless connectivity can be made to deliver an acceptable service but in an enterprise or SMB deployment where multiple access points are needed to achieve the coverage wireless connectivity and mobility services are often compromised by the technology limitations of the vendors solution.”

Meanwhile distributor Nimans see segmentation as one of the best solutions in the wireless network world – boosting security and enhancing performance.

Kevan Sproston from Nimans says SME companies run the risk of damaging their reputation due to a poor internet experience.

“The biggest driver in this sector is the home market where people are spending a lot of money on tablets for themselves and their children. They will likely have a smartphone and laptop from work and will be streaming a lot of data from the comfort of their own home. Wireless and BYOD is being driven massively by the speeds that people expect at home.

Companies need to really have two separate networks; one for everyday business use and one for BYOD. The challenge is to get these two to operate alongside each other. There’s potential for cross contamination.”

Sproston, who spearheads Nimans’ dedicated data infrastructure division, continued: “One of the biggest benefits of wireless is that you have the ability to segment each individual network to launch separate applications such as Outlook. Each wireless network has its own proprietary identification – perhaps restricting internet and a few other services, maybe non critical and not database related. You could also assign certain people passwords that can be locked down and relate to specific devices as well. To segment things wirelessly is a lot easier process than trying to do it physically. Once a user plugs a cable into a business network they generally have access to everything around a building which is more expensive and much harder to control. In addition wireless access points and controllers offer more of a complete solution with built-in levels of security.”

What applications are selling well and where? 

Alexis Argent says that when you get down to it, the application is wireless access, rather than fixed line Cat5 or Cat6 solutions. “In other words, the application is the internet and access to the corporate network. As with any web portal this creates sales, marketing and data capture opportunities via, for example, a splash page. You can also sell internet access itself, although this isn’t something any customer will appreciate paying over the odds for. All applications associated with smartphones or tablets could be considered part of the mix, so really, the app opportunities are limitless. With the explosion of tablets and smartphones, the apps, whether used by a doctor, sales assistant or waitress, are secondary (for the reseller) to access.”

Jeff Willis, Director of B2B Solutions Europe for Toshiba, believes that with many Unified Communications solutions using Wi-Fi devices, it is important that the right wireless network is deployed from both a security and bandwidth perspective.

“If voice is to be put onto a wireless network it is important that any wireless solution provides Quality of Service (QoS) to prioritise and protect the voice traffic. Equally, access points need to support automated handover otherwise calls will drop as staff move around the office.

Within this environment SMEs will be providing different user groups with different devices. Device deployment will depend on the user’s requirements and there can be multivendor products supported across the organisation and not just a global standard. Furthermore, policy and access rights would be determined by the user profile and not necessarily by the device type. Security, therefore, becomes an important issue as you might not want all users to access the same apps and data, and you might want to restrict certain access to be limited to specific locations (e.g. the ability to access sensitive data only from authorised locations). In addition users will own multiple devices (smartphone, tablet, PC) and you need to manage user rights consistently across devices. BYOD presents another dynamic in this consideration.

Mobile Device Management (MDM) addresses the issue of managing mobile devices across mixed device and user estates. This gives an opportunity for resellers to provide products tailored to user needs as opposed to a generic rollout, and also to support BYOD projects. With the concerns around data security and network vulnerability, MDM gives SMEs a policy and management tool to implement secure mobile devices and to support apps and data.”

On the subject of voice application John Bird of Micro-P says that their Samsung voice solutions business unit has seen considerable traction around mobile connectivity integrated with OfficeServ communication servers.

“We believe that Samsung currently have the strongest wireless communications portfolio available to both the SME and Enterprise markets – after all, how many other PBX vendors produce market leading mobile devices and tablets along with Wireless Enterprise infrastructure products? We are regularly working with our reseller partners to help specify mobile solutions that incorporate single number reachability, call recording, presence management and FMC clients as part of a complete mobile and fixed line communication solution. Most importantly these solutions also incorporate the mobile handsets, airtime, wireless access points and controllers, along with PoE network infrastructure and applications servers, thus facilitating the total solution from a single distribution partner that can also include site survey and installation services.

Jonathan Hallatt, NETGEAR has seen SSL VPN platforms continuing to sell well. “This is a simple way of securing and authenticating access to information.”

Mark Shane of distributor ICON notes that in the business environment popular apps are those aimed at personal safety, not just for lone workers but also for employees in public facing roles in hospitals, sports, where stadium sponsored apps deliver real time information to fans, and the hospitality sector where apps deliver key operation information to staff.

Shane commented, “The dumb handset if a thing of the past. The smart phone revolution means that people want more from their handset than just voice connectivity and apps are not just for BYOD. At ICON we support the Spectralink range of wireless handsets which are voice and data enabled and which can support apps dedicated to medical, logistics and hospitality applications.

In the hospitality sector the hot app is fire alert notification. False alerts cause guest frustration and are an unwanted expense for the hotel. In some cities fire brigades are charging for false call outs. Wi-Fi handsets such as those available from Spectralink integrate with fire panel solutions and support apps that help staff manage fire and other alerts.

In healthcare, apps to support caregivers are growing in numbers. Spectralink’s 8400 series handsets support a number of patient management apps and personal safety apps. These include apps for the dispensing of medications as well as accessing patient records.”

Mark Shane observed, “With the availability of BYOD, fans inside a stadium are demanding real time information about the game in progress. For the stadium ‘fan apps’ represents a revenue earning opportunity. Delivering these apps over the GSM network can result in a poor user experience. Free Wi-Fi is the route many stadiums are taking and a number of stadiums have already installed Extricom’s LPV (Large Public Venue) Wi-Fi solution.

The reseller who understands the business imperatives and revenue opportunities as well as how to deliver the technology is the winner in these situations and at this stage of market development the vendor and distributor are key in getting this understanding into the channel.

ICON with its vendor partners Extricom and Spectralink actively engaged the channel in this knowledge transfer through a series of well received road shows around the UK and is planning to carry this forward with similar programmes.”

Kevan Sproston from Nimans, “I think the consumer is used to a fast service at home which is expected in the workplace. People go to a business and almost borrow the internet the same way they would use another utility service such as a drink of water or using the toilet. Expectations are driving the market. With a standard connection you can achieve up to a 20 meg download at home – watch online TV without freezing or buffering etc. You can also have four or five devices connected and the speed doesn’t slow otherwise you’d complain to the provider. In the workplace you tend to wait when things slow down. There’s a massive expectation that companies get judged on – so the internet is now so important.”

John Bird of Micro-P

John Bird

Sproston says people tend to be familiar with just one device as they find it easier to work off. “Obviously one of the biggest risks is that not everyone is technically savvy. Their network at home could be completely unlocked and dragging in all sorts of nasty surprises. Equally children could be downloading lots of game apps. These are constantly updating themselves via the internet which is not ideal in a business environment.”

What constitutes a BYOD check list for wireless solutions providers?

Alexis Argent, “Your checklist should include a good hardware manufacturer that supports the latest wireless protocols, and also covers non-legacy wireless protocols (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac) – Ubiquiti for example has taken the market by storm. Also desirable is a good distributor that provides useful technical sales advice, fair margins and solid post-sales support, guest management software, a high capacity co-current user limit and the ability to roam.”

Mark Shane at ICON says don’t forget security. “Network security is the issue everyone talks about when you mention BYOD. However there are deployment issues which if not ticked off will kill a solution dead before network security has a chance to work and in some cases will compromise security at the same time. Bandwidth, Wi-Fi generations, and physical security are some of the solution killers which can get the inexperienced installer into murky waters if not handled correctly.”

Installers need to check out the BYOD devices that will be allowed to register on the wireless network

Allowing mixed generation registrations can seriously degrade a service. A wireless network will always run at the slowest of the devices subscribed so no matter have fast your new shiny smartphone can work if it is register to a wireless network it will connect at the rate of the slowest device. This means poor user experience, frustration and possible loss of revenue unless the installer plans ahead. Separating the WiFi generations can overcome this but this is only possible with some solutions such as the Extricom infrastructure. Installers need to qualify the performance level that is going to be acceptable to the user and either has chosen a solution that accommodates registering earlier generations of wireless or exclude the slow first generation devices from login on. Another key checklist item is the physical security of the access points.

This is a key requirement in some government solutions. Physical tampering or theft of an access point represents a serous potential for breach of network security. The classical access point contains all the information a thief needs to be able to access the system so they need to be made secure. And if you have 10, 20, 30, access point on your solution you have 10, 20, 30 opportunities for tampering unless of course you are using one of the Extricom solutions where the access point does not contain any registration information.

This is such an important issue that only a handful of access points are able to meet security compliance specs and except in the case of Extricom all solutions do this by locking the access point to wall.”

Ed Says…

We agree with Mark Shane when he says, ‘Wireless connectivity in the workplace is a minefield for the inexperienced. Once a solution gets beyond a single base station, as it will in an SMB or enterprise deployment, the game changes’. The thing is that there are many games out there to be played for – the opportunity is big now and growing on the back of the BYOD trend. Our advice is to not miss the boat and get on board with a supplier who can help you win business.

 

 

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