Give Us Better Wi-Fi, Say Employees

Over a third of U.S. workers say their workplaces don't give them adequate Wi-Fi, according to new survey research from BT and Cisco Systems.

Serdar Yegulalp

June 7, 2013

3 Min Read
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Bandwidth use is up. Network application performance is down. And over a third of U.S. workers with Wi-Fi, and half of everyone else in the world, is feeling the pain: They don't think their workplace gives them adequate Wi-Fi--not by a mile.

These data points come from new research by BT and Cisco, which canvassed 2,200 IT managers and employees in 13 countries to learn how they felt about the way Wi-Fi access to corporate networks is being deployed in workplaces--or, in this case, not being deployed.

About one-third of U.S. workers surveyed, and 45% internationally, have no wireless access to their business networks at all--a major stumbling block in a world of BYOD, tablets and smartphones. They may have wireless access to the Internet at large, but not to the applications and systems on the corporate network. Yet workers want the freedom to use the wireless device of their choice on a business WLAN.

From the report:

... more than two-thirds [of IT workers surveyed] (68%) believe it would have a positive impact on their work, for example, it would make them more efficient and productive (31%), help them work more flexibly (30%) and stay in-touch (26%).

[Find out why IT isn't ready to go all-in on WLANs, and get linked to InformationWeek's 2013 Wireless LAN Survey, in the blog "The Future Is Wireless, But IT Hesitates."]

If using Wi-Fi, bringing one's own device and using consumer IT to gain a strategic advantage are all such winning propositions ("84% globally [of IT managers surveyed] think adopting a BYOD policy confers a competitive advantage"), what's keeping some companies from adopting them?

Lack of a consistent use policy, for one, according to the survey. But the survey also revealed a lingering distrust among IT managers regarding users armed with their own wireless devices. That distrust may be warranted. For instance, about 25% of IT managers now think "all workers understand their access requirements or permissions for their mobile devices," which is up from 19% last year. However, only 26% of the employees surveyed "recognize that [using a personal device for work] presents a risk to company security."

Workplaces may be slow to adopt Wi-Fi to access corporate networks, or eschew it entirely, for a variety of reasons. Some are leery of Wi-Fi's security, despite how VPNs and WPA-2 Enterprise encryption, or a combination of both, can go a long way toward providing security of a grade offered by a wired connection.

Adoption also varies widely between industries. An earlier survey by Ubiquiti Networks, released at CTIA 2013, claimed that "transportation, government, automotive, retail and food services" ranked among the lowest for simply having Wi-Fi at all, let alone allowing corporate network access through it.

What's more, developing and implementing consistent timely policies for BYOD isn't trivial. A template created by an existing organization is a good starting point: Citrix Zenprise has one (registration required), as does the White House, and Symantec has chimed in with a flowchart for setting one up. None of those things, though, remove the heavy lifting needed to make a workplace BYOD/Wi-Fi access policy viable.

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