How Does Wireless Work?
Wireless networks, also known as WiFi, transmit data across the same radio spectrum associated with mobile phones and garage-door openers. Using an antenna linked to a high-speed Internet connection, the network sends signals to your wireless device, usually a laptop or personal digital assistant (PDA), which has its own antenna to send and receive data. Though WiFi connections are advertised as good for up to 300 feet, the best connections with the highest data speeds usually occur within 100 feet of the network.
The big advantage of WiFi is its simplicity. It allows you to use your laptop or PDA anywhere in your home or office without wires. All of the technology is hidden in a card that slips into your wireless device. Many laptops and PDAs already come with a WiFi card built in. In many cases, you don’t have to do a thing to start using it—just get on the network and go.
How Secure Is It?
A hotspot is a connection point for a WiFi network, a small box hardwired to an Internet connection. It can be open or secure. If a hotspot is open, anyone with a WiFi card can access it, connecting to the network and using its bandwidth to surf the web. If the hotspot is secure, users need a key code to connect.
Security has always been a concern for people using wireless technology, and open networks still abound. But such fears are largely unfounded. The WiFi Alliance supports the new WiFi Protected Access (WPA) standard, which replaces the old, less secure protocol. In addition, new security tools are constantly in development. Simply put, many people now take wireless seriously, and so it keeps getting better and safer.
WiFi in a Records-Center Environment
The increased use of business computers and the need for worker mobility have created the demand for wireless networking. WiFi is meeting a long overdue demand for many industries, including self-storage. If your storage site offers records storage as an ancillary service, you’ve no doubt discovered the benefits a wireless network provides.
Typically, in a records-storage environment, you communicate with your customer database through a PC workstation or a handheld device that connects to the PC via a cradle. In the past, that handheld was a 16-bit DOS device that acted like an electronic clipboard, collecting barcodes from boxes or files and only transferring them to the database through physical connection to the PC. But users were also limited by the device’s memory capacity. They had to drop the device into the cradle and download its data several times a day.
Thanks to WiFi, new handheld devices allow users to complete more tasks in less time. With a plug-and-play connectivity to your internal network and some sophisticated software, you can be completely mobile at your site—no more multiple trips to and from the desktop workstation. Now you can do what you need directly through the wireless device, saving time and reducing costs. To transfer data in real time from your records-storage area to your database, all you need is to be within a wireless zone.
WiFi allows records-storage operators to process tasks more efficiently. They can use their wireless handheld from anywhere on site to request a list of files or boxes to be pulled from the shelves, update the database with new barcode scans, and retrieve detailed box or file information. It also allows them to share a common access point with other users. Since handheld devices don’t need a cradle to upload or download information, several people can access the database simultaneously. And the devices work from any hotspot, not just the one inside your facility.
WiFi increases your level of customer service, as it provides records-storage customers the benefit of real time information about their files via web-based software. Just imagine the peace of mind they have when they can see their items have been received by your facility and safely filed. Your handheld devices even allow you to capture signatures for proof of delivery or receipt. How’s that for instilling customer confidence?
Wireless technology also increases the responsiveness of your business. Mobile users can act on customer requests from anywhere at any time, reducing legwork and labor requirements and enhancing customer satisfaction. Using WiFi means less downtime, so more records can be processed each day. Implementing a wireless network at your facility can create as much as a 10 percent savings on labor costs and an increase in order efficiency.
Is It Time to WiFi?
WiFi may be the new frontier, but you must know when the time is right to implement it. Opportunities to increase productivity and value abound at most facilities. When deciding how to best use the technology, focusing on day-to-day tasks is an excellent way to start. Many of your routine business processes may be a natural fit for mobile functioning. Even tasks that seem unlikely candidates may benefit from a wireless network. Ask yourself the following:
- Would I save time and money by eliminating trips to and from my PC to upload or download data?
- Would immediate access to facility data speed my decision-making or responsiveness?
- Would quick access to information about customers’ records be valuable to me?
- Is my data captured manually for later database entry?
- Would greater mobility improve my work performance?
- Is data retrieval at my facility difficult or time-consuming?
- Would wireless data capture improve the accuracy and integrity of my information?
- Would on-demand access to information enhance the quality of my customer service?
If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, it’s time to go WiFi. Free yourself with a wireless network and reap the business benefits of mobile computing.
Christine Spisto is the director of marketing for O’Neil Software Inc., which provides records-storage software and full-featured commercial and corporate record-center tools, including the company’s flagship product, RS-SQL, which ensures records-center productivity and profitability. O’Neil supplies barcodes, laser scanners, printers, industry education and more. Its products consistently offer automation, enhancements and new features. For more than 20 years, O’Neil has provided software and hardware solutions to more than 800 record centers in more than 50 countries, from start-ups to multinational companies. For more information, visit www.oneilsoft.com.