As enterprises seek to reap the benefits of mobility, 64% of businesses intend to increase wireless local-area network (WLAN) deployment during the next 12 months, according to a new survey by Gartner. 

In October and November 2005, Gartner asked 200 networking and business technology organisations in North America and Europe about their views on WLAN technology. Respondents identified their reasons for adoption, the extent of deployment, concerns about using WLANs and the problems encountered.
A total of 44% of respondents said the primary reason to deploy a WLAN was improving productivity with mobility, while 21% said the primary reason was to provide access to places not possible to wire, and 13% thought wireless networks were a less-expensive or simpler way to deploy LAN connectivity, or they considered using WLANs to improve efficiency in specific business processes or operations.
“Although wireless LANs are not a new endeavour, interest in them is still growing,” says Rachna Ahlawat. “Wireless LANs are becoming a standard part of enterprise networks, covering entire facilities, not just meeting rooms.
“However, as wireless LANs expand from conference rooms to the whole enterprise, concerns about security and network management are rising. We’ve gone from thinking of offices as network nodes to considering each employee as a node on a wired network.
“Now, every major physical item the company owns is becoming a node on a wireless network.”
Security was considered to be among the top five concerns in adopting WLANs by 95% of respondents, and 60% of respondents do not believe they have adequate security for their wireless environment.
The second-biggest concern was the management of WLANs. This was more important for businesses that had already deployed networks than for those about to do so or still at the planning stage.
“Vendors should share best practices of securing and managing not just network components, but the devices connected to a wireless network,” says Ahlawat.
“Organisations will have difficulty in determining whether it is the network or the devices that are not performing well. Managing wireless security also involves managing users and devices when they are connected from remote branch offices, hot spots, and home offices.”
WLANs are more than just a simple means of connectivity.
“Newer applications, such as location tracking of equipment or personnel are only possible through the wireless medium. Vendors should note that as organisations expand their wireless networks, overlay applications become much more attractive and they should ensure they support such applications and form partnerships to offer solutions to customers,” Ahlawat adds.