September 28, 2005

Factors Keeping Wireless Grounded

But there are challenges to unplugging a company's workforce. Though equipment prices are declining, many companies still find it difficult to justify the cost of a full-blown wireless infrastructure when the wires in place work just fine.

Capital One declines to put a price tag on its initiative, but the cost of access-point hardware to support 12 users is about $800. Forrester says companies can expect to spend $3,000 per switch, $9,000 for a management tool and $8,000 for intrusion-prevention software to secure wireless networks, which inherently are easier to piggyback on or crack into than are wired LANs - threats include employees installing unsecured access points without the IT department's knowledge and competitors scanning buildings from parked cars.

The fact that most vendors haven't consolidated wired and wireless network management tools also inhibits large-scale wireless implementations, forcing companies to deploy different systems to monitor wireless LANs. Generally, they also have to manage each campus wireless LAN separately, although that's changing with the increasing availability of wireless LANs that can be managed centrally.

Further, to realize productivity gains, a company must establish processes to support working online. Capital One established a Web portal through which employees access the company's PeopleSoft (Redwood Shores, Calif.) and other workflow applications. "People expect things to happen fast, to be efficient, to be working toward workflows instead of moving paper around," Bailar says.