Is Wifi Access Another Leaky Faucet in Your IT Budget?

By Matt West

Director of Telecommunication Services, NPI

April 23, 2015

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We spend a lot of time talking about the complexity of IT and telecom spend management on this blog. The pitfalls around sourcing and contract optimization are too numerous to count. But, what about the obvious cost leaks? There are many hidden in plain view.

One of those is wifi access. The cost for enterprises to provide mobile data to their employees is exploding. Although carriers have announced plans over the past 6 to 12 months that allow for pooling of data across all platforms and lowering the cost per megabyte for data plans, the deployment of mobile data devices and the consumption of data is far outpacing these reductions. Fortunately, better carrier pricing isn’t the only way to cut costs. In some cases, costs can be reduced through creation and enforcement of a user policy.

Consumption of data from a mobile plan is a good example. Many users will continue to use data from their wireless plan even when they have a secure wifi connection available to them. The most clear example is the employee that travels internationally and uses data on a wireless plan that may cost as much as $0.25 per megabyte while they are sitting in the corporate office. This is repeated frequently both nationally and internationally.

A few alternatives to consuming data from a carrier’s wireless plan are:

- Use a secure corporate wifi network (as in the example above) when traveling to other offices within your enterprise.

- Use publically available wifi for free when traveling (this includes Starbucks and many other coffee retailers and restaurants).

- Use a service such as Boingo to pay for access at thousands of wifi hotspots around the world.

The policy of requiring users to connect via wifi when it’s available is not difficult to establish. However, enforcing it may require implementation of some sort of Mobile Device Management application that forces the user to first try wifi before using cellular data. One low-tech way of enforcing (or at least creating awareness) of cellular data consumption is to run a monthly report that identifies the top 100 users of wireless data and providing incentives for not being on the list.

This is just one example of widespread cost leakages that drain the IT/telecom budget. There are many others – which is a reminder for enterprises to keep a keen eye on run-of-the-mill IT expenditures in addition to their larger, “strategic” purchases.