Is Wireless LAN Right for Me?

With the growing use of computers and the popularity of the Internet, it has become viable to deploy LANs in places where we never thought we would need a LAN. Today, LANs are being used in industrial manufacturing, offices, small businesses, and at homes.

Wireless networking has taken LAN connectivity a step further. Now, with wireless networking, LANs have become far more flexible than they used to be. Wireless LANs are easier to build than conventional wired LANs and provide mobility to LAN users.

Wireless LANs are being used to connect mobile devices, such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) and laptop computers, with stationary computers, such as desktop computers.

Wireless networking equipment is also being used to connect separate buildings as well as extending the reach of the Internet and the virtual private networks (VPNs) across several miles in remote areas where wired infrastructure is sparse.

We will discuss the different aspects of a wireless LAN that directly impact the feasibility for SoHo, enterprise, and WISP deployment scenarios. We talk about the benefits, deployment scenarios, costs associated, deployment issues, bandwidth and network congestion, security, and health concerns of the wireless LANs.

Benefits of Wireless LANs

The primary advantage that wireless LANs have over wired networks is that they do not require wires and can be set up quickly in areas where wiring costs can be prohibitive.

The advent of wireless LANs has provided us with a greater level of flexibility on how we configure our computing equipment and environment than the wired LANs.

You no longer need separate modems, black−and−white printers, color printers, scanners, CD−ROM readers/writers, and other devices for every computer in your home or office. You also do not need to go through the hassle of keeping multiple copies of files when sharing a document.

When deciding whether a wireless network is right for you, you should first make sure that you do indeed need a LAN. Though LANs provide some very useful services, they incur installation and maintenance costs. To justify your need for a LAN, you should have at least one computer, and one or more of the following should apply to you:

  • You want to share files across computers.
  • You intend to share a printer among computers.
  • Only one Internet connection is available, and you want to share it across two or more computers.
  • You intend to share a new type of device that connects to a LAN and make its services available to all the computers on the given LAN—for example, a computer controlled telescope.
  • You are willing to spend a decent amount of money to build a network.
  • Your workstations and other network devices need to be mobile and not tied down to a particular location.
  • Physical limitations prohibit running network cables and drops.
  • Lease or other restrictions do not allow for installation of a wiring plant.
  • You need to deploy networks in open spaces where you expect a lot of foot traffic, and network wires and equipment would cause additional safety issues.
  • You temporarily need a LAN, for example, at a research site.

In today's computing environments, devices, data, and resources are often distributed across multiple points on a network and are accessible from any authorized workstation in that network.

Wireless LAN takes these capabilities to the next level by adding mobility to the workstations and network devices. Within a wireless LAN, the workstations are not limited to a single position in the building but can be moved around while they continue to function.

Powerful portable computers and network devices can be carried around a building or campus while they continue to communicate with mission−critical servers and other computers on the rest of the network, sharing information.