Part 2: Retail Connectivity: Asking the Right Questions
As we mentioned in the previous post (Part 1: Profitability & Technology Now Go Hand-in-Hand), retail enterprises are in a race to see who can deliver the best in-store WWAN for both staff and guests; who can leverage the cloud; and who can do all of this in a way that provides the highest levels of reliability, bandwidth, and security.
Retail enterprises are now looking for connectivity solutions that will allow them to integrate new technology to adapt to changing customer demands and learn more about their customers, there are important questions to keep in mind:
- How reliable is the connectivity solution?
- How fast can the solution be deployed?
- How agile are the deployments?
- Can the IT department centrally manage hundreds or thousands of deployments?
- How easy is remote troubleshooting?
- Does the solution offer Unified Threat Management?
- Does the solution enable PCI compliance?
- How does the solution handle changing demand for bandwidth?
- What is the total cost of ownership?
Gartner Research estimates that every hour of Internet downtime typically costs enterprise organizations in the neighborhood of $300,000. Losing network connectivity for even a short amount of time can have other equally damaging effects, including loss of PCI compliance, inability to manage inventory, loss of access to key cloud-based financial and security applications, the need for expensive IT truck rolls, damage to reputation and loss of customers.
When opening a new retail location, you are probably working on a tight schedule. What do you do if your office or store is set to open in two weeks, but the local cable installer has a scheduling problem and has to push your installation back a week? Reliance on outside contractors inevitably means relinquishing control of your opening schedule.
Hardwiring a retail location provides an acceptable (if expensive) solution—that is, when you know exactly where your devices will be located. But what if you decide to change the store configuration? What if you want to install a kiosk, or set up a sidewalk selling location? What if you decide, for security reasons that you want to separate your public WiFi network from the network you use to process transactions? In today’s fluid retail environment, you need the flexibility to get connectivity where you need it and how you need it. Trying to do this with hard wiring is, well… hard.
Central Deployment & Troubleshooting
As the number of your distributed locations grows, so does the difficulty of managing connectivity at each one. Whether it’s configuring 100 new devices, pushing out updates and bug fixes, monitoring and managing your individual and overall data usage, or responding quickly to new intrusion threats, central management has become a necessity for most retail enterprises. Without it, you’re faced with either onsite IT staff or costly IT truck rolls.
Unified Threat Management
For retail enterprises, it’s not a question of if hackers will target you, but how you will respond when they do. Having Unified Threat Management means that you have a comprehensive intrusion detection and prevention system in place. And the important thing is not just having this system in place—it should be in a central location that allows an administrator to monitor and manage all your security-related applications and infrastructure components through a single management console.
On January 1, 2015, Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards 3.0 (PCI DSS 3.0) went into effect. Key change drivers for the new standards include lack of employee education and awareness, third-party security challenges, slow detection of breaches, and inconsistency of compliance assessments. Enterprise retail IT managers have to meet these new standards at each retail location—without the luxury of having trained onsite support. Non-compliance can result in fines totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, not to mention the risk of exposing customer data and damaging your brand.
Relentlessly Increasing Demand for Bandwidth
As we mentioned in Part 1 of this blog series, the interior of many retail stores is becoming a tightly knit web of beacons, WWAN, smart phones, digital signage, video displays, and hand-held cash registers. The ubiquity of digital devices has made omnichannel marketing possible. The backbone of this new strategy is data… big data. With hundreds or thousands of retail locations pushing customer data to headquarters for collection and analysis, and with new consumer devices hitting store shelves on a near-weekly basis, you’ll need the bandwidth at each location and between HQ and distributed locations to be flexible enough to grow with demand.
Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
Providing connectivity at the retail level brings with it a number of costs, including the equipment itself, initial setup, and staff training to run the equipment and conduct data transmission, network monitoring, security, and emergency preparedness. A growing number of distributed enterprises are finding that utilizing 3G/4G/LTE wireless network connectivity provides the best way to minimize TCO—as well as address all of the other questions we’ve posed in this post. WWAN connectivity can help your organization get an edge on the competition, enable central network monitoring and management, and provide needed flexibility—all without sacrificing security or cost.
Next: Part 3: WWAN Transforms Networking At The Edge
In Part 3 of our series, we will go into more depth about how WWAN makes retail networks easier to manage and adds more flexibly while reducing IT stress.