Tips for Going Wireless

wifi

By today’s day and age, almost everyone has at least heard of wireless internet access, Wi-Fi, short for “wireless fidelity”, wireless hot spots, or internet cafes. If you haven't already used one, but are considering it, there are a few things you might like to know first. Things like speed, security, and reliability are often the first concerns that pop-up. I'll try to cover the basics and possibly give you some peace of mind before I'm done.

For starters you should know that there are four speed classifications to worry about; 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n. 802.11a is the oldest and least known classification. This was replaced by 802.11b in 1999, which extended the maximum range out to 300 feet, about five times that of 802.11a, and produced a maximum speed of 11mbps, megabits per second. A couple of years later 802.11g was introduced. The range on wireless networks was not affected much by the new classification but maximum speed suddenly soared from 11mbps to 54mbps. This caused a tremendous help for local area networks, LAN, as this crept closer to common wired speeds of 100mbps. However, wired still had the advantage of speed until the recent 802.11n was introduced which has a maximum speed of 100mbps, which comes very close to matching wired. I say very close as this is under ideal situations and, as everyone knows, doesn't happen very often. In most case you'll find that your connection will be a slight bit slower than the maximum speed, and if you are on the outskirts of the wireless range, perhaps must slower. Distances have also been increased by range extenders, and multiple and/or higher gain antennas. Though for all practical purposes the effective range is still measured out about 300 feet. With the aid of antennas or range extenders that range can be almost doubled, but you can run the risk of more interference and interruptions.

Speaking of interference, wireless is, at best, less than perfect. Though it has had great improvements over the years, it is still based on radio waves. Anything that can affect radio waves can affect your signal. If you have a microwave, a refrigerator, walls, filing cabinets, etc… Between you and the access point then you run the risk of signal interference. Granted, as the technology has improved, these interferences have become less and less, however you should be aware of the possibilities. I have had many businesses switch from their wired networks to wireless. Most of them have minimal issues with down time and loss of connection; however there are those few that no matter what they do they just cannot go through a single day without losing their signal at least once. For these businesses I recommend leaving their desktop systems wired, and providing at least one wired connection available near each desk. They can leave the wireless in place and use it for say the lobby and meeting rooms, but do not rely on it for the bulk of your network.

Yes, you can mix a wired and a wireless network. Most wireless routers on the market today have at least one, usually four, Ethernet ports that can be used for wired networks. If you say, “Well, that's fine, but I have more than four computers,” as long as you use a hub connected to your router then you can hookup as many as 200 computers per router. More than that if you know the proper way to configure your network and create different network series, but that's a whole different subject. Back to mixing wired and wireless, most routers can do this without much effort on your part. You will want to use some type of encryption on your wireless feed to prevent outsiders from connecting to your network.

Wireless encryption has multiple levels of protection. WEP encryption is an older type of encryption that utilizes either a 64 bit hexadecimal encryption code or a 128 bit hexadecimal encryption code. This was replaced by WPA encryption which uses a 256 bit hexadecimal encryption code. All of these require a preset encryption code to be entered into the router with the same encryption code entered into the computer or device trying to access the router. These codes can by cracked, unfortunately, by someone with the proper know how. However, the heavier the encryption, of course, the more difficult it is to crack. Though, the average person will not know how, nor have the means to infiltrate even the least of these codes.

So, as you can see, before you decide to create a wireless network either in your home or office, you'll need to consider distances, rooms, and protection. However, with a few precautions a wireless network can be quite easy and useful. Granted, it would be best to use a professional for the full setup, though once it is setup up it should be very simple for you to maintain your wireless network and keep yourself safe.