Africa is an abundant breeding ground for SMEs (small and medium enterprises). In fact, it is estimated that there are over 55-million SMEs across the continent, and while governments do provide SMEs with tax benefits, the ability of SMEs to succeed, both in the short- and long-term, due to a lack of IT expertise, can be a big challenge, says Ruckus Wireless.
“SMEs are faced with a variety of challenges as they endeavour to grow their operations into sustainable organisations,” says Michael Fletcher, sales director for Ruckus Wireless, sub-Saharan Africa.
“One of the primary concerns that budding SMEs encounter in the growth phase is the absence of a substantial IT department, unless of course, they happen to be an IT or IT-related company. Budgets are often extremely tight and SMEs are forced to ‘scratch at the bottom of the barrel’ to find adequate capital to install a network.”
For example, very few SMEs are in a position to install a robust, centrally-managed wireless LAN (WLAN). Exacerbating this issue is the fact that, until recently, SMEs were faced with only two choices: high-end, expensive and complex enterprise WLAN systems, or more affordable, but substantially feature-less, consumer-grade WiFi systems.
“The ideal, it would seem, is a scenario where one can combine the advantages and features of enterprise-style WLAN with the affordability of consumer WiFi,” adds Fletcher.
“In the world of wireless LANs, power, simplicity, and especially cost-effectiveness are traditionally seen as anomalous. An adaptable network that leverages all the advantages that WiFi can offer a SME is obviously the goal.”
A WiFi network is designed to allow employees with mobile devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones to connect to a SME’s LAN quickly and easily, without having to use cables and plug into a suitable socket. The advantages to SMEs are flexibility, productivity, efficiency, improved communications and the scalability to grow the network as the enterprise grows.
“As the demand for an SME WiFi solution increased, Ruckus devised a ‘Smart WiFi’ WLAN system that allows for seamless interoperability, advanced WiFi security and robust WLAN management. The Ruckus ZoneFlex system is the only industrial-strength multimedia WLAN solution that can be configured and installed in minutes.
“Consideration was given not only to optimisation of high-end enterprise-type features, but just as importantly, our system is very affordable for SMEs,” says Fletcher.
Ruckus ZoneFlex access points (APs) combine state-of-the-art, advanced antenna technology (Ruckus BeamFlex) with automatic user security and centralised management in a user-friendly package that is easy to deploy.
The ZoneFlex system is designed to cover larger areas utilising fewer APs, resulting in reduced capital investment (capex) and operational costs (opex). Other Ruckus technological breakthroughs, such as dynamic beam forming and automatic interference avoidance, make WiFi signals extend further and more reliably.
It gets better. By implementing Ruckus SmartMesh Networking, SMEs can simply plug their ZoneFlex access points into a power supply without the need for Ethernet cable installation. This eliminates the costs associated with undertaking extensive RF site surveys, cable runs and configurations.
“Moreover, the Ruckus ZoneFlex Smart WiFi system is self-learning, self-configuring, self-optimising, and self-healing – which makes it ideal for small businesses with little time and technical skills,” adds Fletcher.
In addition to the SME market, the ZoneFlex system is also ideal for hot zone operators wanting to provide next-generation business-class hotspot services that require one or more multimedia access points.
“Battling ongoing operational costs, SMEs need to have access to a WLAN that allows complete functionality and good performance without the associated, traditional high costs. It is important that the product option they choose allows them to select and pay only for those features that will add value to their business environment.
“By installing a strong foundational Ruckus Smart WiFi WLAN, SMEs can scale up their system as their networking requirements increase and change – making IT one less challenge they need to overcome in order to succeed and prosper,” concludes Fletcher.