Let needs dictate purchase and deployment plans

Despite the battles raging between vendors touting a dedicated wireless local-area network deployment strategy vs. those pushing an integrated wireless/wired infrastructure, the best way to set the right strategy is to understand the nature of the wireless applications you want to support.

Factors that will shape your strategy include whether the wireless system will support individuals or groups of users, if the location is a temporary one or if it is an environment where a wired network will not work.

Setting up a separate infrastructure using wireless switches may be the best option if you have groups of people, such as audit or contractor teams, who are not required to be mobile individually but need wireless connectivity as a group, said Frank Smith, vice president of mobility and infrastructure services at systems integrator Capgemini.

"I can take a general-purpose access point, bring up a secure tunnel to a switch and allow wireless access...[so] multiple users can benefit very quickly," Smith said.

Wireless switches also work well for agencies that need to quickly deploy teams of people outside the range of the wired LAN or in areas where pulling wires is not feasible, he added.

"This would enable you to extend the life of buildings that might not have high-speed backbones in them," Smith said. "Or, in a location like a hotel or office building, where you need a workgroup environment, you can concentrate a group of people...with limited interaction with the physical infrastructure."

Using integrated wired/wireless switches to overlay a wireless infrastructure on the wired one is being used mainly in scenarios in which you

want to provide selective wireless connectivity to individuals within fixed work areas such as briefing centers, surgical theaters and auditoriums, he said.

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