Security Fears Still Blocking WLAN Adoption

By Ed Sutherland

September 21, 2004

A new report says that even though security issues are being addressed, they continue to be the main thing preventing enterprises from going wireless.

Despite the best efforts of the Wi-Fi industry to assure companies wireless networking is safe in the workplace, a new survey of executives finds security remains the leading barrier to WLAN adoption.

Although 84 percent of companies have not had their WLAN breached, "security is the top barrier, cited by nearly half of all companies" as the reason they are not deploying or expanding Wi-Fi networks, according to the report Understanding Corporate WLAN Architecture Choices, conducted by Jupiter Research (a division of Jupitermedia, owner of Wi-Fi Planet).

Companies which spent a lot of time in 2003 producing white papers and talking about WLAN security problems, says research director Julie Ask, are fueling an image of Wi-Fi being insecure.

"That was good in that it probably helped their sales, but bad in that it scared people away from more widespread adoption," says Ask. "I think the industry has to continue to educate fairly—not over-hype the issue."

But the report also highlights growing demand for WLANs in the office.

"The percentage of companies spending more than $10,000 annually [on WLAN deployments] will grow from 26 percent in 2003 to 35 percent in 2004," said Ask.

While 54 percent of companies with fewer than 100 employees are spending less than $5,000 on WLAN deployments, only 15 percent of that group are spending between $5,000 and $9,999, according to the report.

Among small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with between 100 and 1,000 employees, 37 percent are spending $10,000 to $25,000 on WLANS while 21 percent are planning to invest $5,000 to $9,999. 11 percent of SMBs will spend up to $50,000, according to the report.

Number-wise, growth in WLAN deployments is occurring in small businesses, while budget increases are being seen with larger companies, says Ask.

"As the industry matures, larger entities are beginning to trial and buy large-scale deployments," according to the survey results.

Ask points to the increased presence of Cisco, the growing maturity of 'younger' vendors, and better education about the benefits of Wi-Fi.

"The primary driver behind deployments today is employee demand," said Ask. More employees are using wireless at home, and after getting used to the idea, they are demanding it in the workplace.

"A majority of companies are also recognizing WLANs as a productivity tool for their employees and a more cost-effective alternative to wired networks," said Ask.

Cost savings are most apparent with wireless being used in new construction.

In another dichotomy, although executives realize the benefits of WLANs for their employees and for their company, few businesses are ready to totally unwire.

"Deployments are growing in size, but companies are not, for the most part, willing to go completely wireless," according to the Jupiter Research report.

While 22 percent of mid and large-sized companies expect to offer their employees "broad wireless access," just six percent of companies with WLANs deployed have 90 percent or more of their employees using a wireless network," said the report.



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