December 13, 2000, 3:04 PM — THE COMPUTING and communications revolution is all about sharing information
faster, with more flexibility, and over greater distances. Wireless technology is a
logical extension of this concept, freeing us from the logistic constraint of being
connected to a network cable or phone line. Although the obvious benefit of wireless is
greater mobility, it can also offer greater flexibility in terms of physical layout --
and in some cases even cost savings -- over wired alternatives.
Wireless technologies are used to address many different problems, from
insufficient bandwidth to lack of local telecom infrastructure. For the purpose of this
article, we'll assume that our reason for using wireless technology is to access a
network -- and, by extension, the Internet -- with far more mobility than a wired
solution could offer.
Benefits of wireless
Mobility. This is the main advantage of wireless: accessing a network from places
where a wired solution would be inconvenient or impractical. If your organization has
personnel who need connectivity in places such as factory floors or outside work areas,
or who simply need to move around to different parts of a facility, then wireless LAN
access may be attractive. In most situations such as this, wired access would be
possible but perhaps highly inconvenient.
For example, the project manager who needs to check product specs from the shop
floor may find herself endlessly walking back and forth between the shop floor and the
nearest workstation -- perhaps even resorting to the old yellow pad solution -- to get
the information where it is needed. The quality control manager who regularly visits
various company locations may feel as if he spends half his day searching for a free
network port to plug into (which always seems to be located behind a huge stack of
equipment and requires the wrong type of connector). Both of these workers could save
valuable time with a wireless-equipped laptop.
Flexible Layout. In today's fast-paced environment, many organizations find
themselves having to rearrange workspaces quite often. With a traditional wired
network, something as simple as moving a couple of desks to accommodate a new hhire can
be a big project, involving network administration staff, physical plant operators, and
even carpenters to get the cables laid out properly. If your laptop and/or desktop PCs
are equipped with wireless network cards, then you can move them around as much as you
please, constrained only by the location of electrical outlets.