What is "Wi-Fi" Wireless Networking?
Network communication is all about exchanging information. You share data files and documents with co-workers and friends and you send email. The Internet is a source of information, entertainment, shopping, and a place where you might conduct business. Before the advent of wireless networks you always had to have a place to "plug it in" and that is one thing you'll never have to do with a wireless computer, Wi-Fi enabled personal digital assistant (PDA) or cellular phone.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers created a set of design specifications for wireless networking called the IEEE 802.11 standards. Equipment manufacturers and vendors formed an association to certify compliance with the 802.11 standards, called the Wireless Fidelity Alliance, or "Wi-Fi". When you implement a Wi-Fi network you provide a level of flexibility and productivity that creates new possibilities for the way you work, the way you conduct business, and the way you access information. In the future, even cell phones will be integrated into Wi-Fi networks.
Why should I have a Wi-Fi wireless LAN installed in my building?
- Connect computers, printers, fax machines, and Wi-Fi enabled cell phones together into a single communication network without having to run wires through the walls
- Retrieve files or presentations from the corporate network, check email, and surf the Internet from the conference room or cafeteria without having to find a place to plug in your computer
- Move your entire office without losing your investment in networking installation and add new staff without moving cables or having wall jacks installed
- Connect to the Web anywhere you go through a laptop computer or a handheld PDA including connectivity for the new generation of cell phones currently on the market.
- Implement Wi-Fi devices for inventory bar-code scanning, medical records and medication management, on-the-go database searching, point-of-sale and credit card authorization, security cameras, "walkie-talkie" voice communications in a warehouse or on a corporate campus, and a variety of other productivity enhancing applications.
- Wi-Fi provides "nomadic productivity" where mobile computer system users can remain connected to the computer network in the course of their work, without having to go back to their office, or to a central computer kiosk, to access critical information. Warehouse and retail store staff have portable access to inventory, customer, and order information. Medical staff have instant access to patient records. And, with the integration of voice service, these people can communicate to each other instantly, without incurring cell phone charges.
- It's Going to be a Wi-Fi World Out There !
There is agreement from every business analyst, every computer industry observer, and every technology company: "Wi-Fi networking will be everywhere within just a few years." Lowe's home improvement centers implemented Wi-Fi to provide connectivity for their employees and lumber yard staff. Bear Stearns, the global investment banking, securities trading and brokerage firm, unwired its 45-floor Manhattan headquarters, allowing futures traders to roam the floor toting Wi-Fi handsets. Airports, libraries, and public buildings everywhere are joining the Wi-Fi revolution with the introduction of "Hot Spots" for Internet connectivity.
In 1990 it was common to meet a business person who did not carry a cell phone. Today it's the rare business professional who can't be reached on their cell, and who isn't staying in touch with their team through the cell phone network. In 2003 it was common to find businesses, schools, hospitals, hotels, and public buildings without Wi-Fi network connectivity. Today all major hotels, every large corporate enterprise, every university and most local colleges, and manufacturing, warehouse and retail across the country depend on Wi-Fi wireless networks every day. The integration of Wi-Fi with the cellular network, referred to as Fixed Mobile Convergence, is a continuing trend. The time to bring the power, convenience, and productivity of Wi-Fi wireless networking to your site is now. Improve your level of customer service, increase employee productivity, minimize inconvenience in network administration and management, and benefit from the improvements to business operations that can be realized through a properly designed and installed wireless network.
The Technology Behind Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi networks use radio signals to carry information between communicating devices. A central radio, called an "access point", oversees those wireless computers, PDA's, or cell phones within roughly 100 feet (indoors) of the access point's antenna. It's through the access point that a wireless computer gains access to the Internet. Networks in buildings or open areas larger than the approximate 100 foot practical indoor radius or 300 foot practical outdoor radius require additional access points for proper coverage. Multiple access points are interconnected either with wires (standard Ethernet cables) or through special "bridged" wireless connections. Access points have limitations as to the number of simultaneous connections they can handle and the speed at which data can be passed. These limitations make it necessary to select the proper equipment for the needs of the network users.
A very important part of designing a wireless network, even if only one access point is to be used, is the placement of the access point itself! An access point is a radio transmitter and receiver. As such, its ability to work properly is effected by the walls, doors, floors, windows, and metal objects in a building. If access points are in the wrong place then some network users aren't going to be able to connect or, when a user moves to a "dead spot" they'll lose their connection to the network.
What Is a Site Survey?
A site survey is the assessment of a building or outdoor area in an effort to identify where antennas should be mounted, and how they should be aimed, to provide complete radio signal coverage in the desired locations. This is usually done by a consultant who comes out with some measurement equipment and sets up test transmitting antennas in your building. They then walk around with handheld signal strength measurement tools and try to see where the signal is good, and where it is weak. This is a time consuming, often costly part of the typical wireless network design process. Connect802 Corporation uses advanced computer simulation and modeling software to evaluate a building floor plan based on the construction characteristics of the walls and other interior obstructions. This is what we call a "Connect EZ Predictive RF CAD Design". This allows us to exactly identify the correct location for each antenna in your wireless network.
Read more about the Connect EZ Predictive RF CAD Design
What About Privacy and Security?
In 2000, shortly after the release of the final 802.11 Wi-Fi standards, it was discovered that the algorithm used to encrypt data could be easily cracked. This encryption, called Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) was limited by U.S. government regulations that restricted the export of certain cryptographic methods and, consequently, could not take advantage of the most advanced encryption methods then available. Since that time the export restrictions have been changed and, in 2004, new data encryption methods are being used. These methods are defined by the Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) encryption scheme and they use specifications that are part of an evolving IEEE standard known as 802.11i. The original problems that gave wireless networking a bad reputation as being insecure have been corrected. A properly designed Wi-Fi network is safe from the unauthorized "hacker" breaking in from the parking lot, or from the building across the street using your Internet connection or reading your email. Hospitals can implement Wi-Fi networks that meet the strict government requirements for maintaining the confidentiality of patient information, schools can provide wireless networks without worrying that students will hack in to the records system and change their grades, and companies across the country are realizing that secure
Wi-Fi networking is now a reality.