AKAMAI INFORMATION MANAGEMENT, INC - wirelesslanconsiderations

By: Think Akamai  09-12-2011

Think a wireless local area network (WLAN) is a good solution for you?  Here are some advantages and disadvantages to a WLAN that you need to consider before making your decision:Advantages to a wireless LAN
  1. Generally quicker and easier to install as you don’t need to physically wire the computers and peripheral devices together.  For more complex networks, hard wiring would entail going behind drywall and inside ceilings OR have visible wires running throughout the room/building.
  2. Wireless gives more mobility to the users.  Laptop users don’t need to be wired to one spot.  And, if a desktop workstation needs to be moved, there is no rewiring involved.
  3. Wireless makes network expansion easier.
  4. And, obviously, wireless will make your home or office neater and cleaner, as well as safer, without wires to trip over.
Disadvantages to a wireless LAN :
  1. Slower, megabit speed on wireless.  A hard-wired connection can give you gigabit speed.  This is not a noticeable difference in simple tasks such as sending and receiving e-mail or browsing the web; but it becomes more noticeable when downloading large files and using multimedia software (i.e. streaming video).
  2. More risk of interference because the information is traveling through the air (over which you have little or no control), as opposed to information traveling through a hard wire, over which you have more control. 
  3. Security issues, more encryption and security measures required. 

Once you determine that a WLAN is a good fit for your needs, other things to think about include, but are not limited to:

  1. Design considerations .  This will determine the type and quality of equipment you need, as well as the strategic placement of each component.
    1. Coverage area:  Is this for a one-room operation, an entire floor, a building (small, medium, large), a two- or three-building layout, or a sprawling school campus?
    2. Interference:  There may be other LANs in close proximity (current and future), other radio wave-producing equipment nearby, excessive humidity, or other environmental factors which may affect effectiveness/efficiency of equipment
    3. Location of computers, peripherals, and power sources:  Equipment (routers/access points, antennae, etc.) should be placed where it is safe, accessible, unobtrusive, close to a power source, and in a spot where you can get maximum coverage area.    
    4. Type of data being accessed:  Are you primarily going to be browsing the web?  Accessing database information? Doing file transfers?  Video streaming?  Other?

2.  Management, control, and security considerations.  This will help determine the brand of equipment you need to purchase, additional hardware and software necessary to effectively manage and secure your network.

    1.  Access point management:  Access points come with monitoring software so that you can track the status and activity of each individual access point, allowing you to identify problem connections and abuses of the network.  If you have a larger network requiring multiple access points, you may want to consider purchasing additional monitoring software so that you can see all your access points and manage them from one site.  Keep in mind that some brands of access points don’t allow this type of central management. 
    1. Network access control:  If you want to control who is accessing your network, a network access control device will allow you set up your authorized users with passwords or give access to select computers.  Most access control devices will allow limited access to users who do not have authorization and then greater access for approved users.  This access control can also limit the amount bandwidth each network user is allowed to take up. (In other words, you can make sure your employees are not video streaming their favorite TV show down to their workstation.)
    1. Network utilization:  If you want to control how your network is being utilized, a traffic shaping device can identify where your bandwidth is being used, place restrictions on the types of services allowed on your network (i.e. limiting peer-to-peer access which takes up a lot of bandwidth), and protect your network users from problem websites.

3.  Cost. The cost of setting up a WLAN will, of course, vary depending on all of the above considerations.  Call your to put together a list of your individual needs and a cost estimate.

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