By definition, most people understand that a wireless network runs without wires. But exactly what does that mean; how does a wireless network function? In the second article of our “What Is?” series, we’ll explore wireless networks. To learn more about network security, read the first article in the series.
How is a Wireless Network Different from a Wired Network?
A wired network uses cables to connect devices to the internet or other networks. Although they are becoming less common in many business situations, you’re probably familiar with wired networks as cables that connect to Ethernet ports on the router on one end and to a computer on the other end.
There are a number of different technologies used in wireless networking. One type of wireless network uses radio communication to connect devices to the internet and to your business network and its applications. Common uses include cell phones and coffee shop internet access.
Wireless networks are simple and require as few as one single wireless access point connected directly to the internet with a router, which is a device that controls and directs data from one place to another on the network.
Are There Any Particular Benefits to a Wireless Network?
There are many benefits to wireless networks, including:
- Cost: Wireless networking has made it possible for many telecommunications networks, enterprise organizations, local businesses, and residential customers to implement networking without the expensive process of installing cables.
- Convenience: Even if you’re not a big fan of the internet, you’ve probably noticed that locating a wireless connection is not difficult, and often, it’s offered for free. Wireless networks also mean that communications are not sacrificed around tough-to-wire areas like across lakes or streets. In the office, printers, scanners, and other equipment can more easily be shared.
- Mobility: In the past, certain work activities had to wait until the person was “in front of the computer,” which compromised productivity when, for example, traveling out of town for a conference. Now, office documents can easily be accessed, updated, and saved to the proper location on the company’s network from almost anywhere in the world.
- Expandability: Wireless networks can be connected to one another. Wide Area Networks (WANs) cover larger areas, such as neighboring cities and towns. In the office, networks can be expanded without the addition of unattractive wires or remodeling the building to provide space for wires.
Are There Any Risks to Wireless Networks?
When wireless networks were new, many people experienced slower, less secure connections than with wired connections. Over the past few years, there have been many technological advances that have improved the speed and quality of wireless networking.
Generally speaking, wireless networks are more vulnerable to interference from other equipment than wired networks. Due to limited bandwidth, they can also suffer performance problems when there are multiple users.
When you connect your laptop, tablet, or smartphone to a Wi-Fi hotspot at a coffee shop, hotel, or airport, you’re connecting to that business’s Local Area Network (LAN) and are depending upon their security settings to keep your data safe. Try to connect only to wireless networks that require a network security key or have a security certificate. If you do connect to an unsecured network, limit your usage and avoid accessing sensitive information, such as bank records.
If you use wireless networking for your office or at home, a network support company can help you ensure that it is secure. There are a number of security measures that can be taken, and they do change from time to time as hackers learn how to exploit existing systems. For these reasons, it’s important to select experienced professionals to set up and maintain your wireless network.