Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Emperor's New Clothes

CIOs are increasingly under pressure for doing more with less as we see the economy slowing down. This would mean typically cutting down the IT costs from every corner without reducing the services. If we do it smartly, possibly we have the opportunity. Relatively untouched is the network piece in our infrastructure services which is not often talked about. But in my view, this also provides a window of opportunity not just in terms of costs but agility as well.

Small and medium businesses and even some large ones as well can think of having Wi-Fi network as the means of providing connectivity to users. According to experts, the cost for deploying and managing a wireless network can be anywhere from 15-40 percent lower per employee versus wired alternatives for some companies which has a potential of going up to 70 percent depending on the selection of providers and solutions.

There are a variety of reasons why Wi-Fi is not so popular among businesses. One of the reasons is the concern of security of Wi-Fi devices and that its management and control is not up to the mark. The other reasons are related to network speed. Wireless has been primary designed for individual consumption and not geared up to serve the large business community.

Usually the Wi-Fi network is vulnerable to attacks likes eavesdropping, MITM (Man in the Middle), peer-to-peer and exploiting the unintended client connection. These are not very uncommon and usually you will find it happening on public places where your data may get exploited by scrupulous hackers waiting for the opportunity.

Usually, the following considerations are used for making wireless secure:-

a) Password Protected Wifi: Though there are people who think this makes it secure, there are tools such as "wireshark" which has the capability of rendering the Wi-Fi security useless.

b) Captive Portals: Captive portals do secure Wi-Fi networks for service providers but does not secure the Wi-Fi user from attacks. The false sense of security is in user's mind.

c) VPN: Though considered as safest, the grief it causes far outweighs at times the benefit it delivers. Also, it is vulnerable to be exploited as applications installed in the personal computers to enter into the corporate network. A motivated hacker can disrupt VPN in Wi-Fi network and cause a lot of pain and force the user to browse without it.

d) SSL encryption: There are techniques such as SSLTRIP which can strip off SSL security. Most end users will find it difficult to notice it.

These covers are like the emperor who parades before his subjects in his new clothes, a child cries out, "But he isn't wearing anything at all!". Many of us have read this short tale of "The Emperor's New Clothes" by Hans Christian Andersen in our childhood.

Arguably, we have to think out of the box for these solutions. The emperor would need new clothes and there are solutions in the market which make it happen. What we need is intelligent planning to build user experience through innovation. There are quite a few organizations that have come out with secured Wi-Fi network which combines software and hardware protection to protect Wi-Fi networks and provide speed. This makes a huge difference to those who would like to do more with less. With these products, we see the boom in adoption of wireless network over wired network.

To me, cloud controlled wireless access for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) will be big boom and the buzz word in the market in the year 2013 and may create a mega-trend in infrastructure cost savings. In addition, the wireless networks provide you agility by reducing the cycle time of implementation alongside the cost savings and fits into the popular agenda of cost and agility. In my endeavor to create a better ICT world, I would like to engage with anyone who will be interested in this direction.

Note: This blog was first published in and reposted now here.

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