Small Business Wi-Fi Without the Worry

Businesses and consumers expect a lot from Wi-Fi networks, and both the number and variety of wireless devices—laptops, tablets, smartphones, sensors—continue to increase. Tom Clavel, product manager at Ruckus Wireless, says that as more people come to rely on mobile devices and apps, they count on finding wireless networks to help them locate the products they want and to keep in touch with friends while running errands.

Small businesses need wireless networks not only to keep tablet-based cash machines, alarm systems, and other high-priority systems humming, but also as a way to draw customers looking for a free Wi-Fi hotspot.

Ruckus Unleashed Closes Small Business Wi-Fi Gap

Deploying a strong wireless network infrastructure that can meet those expectations is usually a complicated undertaking. Large companies have the IT resources, time, and money at their disposal to maintain the hardware and software. Ruckus Wireless now brings that kind of power to small businesses, where wireless networks often form the backbone of business communications.

“Small business owners expect high resiliency, high performance, and high density,” says Clavel. The company recently introduced Ruckus Unleashed, a wireless solution designed to provide the ease-of-use and performance that small businesses need at a price that doesn’t break the budget.

Traditional wireless networks have access points (AP) powered and managed by controllers. But those controllers make administering the system more complicated for small businesses. Ruckus claims that its Unleashed system makes Wi-Fi simple. “We’ve integrated the controller software into our wireless APs,” Clavel explains. “We designed the Ruckus Unleashed user interface to be extremely simple.”

Building the controller software into the Unleashed APs means that small business owners don’t need to configure every detail to get the wireless network up and running. Clavel claims that a small business can set up the Unleashed APs in 60 seconds. “There’s an interface that guides you through the process,” he explains. Much of the necessary network configuration information comes pre-populated, which lets even someone with no technology expertise to deploy the system quickly and easily.

Ruckus Unleashed access point: small business Wi-Fi network

The R600, one of two access points available in Ruckus Unleashed Wi-Fi platform.

Ruckus Unleashed may be free of controllers, but Clavel assures that the APs provide the performance typically found in higher-end wireless networks. Roaming technology, BeamFlex+ (a smart antenna technology) and ChannelFly (technology that lets the access point detect interference and change to a less-crowded channel) are just a few of the company’s proprietary features that ensure high performance and low latency in an Unleashed W-Fi deployment.

“We’re taking the same performance that our larger customers are used to and making it available to small businesses,” Clavel says.

Connecting Small Business Customers to a Wi-Fi Hotspot

Many small businesses want to offer free Wi-Fi to their customers—think auto repair waiting rooms or cafes. According to Clavel, Ruckus Unleashed makes it easy for small business owners to create a Wi-Fi hotspot that their customers can easily access.

Free hotspots often use what’s called a captive portal—a landing page that customers must visit before accessing the Internet. In this case, your small business page acts both as the captive portal and as a way to keep your customers informed about your products and services. Clavel uses a flower shop as an example. “Your store page could list the types of flowers currently available or any ongoing promotions,” he says.

If a captive page isn’t the right option for your business, you can give customers direct access to the Internet. Simply provide the Wi-Fi password via email or text message.

Monitoring Wi-Fi Performance

You don’t need to buy software to make the Unleashed platform work. Logging into the Web interface gives you the tools to set up and administer your wireless network. “In addition to managing the access points, the Web interface gives you information about the network,” Clavel says.

Business owners can quickly see the number and status of access points, the number of devices connected to them, and a host of other data points relating to their wireless network’s performance. “It helps small business owners see when people log in to the store’s hotspot so they can track their busiest times,” says Clavel.

Pricing for Ruckus Unleashed

Unleashed supports up to 25 APs and 512 mobile devices within a single deployment. The company offers two APs: the R500 model costs $695 and the higher-performance R600 sells for $745. According to Clavel, small businesses don’t need to worry about additional expenses or fees.

“You don’t need to buy a license; it’s just a one-time cost,” Clavel says. “Once you have the APs, you can be up and running in no time.”

He claims that as your business grows, the initial investment keeps paying off. “Even if your business grows beyond Ruckus Unleashed, you can keep the original access points and use them in a Ruckus controller-based Wi-Fi architecture,” Clavel says. The up-front expenditure stays with your business as you move from one type of wireless deployment to another.

Julie Knudson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in technology magazines including BizTech, Processor, and For The Record. She has covered technology issues for publications in other industries, from foodservice to insurance, and she also writes a recurring column in Integrated Systems Contractor magazine.

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