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Considerations for a small business WLAN, part 1: Pros and cons

In setting up a new small business LAN, why would I want to consider wireless over hard-wired? Specifically:
  1. What are the pro & cons of wireless networking?
  2. How do wireless networks operate?
  3. At what frequency do wireless network operate?
  4. What is the range of a typical wireless network?
  5. How much does a wireless network cost?
  6. Do wireless networks require additional software, or will they work with windows?
Wow! You must have been the kid in class who never tired of raising his hand and asking just one more question before the bell rang. I could easily spend a day answering each question in detail, but to save a bit of virtual storage space and time I will briefly attack each of your questions.

1. What are the pro & cons of wireless networking?

The biggest "pro" is that wireless systems eliminate the need for tethered workstations and can increase productivity, since people do not have to run back to these systems to retrieve a file or print out a document. Their systems and access to necessary resources are as mobile as they are, whether they are in a building, or corporate office, or outside sipping coffee at the local brew house. Wireless also does away with the cost of stringing Ethernet cables, hard-wiring computers and drilling holes through walls and ceilings. An added benefit is that it is essentially a one-time cost since you can uninstall the wireless system and take it with you when you move.

The most obvious "con" is that current 802.11 wireless systems are inherently insecure, and therefore open to unauthorized use and malicious abuse. You can (and should) turn on some of the basic security systems offered in 802.11 wireless, and take advantage of third party solutions that can help to identify such things as rogue access points and accidental associations with the wrong wireless access point.

Despite concerns, though, once you get a taste of wireless you usually never want to go back to an all-wired-world.

Go on to part 2: How do wireless networks operate

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