Sold on wireless but not the infrastructure

Sold on wireless but not the infrastructure

Australian IT managers are already sold on wireless mobility but complain that infrastructure is still in its infancy and hampering broad adoption across regional areas.

Capt'n' Snooze IT manager Lionel Van Niekeir said that although the benefits "are obvious", local wireless infrastructure is still in its adolescence, and is stymied by the divide between metropolitan and regional areas.

"The Australian network is weak because it is rather new, and the country is so large. Resources are stretched, particularly in regional areas where [connectivity] switches to GPRS...which is painfully slow, often slower than dial-up," he said.

"International roaming is another big drawback [as the] cost is ridiculous, and the speed is pathetic.

"In New Zealand we pay around $100 for 5Mb of bandwidth, over a slow connection.

"The technology is great overall, as long as you remember to turn off international roaming!"

However, Niekeir said wireless technology is central to his business and says there are huge benefits for remote departments, field workers and telecommuters, as well as consulting clients in different time zones.

"Being constantly online [via wireless VPN] is fantastic because our executives and sales representatives can post and receive information immediately. This is particularly useful on travel, such as airports, where valuable time can be utilized rather than lost," he said.

Seiko Australia IT manager Bruce Weber has around 100 mobile users in the field using notebooks.

"It means [the users] are more available, flexible and efficient, because they're not tied to the office," he said.

Intel worldwide capability director for information technology, Ian Wilson, said Australia is migrating to a mobile workplace as wireless technology becomes cheaper and able to handle high bandwidth needs.

"[Mobile technology] such as networking and device costs have become markedly less expensive over recent years - and the technology has skyrocketed in its capability," he said.

"It is commonplace to see high bandwidth usage such as video streaming [via wireless] now, whereas a few years ago it wasn't even contemplated.

"A wireless infrastructure can centralize business departments, help employees to maximize efficiency, and allows users to contact clients overseas who are in an opposite time zone."

Intel recently became a mobile workplace, with more than 83 percent of users swapping desktops for notebooks and PDA phones. The company issued standardized notebooks for its office staff, designed customized, powerful Linux-based laptops for its design engineers, and tailored PDA phones for use in its product-sensitive fabrication department.

Wilson said business can "retro fit" existing infrastructure or install a "greenfield" wireless infrastructure which offers long-term cost savings. Installing backup and support systems, and adequate security is vital to the technology's success, he said.

"We use end-to-end VPN tunnelling, with WiFi Protected Access and a user authentication process on the wireless network, which asks for verification for access," he said.

"[Although wireless] security has improved markedly, a backup system must be in place [to prevent lost user data]; we use an automated system which now allows backup to occur external to the firewall."

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