Wireless networking has gone through many iterations in it’s short history, and with the advent of smartphones such as the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android which can connect to a wireless network, the idea of getting rid of all those messy cables and simply connecting your office computers to the network over the airwaves has never seemed so tempting. But is it the right thing to do?
When planning a wireless network, there are several factors that should be considered. The first is to think about how fast do you need your network to be. This will largely depend on what you’re using your workstations for. As a general rule, if your computer is used for internet browsing, checking emails, working on document files and not much else, then wireless could work quite well. On the other hand, if you’re running an application that runs off a server database (for example an accounts package, a patient booking system or a customer services application), the you could run into problems with things running slowly on a wireless network. Furthermore, a unstable connection to the server could potentially damage your data as well. Another consideration is that the more people you have connected to a wireless network, the less bandwidth each user has available. Conclusion: if you have a large fast network, its not practical to make the whole thing wireless.
Having said that, if you do run a large fast network, does that mean that you should avoid wireless? NO. Wireless networking can be an excellent addition to an existing wired network, and happily sits along side existing infrastructure. It will allow smartphone users to access the company network, or laptop users who connect from home to be able to connect in the office without messing about with clunky ethernet cables. And it will also allow network access in parts of your office that network cables can’t reach without expensive rewiring.
Consider the following scenario: Company X has a fast wired network, with a central server controlling logins, network access and holding files. There are 10 PCs in the office, all wired in, that connect to a database on the server, on which the majority of the companies work is done. In this instance, making the office PCs wireless makes no sense, and would amount to an expensive downgrade. However, Company X is up-and-coming, and decides to expand their office to a floor above the one they are on. This floor will house a meeting room. Company X also employs several offsite users who they provide laptops to, who come in a few times a week to check in. In this instance, adding wireless capability to the existing infrastructure makes sense. A wireless access point could be added to the network without disrupting the existing network, and people using the meeting room upstairs (or indeed anywhere else) would then be able to connect to the wireless network with laptops or smartphones in that room without the need for running a network cable.
For smaller companies or home users who maybe run only a few PCs and are using a workgroup network rather than a Domain (server) network, wireless can sometimes make things a lot easier to manage, especially now that the modern generation of wireless N devices runs at the same speed as a wired connection (well, in theory at least). If you have a home office for example, you probably don’t want to be running cables from your router through your dining room to your office! In this instance, a wireless router can make all the difference, and indeed most ISPs will provide a wireless router when you sign up for an internet connection. Do bear in mind though that these ISP supplied routers tend to be budget models, so if you’re running a business from home or small office, consider upgrading your router. We here at iceConnect recommend DrayTek’s for their excellent reliability, functionality, and business class security.
That’s all for now, the next post will deal with troubleshooting your wireless network, security issues, and alternatives to wireless.