Wireless networking has revolutionised the way that most
LANs (Local Area Networks) are set up and used, but is it as safe and stable as
a conventionally wired network?
The majority of SMEs have multiple PCs on site – the more
personnel, the more computers they need, and usually, these computers have to
be linked or networked. This is done in order to enable the PCs to share
software programs and utilities that are essential and specific to any
particular organisation’s business, and/or to be able them to get onto the
Internet via one central point.
Wired LAN Cabling
Most of the new business premises that are built today often
have network cabling
preinstalled. Where premises are not prewired, then cable-trunking or “raceways”
have to be installed to deliver the cabling neatly and safely, (trailing cables
are a health and safety hazard) to the point of service.
This obviously involves a cost, albeit not an overly large
one. The biggest failing of many companies is short-sightedness. If cheap
cabling is used in order to keep the cost down, or not enough outlets are
included in the cabling, it can mean costly upgrades, or, in a worst case
scenario, a complete rewiring may be necessary. Future proofing is always
necessary when it comes to IT infrastructures.
Wireless LANs v Wired LANs
The advent of wireless
networking, (commonly referred to as Wi-Fi), has given businesses a new
option, and a way of avoiding having to have cabling in place, or having to
have it installed. But many business owners are concerned as to which
methodology is more stable, and more safe – wireless or wired.
Hard Wired into Stability
Wi-Fi has come a long way since it first came onto the scene
back in 1991. It was designed by NCR and intended for use in its cashier system
business. It is now much faster than it was in those early days; it’s had to be
in order to handle the huge amounts for data we now push around.
But when it comes down to stability, you cannot beat an
actual physical connection – unless that physical connection breaks of course.
Then, depending on the nature of the break, locating and fixing it can be
difficult, time consuming, and expensive.
However, serious, costly, breaks are few and far between.
There are no moving parts to go wrong, other than the connectors on the spur boxes,
and the PCs ports, and these only move when they are physically connected and
Improved Wireless Stability
Most people would agree that a wired network is more stable
than an unwired one. However, wireless technology has come a long way since it
was first introduced, and so has PC/Laptop design and performance. All of these factors mean wireless LANs are
now much more stable than they once were. So whilst a wired network solution
has an edge over unwired – that edge is now a fine one, depending on the size
and nature of your intranet and organisation.
One of the biggest problems with wireless is the number of
people sharing the wireless signal. The more there are, the slower the speed.
But even that can be addressed by using or upgrading to more powerful, state of
the art, routers that utilise 802.11ac
The Security Aspect of Unwired v Wired
Of all the debates that take place as to the pros and cons
of wired or wireless LANs, the safety versus security argument is the one that
gets the most airing. In the cold light of day, wired is more secure than
unwired. It’s entirely logical when you stop to think about it. The only people
who can tap into a hard wired network are the people physically there on the
premises; and even then, they normally have to enter some sort of password
depending on the security protocols that the IT support department imposes.
What’s good enough for the Pentagon….
But with a wireless network, potentially anybody within
range of the signal can tap into it, and once they do, they may be able to
access sensitive or confidential data. But as with anything to do with
electronics, and computing in particular, things move pretty quickly. There are
always new technologies being developed, and expertise marches on apace. The
latest encryption for deployment on Wi-Fi or wireless networks is WPA2. Even the
Pentagon relies on WPA2 encryption, (or so I’m told), and what’s good enough
for them is probably good enough for anybody else.
The Best of Both Worlds
What most businesses tend to do today is to operate both
wired and wireless delivery systems for their LANs. It’s an entirely logical
decision. One of the biggest problems with having only a hard wired delivery
system is – what happens when businesses take on addition staff, or have to
deal with lots of visitors? This will depend on bandwidth and again, the size
of organisation and cabling solution. With the increasing use of fibre optics and air blown
cabling, options for the enterprise just keep on getting better.
Wireless also deals with the issue of mobility. BYOD schemes
have enabled workforces to be much more productive as workers can connect to
the office network via an internet connection using their own devices and
access any data on the network, with the correct permissions and logins.