Whether you enjoy downloading/uploading or working from home, or you work in a huge office, there are many reasons for installing a wireless network. Perhaps the most obvious reason is that in some environments, it is difficult if not impossible to install network cables. This is especially true for temporary networks, such as the type that companies often setup at conventions. Warehouse environments are another prime candidate for wireless networks. Installing a wireless LAN into a large warehouse is beneficial for employees who use notebook computers with barcode readers to keep track of inventory. Now, they can update the inventory database in real time through a wireless link as products come and go.
In an office environment, wireless networks are also great for notebook users. Having a wireless LAN in place prevents mobile users from having the hassle of plugging into a docking station every time that they want to access the network, not to mention saving them time as well as the time or the tech who may have to help with them with plugging in the notebook and making sure the connection works. They can all access the network from anywhere in the building, including from the conference room during those boring meetings or during their break time or on their lunch hour.
Wireless networking is the greatest thing since sliced bread! Setting up a wireless network is not extremely difficult for a basic wireless home network or even a small business network. However, there are several different varieties of wireless networks and equipment to go along with it. The Implementation of a specific network and equipment really depends on the needs and preferences of the users. For example, a small business or major company may want to use a network hub as well as a router to ensure that speed and wireless capabilities are present. Where as a residence network is sufficient with just a router, especially since you are able to plug an Ethernet cable directly into the router for maximum speed.
Choosing the right equipment is important. This goes hand in hand with not only your ISP service and connection but with your security as well. Being that speed is a major factor when it comes to wireless networks, having a high speed wireless adapter and decent router is a must! There are many brands to choose from as well as models. And in some cases, it is not always a good idea to jump on the Bandwagon and embrace an emerging technology too soon. You may end up wasting money and time on a product that still has some bugs that need to be worked out! Allowing time to research a product and analyze reviews is important. You don’t want to purchase a product that is not suitable for you. Especially when you may not realize it until some time down the road. Sadly enough, this has happened to me and my advice is that you investigate a product in its entirety. Try to set up the equipment quickly so if any issues come up you can address them before you go over your 30 day return policy!!!!
While a main disadvantage of wireless networks is security, there are definitely many ways to secure a wireless network depending on of course your security needs. Many routers have Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) which was created “in response to several serious weaknesses researchers had found in the previous system, Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP).” (wikipedia.org) Although WEP is still widely implemented, WPA has significantly increased wireless security. “There are two flavors of WPA: enterprise and personal. Enterprise is meant for use with an IEEE 802.1X authentication server, which distributes different keys to each user. Personal WPA utilizes less scalable “pre-shared key” (PSK) mode, where every allowed computer is given the same passphrase.” (wikipedia.org)
“Data is encrypted using the RC4 stream cipher, with a 128-bit key and a 48-bit initialization vector (IV). One major improvement in WPA over WEP is the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP), which dynamically changes keys as the system is used. When combined with the much larger initialization vector, this provides greatly improved protection against, and effectively defeats, the well-known key recovery attacks on WEP. In addition to authentication and encryption, WPA also provides vastly improved payload integrity. The cyclic redundancy check (CRC) used in WEP is inherently unsecure; it is possible to alter the payload and update the message CRC without knowing the WEP key. A more secure message authentication code (usually known as a MAC, but here termed a MIC for “message integrity code”) is used in WPA, using an algorithm named “Michael”. The MIC used in WPA includes a frame counter, which prevents replay attacks being executed. By increasing the size of the keys and IVs, reducing the number of packets sent with related keys, and adding a secure message verification system, WPA makes breaking into a wireless LAN far more difficult.” (wikipedia.org)
Standard network keys as well as virtual private network (VPN) are also available for issues with wireless networks and security. In addition, the basic client list located in the settings in all routers is an important tool to view and monitor who is logged into the network at hand. Creating reserved IP addresses for computers, drives and devices is also a way to keep an eye on users, because unauthorized users will stand out and you will have access to their MAC address. Although, to my knowledge I am not aware of any programs or tools that can be used to override a MAC address from appearing in the client list. I am personally in the process of investigating that. Especially since I purchased a top of the line Xtreme N router that has a bug with it comes to the issue of reserving IP addresses and I was furious when I realized I was over my 30 day return period and that the manufacturer had not released an updated version or modification download!
While there are many advantages and disadvantages of both wired and wireless networks, having both available in all situations and circumstances is definitely the way to go!