¶ … solution for a client of Wireless Technology Company. They are a company that assists organizations and businesses when it comes to issues that involve networking, bandwidth, productivity and connectivity. The client in need of a solution right now is The Athlete's Shack. They are a chain of sporting goods stores with about ten stores in the area. While the company has a technology framework in place, they are lacking a wireless element and they wish to add one. Beyond that, they wish to make use of iPads that can thus link to the wireless infrastructure in the stores. The Athlete's Shack is unsure on how to initiate and start the process and that is why they are turning to the Wireless Technology Company.
The Athlete's Shack is in need of a solution that allows for wireless connectivity along with the use of iPads as a mean to make the sales and operations process simpler. However, simply slapping a wireless router and some iPads into each store is not the solution if The Athlete's Shack truly wants to do things the right way. To truly get the most out of technology, they should look at everything including the internet bandwidth they have at each location, the internal bandwidth they have at each location, how the stores are connected to each other or to the home office, whether sales and other important data is being backed up or not and in what manner(s) it is happening, the amount of control that The Athlete's Shack is leveraging as it relates to wasteful or dangerous activities on the part of their employees (e.g. surfing porn sites on company computers, getting computer viruses, etc.) and so forth. Further, The Athlete's Shack, if they have the money, should make a strong move to upgrade now and future-proof their setup as much as they can rather than making incremental updates as the years go on. Things move quickly when it comes to technology upgrades and it best to be ahead of the curve rather than barely with it. For example, 802.11n internet would be a good modern choice but the choice of the future would be the 802.11ac standard as it is the best thing out there right now and it is readily available for fairly low cost (Cisco, 2015).
In looking at the situation in play with The Athlete's Shack, it is clear that there are several components that will be necessary or optimal for TAS to make use of. They are as follows:
Wireless routers at each store that allow for connectivity between the on-site network and the iPads in the hands of the employees. For security purposes, that wireless router will need to be equipped with the latest and greatest encryption. At this stage in the technology and wireless encryption game, the best solution would probably be WPA-2 256-bit encryption (Information Week, 2015). This encryption standard is available from commonly available routers made by companies like Linksys and Netgear, just to name two (Ngo, 2015).
Network speed is an issue as well. Wireless N (802.11n) is probably the most economic yet fast solution available but 802.11ac is faster and would provide the most significant amount of "future-proofing." In other words, if The Athlete's Shack were to implement a 802.11ac framework now, the chances they would "have" to upgrade in the near future are quite slim as 802.11ac provides speeds north of wired Gigabit in many applications and instances
Also important, and for reasons mentioned shortly, is the internet speed in place at The Athlete's Shack locations. While a lot of the information flowing in the store's network will remain internal to the network, there would also be communication with the internet at large (e.g. external websites, etc.) and there would also be communication...
While many networks are self-contained and all exist at one single location, others networks are more virtual and abstract in nature in that they are linked like a local area network (LAN) but the computers in said network could literally be anywhere where an internet connection exists. This makes the use of virtual private networks very lucrative and attractive. However, while communication between disparate computers is possible without a VPN, it is highly unadvised. This is due to the fact that the communications are not generally encrypted as they go from place to place. Not only will the communications be encrypted on a VPN, but the communications will all be linked and pulled together via the VPN framework. This will ensure proper functionality and connectivity.
There is also the need for firewalls and anti-virus software frameworks at each store and on each device so that the machines involved do not get breached. Attacks that can be rendered and felt include computer viruses, worms (write once, read many), malware and so forth. A lot of these nasty programs are encountered and "caught" when surfing the wrong websites. As much as is possible, the use of the internet at The Athlete's Shack locations should be limited to required business tasks and operations. Regardless of the restrictions in place, the sites and activity that is going on should be monitored at all times to ensure that nobody is engaging in activity that is endangering to the company and/or is counter to the required productivity needed from the employees. For example, a bored employee using an iPad to watch YouTube is going to suck up a lot of bandwidth that should be spent on real work rather than pointless misbehavior (Casey, 2015).
Also important to take into account are things like ergonomics and the accessories that comes with the gear that will be purchased. For example, all computer stations should have comfortable chairs and ergonomically-designed keyboards. Further, the iPads should come with mounts or carrying cases that make them easy to position and hold. At no point should an iPad be used and wielded outside of a protective case. Further, the protective case should require a tool to remove and there should be an alarm that sounds if the iPad is removed from the store.
The iPads themselves should have security on them. A simple passcode should be enough. However, employees must be trained to lock their iPads when not in use, not allow customers to watch their screen as they enter the passcode and so forth. Further, the internet router, modem and other similar equipment should be secured in a networking cabinet or something of that nature. The cabinet needs to breathe and have airflow but only authorized personnel should ever be touching the router or similar equipment. iPads that are not in use should be stored in a locked room or cabinet as they are attractive to thieves (which can include employees) and an iPad falling into the wrong hands could lead to corporate espionage from a competitor or other malfeasance from a hacker or hacker group.
As was easily learned by the TJX/TJ Maxx fiasco, transmitting information wirelessly can be very perilous (Ou, 2007). Even more recent events like the Target and Home Depot hacks prove that even the biggest firms can be made susceptible to sensitive information being stolen (Sidel, 2015). All information that can be transmitted via wired internet…should be. All point of sales transactions should be done on wired stations...just to be completely safe. TJX got caught using an encryption standard (WEP) that was known to be "cracked" and the same is not true of WPA or WPA2 at this time. However, even "reputable" standards and technologies have been compromised from time to time. The Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Heartbleed exploit is but one example (Trend Micro, 2015). As far as Target and Home Depot, the lesson to be learned from their screw-ups is to be very careful when granting access to information in the system. To be honest, The Athlete's Shack is small enough that an integration of vendor/supplier logins into the TAS network is probably not worth the trouble or time it would take to do it right. Further, whatever information is needed by those external parties can probably be managed by administrators with TAS.
Lastly, we come to the last major prong of any good IT system and that is backup. Presuming that The Athlete's Shack has a corporate office, all points of sales and internal reporting information should be kept within the VPN and thus should be backed up to the home office. Beyond that, there should be a backup that is offsite from any of the TAS locations including the corporate office. It is best to have a backup within the network and one that is outside of it. It is also good to have an onsite backup and an offsite backup. Presuming the VPN is functioning and presuming…
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