Cloud-Managed WiFi – An Opportunity for AV Integrators
The convergence of AV and IP technologies has been well documented over the past few years. And many AV integrators have expanded their services to compete with IT integrators who’ve expanded into AV.
Because wireless networks have become integral part of just about any business’ technology infrastructure, it’s a segment that should be a priority for AV installers to understand and provide. After all, while AV systems are usually wired, content to them is increasingly being streamed.
But when WiFi goes down or is inconsistent, office productivity stops, and the potential for revenue loss is substantial: employees can’t work, client service is compromised, and orders can’t be processed. And, of course, you have a frustrated client.
This creates a real opportunity for integrators with the chops to tackle it head-on. For those integrators, I offer you three words: Cloud. Managed. WiFi.
Although cloud-managed WiFi certainly isn’t new, it’s still an underutilized component of network technology that can differentiate you from competitor and offer your clients quantifiable advantages, while also providing you as a service provider with your own set of benefits.
Sellable Client Benefits
There are several extremely sellable advantages to cloud-managed WiFi, with the most important being reliability, manageability, and scalability.
By eliminating onsite hardware and shifting WiFi management to the cloud, you eliminate the scenario of single point failure—the failure of any piece of onsite hardware or software that cripples the system.
The latest cloud-managed WiFi systems also take advantage of technologies such as mesh networking. When an individual access point fails—for example, in the case a cable is accidentally cut—mesh can automatically be enabled to provide an overlap in coverage between access points to eliminate any coverage gaps until a replacement is installed.
Mesh technology combined with cloud-based management also greatly simplifies deployment. While some access points will require Cat5/6 wiring, many can be set to operate in repeater mode and require only power. This reduces the number of cable runs, resulting in faster installation and causing far less (or no) disruption to office routines.
Cloud-managed systems are also more efficient to manage when scaling beyond one or two devices. Rather than having to managing multiple individual devices, each with its own login and password, and each with its own firmware updates and critical security patches, the entire system can be monitored, managed, and updated, either onsite or remotely, through a single portal.
These client benefits also work to your advantage as the integrator. Having a system that’s configured to eliminate coverage gaps not only means less disruption to your client’s business and a higher level of customer satisfaction, but it reduces the number of emergency truck rolls, which also saves you money.
Faster Installation and Setup with Fewer Disruptions
Cloud-managed access points are now essentially plug-and-play devices: once installed, they’re easily configured online from your dashboard. But for even greater convenience, they can also be pre-configured prior to installation, making the process even smoother. And because standard configuration settings can be quickly deployed across dozens, or even hundreds of access points, the time it takes to deploy the wireless network, including the time spent onsite, is greatly reduced.
Imagine employing a technology where configuring 1,200 access points can be completed in the same amount of time it takes to configure 10 the “old” way. That’s a significant, sellable advantage that can help you win more business.
The advantages for integrators in employing cloud-managed WiFi networks are just as significant.
The above mentioned selling points of a cloud-managed WiFi solution should be able to shorten what can sometimes be a protracted sales process:
- Lower upfront costs? Check.
- Centralized monitoring and management? Check.
- Centralized billing? Check.
- Greater reliability with no sacrifice in performance? Check.
- Faster installation with minimal disruption to daily business? Check.
- Happier client? Check, Check.
In addition to having a more satisfied customer, you stand to benefit in other ways. Cloud-managed networks also provide you with the opportunity to move from a hardware model, where you make little or no margin, to a recurring revenue service model.
And the benefits extend to centralizing the management of multiple systems for multiple customers through a single dashboard. You’ll have the ability to monitor and control the WiFi networks for all your customers from a single pane of glass.
You’ll also be able to update firmware to all the system components quickly and automatically. Alerts can be created to immediately notify you of issues; you’ll be able to diagnose and respond to any problems, often times before your client even knows they exist. And new access points can be added and configured to expand coverage areas in minutes. The result: your management platform offers benefits that will save you money by reducing the number of truck rolls needed to address any issues.
Cloud-managed WiFi is a natural evolution of networking technology, and the benefits to both integrators and customers are compelling and increasing. If you aren’t recommending cloud-managed networking, now is the time to consider it.
And even if you’ve been using a hosted solution, the explosive growth of features and technology justifies taking a new look at the market to ensure that your current solution is well aligned with your clients’ needs and maximizes the opportunities afforded by a recurring revenue business model.