Though available in one form or another for quite some time, wireless computer networking was formalized in 1997 and really started to catch on in the early-to-mid 2000s. Nearly 20 years later, wireless networking is ubiquitous in the United States and offers several important benefits to consumers. Although some people might find a hardwired connection reassuring, you don’t expect to go to Starbucks and plug an Ethernet cable into the wall to surf the internet!
If you’re thinking about making the switch to a fully wireless office, here are some things to consider.
If you have a relatively small office, a single wireless modem should be enough to get everyone happily online and sharing files. On the other hand, wireless access points are generally limited to around 250 connected devices, and practically speaking, this number is quite a bit smaller. If your business has grown into the hundreds range of connected devices, it’s probably time to explore options utilizing more than one data access point. Adding additional modems is easy and quick, so you can offer office-wide internet access in a flash.
Ease of Connection
Connection to a wireless network is generally easy. If you’re comfortable leaving the network open (more on this later), all you need to do is find your network on a computer and connect to it. If you’ve chosen to set up a password, logging in isn’t much more difficult, as the user will just have to know and enter the password.
Diversity of Devices
Although there are adapters available that allow you to physically plug your phone or tablet into a physical network, the idea of always tethering a highly portable device to an outlet when you need access to the internet seems extreme. An easier and more useful solution would be to connect to your office’s wireless network. Not having to use cell data in the office is also a huge benefit to employees.
Latency, in the networking context, is the time it takes for your computer to get a response to a request back from another system. This can be quite important in applications like gaming, where a few tenths of a second can be an eternity. Generally, however, this wouldn’t be as important for business applications, but employees who rely heavily on accessing data stored in the cloud could be affected negatively. Whether or not the user notices any delays is another question.
In an unscientific test, latency in this author’s home was tested on a wired and wireless connection. These two connections had a ping difference of about five milliseconds (.005 seconds) when attempting to connect to Google. However, the applications where this would actually be significant are quite limited.
Besides latency, there can be a difference in how much data can be piped over wireless versus wired networks once it actually starts going. Like latency, however, this may not have many practical applications for your business. Though things are constantly being updated, one new standard called 802.11ac offers speeds of up to 866.7 megabytes per second (Mb/s). This, however, must be shared among all of your devices. Still, with “Gigabit” (or 1000 Mb/s) internet connections considered to be cutting-edge, the real bottleneck accessing items online will likely be between your router and service provider.
This could be a significant advantage if you regularly need to transfer a lot of data between computers inside of an office. This data, now untethered from traveling through the broader net, can take advantage of faster wired speeds, theoretically up to 10 gigabytes per second (10,000 Mb/s).
Potential Security Concerns
Finally, there’s the issue of securing your network. Though the nuances of securing your office’s network is well beyond the scope of this article, having an unprotected wireless network gives virtual intruders one more attack vector. Be sure to set up your Wi-Fi with a hard-to-guess password made up of numbers, symbols and upper- and lowercase letters to safeguard your network.
In the end, a huge number of businesses have decided that going wireless is the right decision, though there are a few drawbacks to think about and address as needed. If you’re going to spend the time and effort upgrading, do your research before making the leap!
Jeremy Cook has a passion for technology and writes about it for The Home Depot. He provides advice and tips on subjects like going wireless in your office and how switching over to LEDs will save you money. To see a selection of The Home Depot’s wireless router options, click here.