The short answer is: A lot.
If you try to build a WiFi network with knowledge, assumptions, and technologies from 2021, you’re obsolete before you even start. Here are the changes you need to know:
High-quality end-user experience trumps everything
The focus of delivering WiFi has shifted from the technical details to the user experience as the technology matures. Whether the end-users are employees, customers, or students, they don’t want to think about joining a WiFi network. It’s just something they do naturally.
A mindset change is underway: Instead of hardware and budget, IT must focus on speed, reliability, and security:
How do you achieve the right amount of coverage for the density?
Is the device onboarding experience (i.e., how a device joins a network) intuitive and frustration-free for the end user?
Can end-users easily and safely exit the internet?
Does the network self-heal so end-users wouldn’t even know that a glitch has happened?
A self-healing network prevents service interruptions and delivers a seamless user experience. A robust one consists of two elements: A tech team that responds to alerts immediately and the software to detect issues, ensure high availability, perform load balancing, adjust radio settings, and monitor internal routing.
Zero-trust architecture overtakes perimeter security
Device onboarding used to focus on perimeter security, which employs tools such as firewalls and browser isolation systems to ward off threats. However, this approach is no longer enough as more activities occur beyond the four walls of a corporate office or institution, and many processes have migrated to the cloud.
IT departments must consider how their networks handle cloud applications and ensure that only authorized personnel can access company data. Microsoft has been advocating for the concept of zero trust, which continuously verifies the identity of a user no matter what network (e.g., hotel, Starbucks) they access data or applications from.
Cloud networking and zero trust have inherently changed how and where security is delivered. The approach shifts the focus from establishing a secured border to verifying identity to authorize access. It supplements perimeter security to support hybrid working, enabling the flexibility to access company data and applications from anywhere and with any device.
Additionally, a zero-trust architecture allows for a device onboarding process that can identify each user. It enables IT to quickly and easily isolate issues, narrow them down to a person or device, and effectively prevent the lateral movement of an intruder.