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5 Classes of Wireless by Mission [Mgmt’s Guide to Wireless]
Updated on Tuesday, 31 January 2012 12:53
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Wireless can be broken down into five primary classifications, based on its mission. These are classifications I’ve defined for use in discussing wireless goals with customers.

Later this year, I’ll be releasing my Management’s Guide to Wireless, a white paper designed to help directors and managers understand the primary considerations of wireless in an enterprise. Brief enough to hold their attention, but technical enough to be useful, this document covers best practices in planning and deploying wireless at a level both the CIO and the network admin can appreciate.

Here’s a section of the white paper that discusses the five primary classifications of wireless, by mission.

Excerpt from Management’s Guide to Wireless: Planning and Deploying with Best Practices, to be released Q1 2011

Classification of Wireless by Mission

Wireless can be broken down into five primary classifications, based on its mission. These are classifications I’ve defined for use in discussing wireless goals with customers. In my experience of the past ten years or so in working with hundreds of organizations, I’ve found, with very rare exception, wireless will fall into one of these categories. In a later section, I’ve outlined best practices in implementation for each mission class.

A.    Convenience Wireless
Convenience wireless class networks provide restricted or Internet-only access and are most often used for guest access, and as a convenience for employees that bring personal devices to an enterprise. Examples of Convenience Class wireless are hotel guest access and municipal Wi-Fi.

B.    Standard Production Wireless
Standard Production Wireless networks offer access to some or all standard resources in the production network. These wireless networks extend the wired enterprise network to wireless users and provide similar access to servers and applications in the wired infrastructure.

C.    High Security Production Wireless
High Security Production Wireless may also be termed Regulated Wireless and is used when the stated wireless mission is to allow access of sensitive data, or to/from sensitive systems. Usually implemented in a similar fashion as the Standard Production Wireless, High Security Mission Wireless is implemented when additional monitoring, logging, auditing or segregation is required. The most common use is in environments where credit card transactions or health care data is being moved or accessed wirelessly and PCI DSS and HIPAA requirements need to be met. Other High Security Mission Wireless may include proprietary systems such as SCADA or ones accessing protected intellectual property.

D.    Legacy Wireless
Legacy Wireless networks are provisioned with configurations to provide access for legacy devices that may not support newer security functions for authentication or encryption. Most often these are handheld scanners or inventory tools with low-sensitive data and sub-par encryption support. Any wireless missions that fall under high security or compliance regulations using legacy devices should be placed in the High Security Production Wireless Mission, and provisioned and secured appropriately. Additional hardware or software may be needed to support the appropriate level of security on these devices, but meeting compliance regulations isn’t optional.

E.    Performance Wireless
Performance Wireless mission networks are highly-engineered WLANs designed specifically to support critical business applications and devices, such as medical equipment, voice and video over wireless and other converged technologies. Any missions with requirements for high performance, quality of service guarantees or high availability should be considered a Performance Wireless mission.

Management’s Guide to Wireless will be available Q1 2011.

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