SMBs Listen Up on Gaining Simple, Secure Wi-Fi Networks

Speakers at Ziff Davis Internet's SMB Solutions Virtual Tradeshow outline the steps for making Wi-Fi installation easier and more secure-including the use of a new protocol called SecureEasySetup.

Two experts in the Wi-Fi field told e-seminar participants on Thursday that not only are SMBs ready for wireless networking, but setting up a secure Wi-Fi network can be accomplished relatively easily.

One of several seminars being featured during Ziff Davis Internets SMB Solutions Virtual Tradeshow, a hot-button virtual panel titled "Keep Employees Connected at All Times with a Simple and Secure Wireless Strategy," featured two presenters who are experts in the burgeoning Wi-Fi market.

The first presenter, David Cohen, senior product marketing manager at Broadcom and chairman of the Wi-Fi Alliance security committee, discussed the explosion of Wi-Fi technology in recent years.

He pointed out that people are "connecting everything" wirelessly, from computers, printers and scanners to smart phones, BlackBerrys, televisions and home stereos.

According to Cohen, the challenge for SMBs (small and midsize businesses)—along with SOHOs and home networks—is determining how to set up and manage these increasingly complex networks, particularly if the right solution is not in place.

For one thing, Cohen noted that about 80 percent of small Wi-Fi networks provide no security precautions because too many users either do not know how to set up a secure network or because they have tried to set one up and failed.

To make Wi-Fi installation easier and more secure, a new protocol has been developed called SES (SecureEasySetup), a standards-based protocol that is compatible with any Wi-Fi-certified device. With SES, users push either a hardware-based or software-based SES button on a client device, which negotiates a secure, encrypted tunnel between the AP (access point) and the client device.

The AP then generates a unique WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) personal key and SSID (service set identifier), which it sends to the client device through the encrypted tunnel. These steps are repeated until all relevant devices are connected.

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Cohen went on to say that leading vendors, such as Hewlett-Packard and Linksys, have offered their support for SES and that the Wi-Fi Alliance is working on an interoperability program for this means of setup.

The second presenter, Ed Carmody, solutions architect at Dimension Data, discussed the evolution of wireless LANs within the SMB realm. While SMBs have concerns about wireless networks, particularly in the areas of budget and security, Carmody said SMBs can be successful setting up their Wi-Fi networks if they consider certain issues when developing their networks.

One issue involves an SMBs business objectives when setting up a network. For example, a retail operation will use its wireless LAN differently than a small law office that simply needs coverage for partners and their clients in a conference room, Carmody said.

Editors Note: The Ziff Davis Internet SMB Solutions Virtual Tradeshow is run by eSeminars, a division of Ziff Davis Media, parent company of Ziff Davis Internet.

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