Wireless enterprises gain productivity

By Ana Orubeondo, InfoWorld |  Networking

Implementing wireless networks offers a substantial cost saving when performing installations in difficult-to-wire areas. For example, if freeways or other obstacles separate the buildings you want to connect, installing a wireless solution may be much more economical than installing a physical cable or leasing communications circuits, such as T1 service or 56Kbps lines.

With a traditional LAN, the installation of cabling is an excruciatingly time-consuming activity involving ladders, drop-ceilings, heavy furniture, and knee pads. Wireless LAN installations are dreamy by comparison.

And thanks to the lack of cable, troubleshooting a bad connection is much easier; no one has to trace cables looking for physical defects.

Wireless LANs also allow companies to reorganize without incurring recabling costs, which can be substantial in large enterprise networks.

Same old song, different dance

Although wireless LANs have been around for several yearrs now, recent improvements in both speed and reliability are making them more financially attractive and technically viable.

The perception of wireless technology has suffered due to three factors. First, bandwidth traditionally was not up to that of wired networks. Second, you had to pay more for that limited bandwidth. And third, the idea of broadcasting precious company information via the airwaves, where anyone might intercept it, made some CTOs understandably queasy.

Fortunately, current solutions have made great strides toward addressing all of these problems.

First, with the release of the IEEE 802.11b standard, Ethernet-quality data rates of 11Mbps are now commonly achievable, making wireless solutions a viable alternative for administrators who need to expand their networks. And thanks to the new standard and its widespread adoption, you can be sure today's 2.4GHz equipment will continue to work with the 5GHz stuff in the works.

To address security concerns, today's access points offer multiple layers of security such as spread-spectrum signaling, access control lists, domain identification, authentication, and 40-bit and 128-bit encryption.

And finally, the cost of wireless NICs (network interface cards) have dropped to prices comparable with traditional ones.

Watch the toes

Despite its great advantages, wireless LANs have a few potential pitfalls. Before deploying a wireless network, consider your surroundings; stay away from elevator shafts and cafeterias, for example. Elevator shafts will block a signal, and items such as microwave ovens operate in the same bandwidth (2.4GHz) as many wireless LANs. These signals may cause delays to your users by blocking transmissions from stations on the LAN or by causing bit errors to occur in data being sent.

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