VISUAL NEWSLETTER Ė MAR 2003†††††††††††


 

WIRELESS NETWORKING

 

There has been a recent explosion in Wireless Networking Products recently, aimed largely at the Home Networking Market. Such products offer potential business solutions as well. Companies such as D-Link and Link-Sys offer Routers, Hubs and Cards to create completely wireless networks and or bridges.

 

In the home market many households have more than one computer. Sharing the internet, printers, scanners and the like has been a problem unless the computers are close enough to run network cables. From a reliability standpoint this is still preferable and less expensive, but not always feasible where basements are finished and fishing wires through floors and walls is a difficult process.

 

Hence, the advent of wireless products. High Speed Internet can be connected to a Wireless Router and from there to Wireless Network Cards in PCís around the home or to another Wireless Hub in another part of the house where multiple PCís can be connected directly using existing wired Ethernet network cards.

 

The downside to Wireless is that it is somewhat more expensive than wired connections with wireless cards costing $100 or more as compared to $25 for a good wired card. However you do save on cable and cabling charges so this can often be a wash.

 

Until recently wireless transfer rates were also much slower than wired rates, (11 Mbps as compared to 100 Mbps) but some recent improvements have seen wireless rates as high as 54 Mpbs. It must be pointed out that this is a theoretical maximum and in practice, interference may limit transfer rates much more on wireless connections than wired.

 

Wireless connections tend to be more difficult to configure, in some cases requiring high-gain antennas and such to limit interference.

 

Most wireless products have range limits of about 300 feet. This is usually more than sufficient for home use but may be limiting in business use. Different type of building materials (concrete walls, steel beams and such) may also limit range in some cases.

 

Range can be expanded with special antennas and by locating hubs near windows in adjoining buildings. Some high end systems do employ large dish antennas for extended range at extended prices.

 

Your choice of product will depend on the distances you want to cover and cost comparisons with alternate forms of cabling, ISDN lines and the like. Some options are less expensive up front but require a monthly rental fee so they may prove more expensive over time.

 

The most important thing to consider with expensive solutions is a performance guarantee. I know of at least one client who spent $10,000 for one kilometre remote system that they could never get to work properly with no recourse from the vendor.

 

With less expensive systems, you can try them out and return them if they donít work, providing you purchase them from a reliable supplier such as the Business Depot.

 

In general you will need extensive networking knowledge or professional assistance to get many of these remote networking products working. Itís not a simple matter to tackle leading edge technologies at the best of times but the products are getting better all the time.

 

Like most products for which there is a demand they will continue to improve over the next few years and will become more common solutions in the near future.