Just a few years ago, conversations about BYOD (bring your own device) environments centered on whether or not these types of programs should be supported in the workplace. Before BYOD, enterprises could count on one device (normally a computer) per user connected to the network – and plan accordingly.

Fast forward to today, however, and we’ve moved well beyond the question of whether or not to support BYOD. A recent BYOD survey conducted by MarketsandMarkets found that North American BYOD adoption rates were at 36% in early 2017; in early 2018, that number jumped to nearly 50%. By 2021, Cisco predicts that each person in North America will average 13 networked devices/connections being carried with them. It’s a BYOD world, and everyone takes their devices everywhere. When committing to a BYOD environment, however, it’s important to understand the increased traffic growth that’s created as a result.

Even if your organization doesn’t support a BYOD environment yet, laptops, tablets and smartphones are likely already making their way onto networks. In a school, for example, mobile devices are being brought into the building by students, teachers and staff. In a hospital, guests, visitors, administrative staff and clinicians all have devices within reach.

One thing we know for sure about BYOD is that the number of devices people carry with them will continue to increase as Internet of Things (IoT) takes hold. In the not-too-distant future, it will be more than laptops, tablets, smartphones and smart watches connecting to our networks. Even someone’s shoes may connect, tracking standing duration, as well as number of steps and pace, during the day.

As the number of devices continues to increase, your network inevitably takes a hit. It can quickly and easily become overloaded if it wasn’t designed to handle this increase in devices. A network designed to support a certain number of users and devices suddenly supporting three or four times those numbers can result in slowdowns and bottlenecks.

Because most devices will connect wirelessly, a BYOD environment impacts wireless connectivity as well. To make sure devices can connect without issues, in most cases, more devices means more wireless access points (WAPs) – along with a cabling infrastructure to support them.

Where to Start?

To get a handle on the impact of a BYOD environment on your network, the first step is analyzing what’s happening. Who and what are connecting to your network? Why are they connecting (what are they accessing/downloading/streaming)? How long are they connecting? Are they experiencing issues when they connect?

Considering Wireless

Next, analyze your WAPs and the wireless standard you’re using to see if they’re suited for your throughput needs. Wireless is rapidly evolving. To provide even more speed and reliability, IEEE 802.11ax – a new wireless standard set to be complete in 2019 – will offer 10G speed capabilities and allow many people to be on a network at the same time while maintaining higher speeds and reducing connectivity problems.

The goal of this new Wi-Fi standard: To improve average per-user throughput by a factor of at least four as compared to IEEE 802.11ac.

Analyze Cabling Infrastructure

A sometimes overlooked – but very crucial – part of BYOD environments is cabling infrastructure. What type of cable is currently installed in your building? What bandwidth is that cable designed to support? Bandwidth refers to a channel’s capacity to pass bits of data (data transfer rate). A 10G cable, for example, is designed to transfer 10G of data from one point to another in a given amount of time.

With more connected devices, including those that are part of IoT and a digital building, your cables will also need to be able to support higher data rates (especially as the new Wi-Fi standard takes hold) and Power over Ethernet (PoE) so devices can receive power and data through one cable.

Belden can help you create a solid, reliable, high-performing cabling infrastructure – or layer 0, as we like to call it – so you’re ready for whatever the future may bring. If you have questions about the impacts of a BYOD environment on your network, or want to determine whether you’re in a position to support this transition, we can help.

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