Retail Technology Review spoke with Mark Smith, head of WLAN sales, EMEA, Zebra Technologies, about the company’s newly launched WiNG Express enterprise-class Wi-Fi designed for small and medium-sized businesses, and the benefits it affords both users and Zebra’s channel partner network.
Small to medium-sized business (SMEs) often share many of the same wireless networking needs as larger companies. And just like in larger organisations, SME operatives need enterprise-class wireless LAN (WLAN) connectivity – a WLAN that offers around-the-clock dependability that can heal itself, that offers the wired-style speeds workers need to maximise efficiency while also providing a totally reliable level of security. Also, just like larger businesses, SMEs need tools to monitor, manage and troubleshoot the WLAN and all their connected devices.
The main stumbling block is that 'big business' WLAN functionality has historically come at a high price point – an IT department with the expertise required to manage the complex features and functionality of an enterprise-class WLAN. The good news is that this is no longer the case, as Zebra Technologies has just launched WiNG Express into the EMEA marketplace.
Mark Smith, head of WLAN sales, EMEA, Zebra Technologies, explained that WiNG Express is a high performance, enterprise-class Wi-Fi designed and priced specifically for SMEs. "It is a WLAN operating system wrapped in an easy-to-use and easy-to understand graphical user interface that makes end-to-end WLAN management easy, and that requires no IT department," he explained, adding that WiNG Express provides the same advanced brainpower as Zebra's enterprise-class WiNG 5 WLAN operating system, creating the fully network aware WLAN, where all of the user's WLAN infrastructure has the intelligence required to work together to route every transmission as efficiently as possible for reliable and secure wireless performance. "With WiNG Express, users can enjoy all the benefits of high-performance wireless connectivity, at the right price point for their business," he said.
Easy scaling for growth
WiNG Express offers cost-effective support for the smallest possible business network with a single access point to mid-size businesses that have up to 1024 access points in one or more locations. And in terms of scaling, WiNG Express lets users start small and grow big. Whether customers start with one or one hundred access points, as their business grows and their workforce and application requirements expand, WiNG Express can grow with the company. The flexible architecture allows users to easily expand their network to support more users and more applications, whether in one office or throughout multiple sites.
"Of course, not all smaller SMEs and SoHo (Small Office/Home Office) users would need to scale-up to 1024 AP, but this is easily possible with WiNG Express if required," Smith pointed out. "Although something in the range of 20 to 25 AP would be more the norm for their target markets, the aspiration of many businesses is to grow – and if they know they are investing in something that can grow with them without having to add layers of complexity then this is a major advantage."
Flexible deployment options
If SMEs have less than 26 access points in a single site, WiNG Express can bring them the power of centralised management without the need to purchase and manage a controller. Smith explained that the result is a new level of simplicity and a new low cost point for enterprise-class wireless networking. "This 'controllerless' management allows one of the customer's access points to simply manage an entire network of 25 access points," he said.
"Since users can access WiNG Express through any browser, they get true anywhere and anytime network management.
They can simply point their browser to the IP address of the managing access point to view the status of all their access points and connected wireless clients. If their 25 access points are spread out in multiple locations or their business requires more than 25 access points in one or more locations, whether indoors or outdoors, this isn't a problem – they can just add WiNG Express Manager to easily manage up to 1024 access points throughout all of their sites.
Quick and easy deployment in minutes
With WiNG Express, there is no need to understand advanced configuration options to get a network up and running. Smith explained that Zebra's channel partner network can create the configurations for the customer. "With over-the-air provisioning, there is no CAT5 cabling required for staging," he said. "Users can just power-up their access points and they will automatically be discovered and provisioned with the pre-defined configurations. Smith added that with easy site setup and an intuitive auto-provisioning policy, it is easy to deploy multi-site WLANs. "Regardless of the number of sites, the customer's enterprise-class WLAN is ready to go in minutes," he remarked.
Powerful analytics made easy
WiNG Express presents the volumes of information about users' access points and access point radios, all of the users' WLANs and all of the mobile devices connected to their WLANs in easy-to-understand screens that make it easy to monitor and manage every aspect of the enterprise class wireless network.
Protected and secure
WiNG Express's Monitor function allows users to see a list of all of their access points and drill down into any specific access point to view their history for the past 30 minutes, two hours or 24 hours. Available metrics include the radio, antenna, mobile clients, number of re-tries and RSSI (signal strength). Since users can see the full list of all functioning access points, they can ensure that only their company-owned access points are adopted. In addition, users can view the security protocols that are in force on their access points, ensuring that the data travelling over their WLAN is protected and secure.
WiNG Express's ongoing log tracks and maintains a complete history of events that have occurred on the company's WLAN, providing valuable trending information as well as details the company needs to address a specific incident and prevent a re-occurrence in the future.
WiNG Express makes it easy to create new sites and configure every aspect of a company's WLAN in 3 simple steps through a series of drop-down boxes; from the wired access point interface to wireless interfaces, management and security. The settings the company defines are pushed out globally and automatically applied to all access points, regardless of how many locations the company may have. Smith explained that this can dramatically simplify the time, effort and cost of network-wide configuration.
WiNG Express was first launched in EMEA in May this year, having initially been introduced into the US and North American market during 2014. "We wanted our distribution and reseller partners in the US and North America to cut their teeth on WiNG Express first," explained Smith. "Then, after receiving positive feedback and a few suggestions regarding functionality and feature adjustments from our channel partners we prepared for the launch into EMEA." Smith added that Zebra only sells WiNG Express through its channel, with no direct liaison with the end-customer on the part of Zebra.
Smith concluded: "We at Zebra are confident that SME and SoHo companies in a wide range of vertical marketplaces will find WiNG Express and the benefits it offers highly attractive. And with the full pre- and post-sales support offered to them by our channel partner network, I think the whole package becomes even more compelling."