Corporate WLAN booming, but security remains major concern, says Gartner

14 Jul 2006

As enterprises seek to reap the benefits of mobility, 64% of businesses intend to increase wireless local-area network (WLAN) deployment during the next 12 months, according to a new survey by Gartner.
A total of 44% of respondents said the primary reason to deploy a WLAN was improving productivity with mobility.
The report said 21% said the primary reason was to provide access to places not possible to wire, while 13% of respondents thought wireless networks were a less-expensive or simpler way to deploy LAN connectivity, or they considered using WLANs to improve efficiency in specific business processes or operations.
'Although wireless LANs are not a new endeavor, interest in them is still growing. Wireless LANs are becoming a standard part of enterprise networks, covering entire facilities, not just meeting rooms,' said Rachna Ahlawat, analyst at Gartner said. 'However, as wireless LANs expand from conference rooms to the whole enterprise, concerns about security and network management are rising. We've gone from thinking of offices as network nodes to considering each employee as a node on a wired network. Now, every major physical item the company owns is becoming a node on a wireless network.'
Security was considered to be among the top five concerns in adopting WLANs by 95% of respondents, and 60% of respondents do not believe they have adequate security for their wireless environment. The second-biggest concern was the management of WLANs. This was more important for businesses that had already deployed networks than for those about to do so or still at the planning stage.
'Vendors should share best practices of securing and managing not just network components, but the devices connected to a wireless network,' said Ahlawat. 'Organizations will have difficulty in determining whether it is the network or the devices that are not performing well. Managing wireless security also involves managing users and devices when they are connected from remote branch offices, hot spots, and home offices.'
WLANs are more than just a simple means of connectivity. 'Newer applications, such as location tracking of equipment or personnel are only possible through the wireless medium. Vendors should note that as organizations expand their wireless networks, overlay applications become much more attractive and they should ensure they support such applications and form partnerships to offer solutions to customers,' said Ahlawat.

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