by Curt Finch

Taking the Wireless Office to the Dogs

Sep 20, 20114 mins
AppleCIOCloud Computing

Zoom Room Shows How Wireless is Done

Zoom Room is a dog agility training franchise that runs almost completely wirelessly.  Their secret?  Using the iPad as their primary operating system.  Zoom Room requires that each franchise location use the iPad 3G, which creates consistency across the company.  The iPad allows Zoom Room to keep track of dogs in the facility by using a Bluetooth handheld scanner that works with the iPad.  I asked Mark Van Wye, chief operating officer of Zoom Room, some questions about his business operations pertaining to going wireless.

I was curious if Zoom Room uses Voice Over IP (VoIP) instead of landlines.  “VoIP is always an option.  In our online franchisee training program, we use both Skype as well as a virtual peer-to-peer classroom hosted on our own server that allows video conferencing, screen sharing and document exchange.  Each Zoom Room location, once up and running, uses multiple iPad 2’s.  We use FaceTime for the video equivalent of VoIP to provide support for training sessions and other video conferencing needs,” Van Wye explains. Using FaceTime in a business setting works for Zoom Room because they have a complete Mac integration. 

Regarding how they handle outside calling to customers, especially when using VoIP,  Van Wye says many clients receive consultations over the phone to discuss training options and that each Zoom Room location can choose their telephone service. Obviously a wireless connection between locations is working well for Zoom Room, especially in training.

For their wireless connection, all Zoom Room locations have a central wireless hub (Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station) and at least one Apple AirPort Express, which allows the sharing of your wireless network with up to 10 users.

“To this network, we connect an iMac, two iPads, a wireless pro audio system, and in some cases, a DVR connected to the surveillance system.  We also provide free wireless internet through a guest network to all Zoom Room clients.  Most Zoom Rooms also use a WiFi enabled printer/scanner.  We also make great use of Bluetooth technology in addition to WiFi.”

Providing WiFi to customers is great customer service, but are they protected against security risks?  According to Van Wye, Zoom Room has never had any security issues with their wireless communications.  As Van Wye explains, “By using a Mac-only environment, we greatly mitigate any and all risks of network intrusion.” 

Zoom Room goes beyond just relying on an all-Mac environment for security protection.  Van Wye says that Zoom Room also uses “basic due diligence with military-grade encryption on all stored data” as well as password rotations and “[having] our own custom SSL certificate installed on our private mail server for added protection.” 

If infrastructure were to ever fail for Zoom Room, they would be protected by the 3G network.  “We are immune to a complete blackout of either power and/or internet failure by using an iPad that is 3G enabled. We are still able to run every function of the business in case of infrastructure failure.” 

So what are the issues associated with being wireless in a business setting?  For Van Wye, it’s an issue of speed versus price.

“Speed is always an issue.  It is frustrating that internet service providers charge such an exorbitant premium for high speed connections for businesses.  A higher speed connection at my residence would cost a fraction of the price.  We try to maintain the highest speeds possible because we do need the bandwidth, but there is always a tradeoff between ideal speed versus the bottom line.”

The price of speed connection is definitely something to consider when taking your business wireless.  I wonder when the day will come when wireless in a business setting is more common, thus bringing down the price of enterprise wireless connection.

Would you make your entire business work on Macs for security and productivity purposes?  Have you encountered high prices when enabling high-speed internet in your workplace? Tell me what you think!