While WiFi technology remains inherently reliable, mesh network topology is often seen as a ‘cut above’, at least as far as coverage, signals, and security are concerned.
Mesh networks solve many of the connectivity issues around WiFi, particularly in premises where IoT (Internet of Things) devices cannot connect to networks reliably, or if they can, the resulting signal is poor. This only compounds a growing loss of trust in IoT as a technology.
An abundance of dead zones and structural barriers blocking signals on a traditional WiFi setup is also highly frustrating for businesses and can, in turn, profoundly impact their efficiency and, unbeknownst to many, security.
The decentralised structure of mesh WiFi networks provides much more reliable signal coverage as well as better security advantages. For organisations that handle sensitive data, mesh networks offer stability against disruptions while proving to be a stress-free and helpful workaround.
Overcoming weaknesses of standalone WiFi
It’s important to understand the premise of a mesh network setup. Traditional WiFi routers broadcast the wireless signal centrally, between the built-in modem and the devices scattered throughout your building. As most people know, the further away your device is from the router, the weaker the signal will be.
Mesh networks, conversely, give users multiple access points. While one access point may be closer to the modem, another access point can rebroadcast the signal. In turn, this alleviates connection problems people have with patchy WiFi signals.
In traditional WiFi setups, signal performance is often disrupted when more devices connect to the network. What’s more, multiple devices are connecting from a limited range which is only made more disruptive due to incumbent signal-blocking barriers. These can range from bulky furniture to built-in structural materials like concrete, which are incredibly thick and can severely disrupt WiFi signal coverage in commercial spaces. What’s more, if the router malfunctions, all devices’ connectivity is affected. This isn’t even mentioning the well-known hacking and snooping risks of unsecured and unencrypted networks.
Compare this to a mesh setup, where multiple access points work together to create a unified network, and these connectivity issues go away. The nodes within each access point ‘talk’ to each other to dynamically route data via the strongest signal path. Additional nodes can expand the WiFi range to offer greater coverage in dead zones if needed. The more nodes that are added to the network, the stronger the capacity, even if certain nodes fail or become redundant. What’s more, most mesh networks are backed by military-grade encryption making them highly reliable and impervious to hacking.
Strengthening physical security
It’s important to look at the physical advantages that can be gained by the adoption of mesh networks.
When CCTV surveillance systems are connected to a mesh network, the expanded range and signal strength offer a much more reliable backbone. Mesh networks, much like traditional WiFi networks, can be controlled centrally, and that also extends to access control. Security personnel can validate access even if part of it goes down, and any built-in alarms will not be affected, thus proving no obstacle for responders or security teams needing emergency access.
Weak spots will be virtually nonexistent with a stable mesh network, meaning that critical security operations and 24/7 monitoring can continue uninterrupted and with complete confidence.
Deterring data breaches
In addition to physical security benefits, mesh networks provide a wealth of vital cyber security assistance.
With current digital transformation trends accelerating and hybrid workforces becoming the norm, many resources are located and operating outside of, dare we say, ‘traditional’ network infrastructure. Nowadays, a business network is far more diverse, involving a range of edge computing devices, remote machines, cloud technology, IoT devices, and more.
Mesh architecture enables greater collaboration, integration and coordination between individual technologies and devices. Individual endpoints (i.e. anything that can be exploited by a malicious actor) are more robust thanks to mesh technology.
Reliable mesh architecture offers:
- Built-in firewalls to defend against malware and hacking
- WPA3 encryption to prevent password cracking and snooping
- Rogue AP detection alerts to unauthorised devices
- VPN tunnelling for secure remote access
- Network partitioning to isolate devices
Mesh systems also enable advanced capabilities like guest credential management, customised captive portals, and bandwidth allocation to prioritise devices.
Key considerations when switching to mesh
As organisations continue to expand beyond physical locations, mesh networks will only grow in demand and availability. As a global market, it’s projected to reach a $12.8 billion valuation by 2031 (CAGR growth rate of 9.8% from 2022).
That said, expecting them to solve all of your firm’s cyber security challenges is ambitious at best; while mesh networks will undoubtedly help, they are not going to magically reduce your attack surface. Therefore, organisations should consider deploying suitable enterprise-grade security solutions alongside mesh connectivity for additional reassurance and protection of assets and data.
Hackers are increasingly relying on weakened and vulnerable endpoints to deploy a range of cyber attacks like ransomware. Yearly losses due to these types of attacks are predicted to cost $265 billion by 2031, which cannot be ignored. Mesh networks are a highly practical and flexible approach to addressing these threats across your entire estate, integrating more of your incumbent systems and points of access.
Creating a more ‘unified’ infrastructure that’s backed up by mesh will be far more effective as a base-level strategy as opposed to entrusting a range of standalone technologies. Businesses should assess their current network setup and capacity levels, and identify the most appropriate and productive method of installing their mesh network.
Digital transformation continues to present challenges, particularly if organisations have to redesign and re-deploy their infrastructure. However, the reduction of costly and reputation-shattering cyber attacks will prove invaluable in the long run.
By integrating all incumbent devices and systems, mesh networks mark the next evolution in business connectivity and a vital step in the journey towards improved cyber resilience.
Source: IFSEC INSIDER