Wireless local area networks (WLANs) have revolutionized the deployment of local area network technology in businesses. WLANs simplify the provision of network access, saving the costs and installation time associated with running wired connections.
That said, just like any wired or wireless communications service, there are always risks present to the continued operation of your WLAN infrastructure. In this article, we'll provide tips to help you protect your investment in wireless local area network technology.
First, think of your WLAN infrastructure as another local area network, and build a disaster recovery (DR) plan along the same lines. Begin by using network scanning software to identify all components in your WLAN, such as wireless controllers; wireless access points (WAPs); antennas; cabling; connectors and power supplies and the interconnecting points to LANs and other networks. This data will help you identify candidates for spare components and it may also identify potential single points of failure, such as a single wired path between two wireless access points or a single router or switch that needs to have a backup partner for redundancy. Capture the network configuration data for each device in the WLAN and be sure to back it up in a secure location.
Wireless LAN components, like any other network assets, need clean, uninterrupted power to stay operational. Check with your WLAN supplier(s) to determine the power requirements of controllers, bridges, access points and any other components. Select backup power systems that will keep critical network components operational until they can be powered down for repair or replacement.
When building a wireless LAN infrastructure, a mesh network infrastructure (all network components connected to every other component) is preferred, so that you can minimize single points of network failure. To address the potential for individual component failure, assemble an inventory of critical spare components, including controllers, wireless access points, wireless routers, cabling and connectors, power supplies and technical documentation. Test spares regularly and label them with the dates when they were last tested. Store spares in a secured location on-site (as well as off-site, if possible).
Be mindful of the unique attributes of the LAN technology you’re using (e.g., Ethernet), such as the network protocols (e.g., Media Access Control) associated with LAN traffic and trans-network bridge traffic, and ensure that the vendor from which you obtain WLAN equipment has proven disaster recovery solutions available.
In addition to the obvious WLAN elements (e.g., WAPs, controllers), make sure you also protect these devices by securing them from theft and/or vandalism. Locate WLAN components in secure, locked equipment rooms to prevent unauthorized access.
Despite the fact that most of today's laptop computers (as well as handheld wireless devices, such as smartphones and tablets ) come from the factory with wireless modems and software that simplifies network access, older systems may still need external wireless adapters. Be sure to have spares of these components.
Regularly test your wireless local area network components to ensure they are functioning properly and configured for the geographic areas they serve. Ensure that security provisions are working properly and that wireless access without the proper security clearances will not occur.
Add WLAN technologies to your existing technology disaster recovery (DR) plans to ensure you have a plan to recover and restore wireless network access as quickly as possible after a disruptive event. As part of that DR plan, work with your technology vendor to take full advantage of any DR capabilities they offer.
If your wireless LAN infrastructure connects buildings in a campus or across town, carefully research wireless metropolitan area network technologies to ensure a seamless, bandwidth-rich and resilient external wireless infrastructure.
As noted earlier, think of your wireless LAN infrastructure as both a physical and logical extension of your wired LAN infrastructure. Protect it the same as you would your wired LAN environment.
About the author: Paul Kirvan, CISA, FBCI, has more than 24 years of experience in business continuity management (BCM) as a consultant, author and educator. He has completed dozens of BCM consulting and audit engagements that address all aspects of a business continuity management system (BCMS) and which are aligned with global standards including BS 25999 and ISO 22301. Kirvan currently works as an independent business continuity consultant/auditor and is the secretary of the Business Continuity Institute USA chapter and a member of the BCI Global Membership Council. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.