For office administrators and IT managers who are considering the implementation of a wireless office, it is important to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each solution.
Since dial-up access, the manner in which office workers access data and applications has drastically changed with inception of new technologies and faster Internet connections. In fact, the latest trends point toward cutting the wires altogether in favor of mobility and flexibility.
Although wireless connectivity and mobility represent a new trend for accessing information, there are still many that are skeptical about the security and functionality of wireless networks. Does it make sense to migrate to a wireless network or is a wired infrastructure the best way to go?
Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of both configurations.
AN OVERVIEW OF WIRED NETWORKS.
A wired network connection is described as a configuration that involves cables which establish a connection to the Internet and other devices on the network. Data is transferred from one device to another or over the Internet using Ethernet cables.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF USING A WIRED NETWORK?
RELIABILITY AND STABILITY.
When configured properly wired networks provide reliability and stability. Once the hubs, switches and Ethernet cables are installed, the end result is a workhorse system that is extremely reliable. Although wireless connections are constantly improving, you will find that wired networks are generally more stable and reliable.
Another reason wired networks are reliable is because the signal is not influenced by other connections. For example, if you have wireless networks that are close to one another, one signal could interfere with another which can compromise stability. Or, if you have walls or objects nearby, this has an impact on a wireless connection where a wired network connection is unaffected by these factors.
Wired networks are not visible by additional wired networks. This means there is no interference with the connection. At the same time, the network nodes can still communicate with other nodes (connection points) on the network to facilitate effective data transfer and storage over network routes. The nodes are programmed to recognise and transfer data to other network nodes.
Wired networks are generally much faster than wireless networks. Data speeds have continually improved with the inception of Gigabit routers and other new technologies. Additionally, wired networks tend to be void of any dead spots that are occasionally present in a wireless connection. This is mainly because a separate cable is used to connect each device to the network with each cable transmitting data at the same speed.
A wired network is also faster since it never is weighed down by unexpected or unnecessary traffic. Any unauthorised user is unable to connect to the network unless their device is connected using an Ethernet cable.
When configured with the necessary firewalls and other security applications, a wired network is well protected from unauthorised access. As long as the correct ports are activated and the network is monitored for suspicious activity, a wired connection with security technologies in place will provide your office with the protection requirements you need to perform daily business operations.
Depending upon the configuration, the framework for a wired network can be rather inexpensive to install. Ethernet cables, switches, routers, and other hardware is relatively cost effective. Additionally, the lifespan of the hardware typically stands the test of time before an upgrade is needed.
WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES OF USING A WIRED NETWORK?
LACK OF MOBILITY.
Wired networks can be inflexible in terms of mobility. In order to use your device in a different location, it is necessary to run extra cables and switches to connect a device to the network. This may or may not be inconvenient depending upon the mobility of your office workers and how frequently you change your office layout.
Wired network installations can take longer to set up because more components are required to complete the process. Depending upon the size requirement for your infrastructure, installation can be lengthy and complex as you connect each and every device to the network, install the routers, switches, and hubs and configure security applications and firewalls.
If you have a small network framework, sometimes there is no need for a server. However, once you begin to add more devices to the network, a server is necessary to handle the connectivity, capacity, storage and workload.
If a wired network requires a server, the maintenance could be potentially costly. Plus, you would have to compensate an IT professional or a staff of IT professionals to oversee the maintenance and security.
Running a wired network means dealing with a conglomeration of wires that can be unsightly and inconvenient. Cables can present falling hazards or become inadvertently disconnected by office workers or cleaning crews.
On the other hand, if you see the cables as the security and lifeline to your office operations, it may not bother you to see an endless array of wiring. Additionally, the wires may serve as a reminder of the reliability and stability of your network connection.
AN OVERVIEW OF WIRELESS NETWORKS.
Wireless networks are configurations that operate on radio frequency or microwave signals. The radio signals allow wireless enabled devices to communicate with one another and the Internet without having to be connected to the network via an Ethernet cable.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF USING A WIRELESS NETWORK?
In general, the cost of implementing a wireless network is relatively inexpensive unless your network requires additional equipment such as wireless repeaters or a commercial grade router. Wireless repeaters increase signal strength and a commercial grade router provides a more reliable connection and improved security controls.
Overall, installation of a wireless network is faster and easier because it requires less equipment. Additionally, you do not have to spend the time connecting each device to the network using Ethernet cables.
Wireless networks allow your office workers to be more mobile with the flexibility to access the network from any location using any type of wireless enabled device. There are no hassles with cables and all connectivity can be achieved without the limitations of physical cables. Plus, your office is neat and clean as the result of the absence of wires.
WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES OF USING A WIRELESS NETWORK?
With wireless networks, one network is visible to the other which can affect the performance of your connection. Because the networks can see one another, the possibility of interference by other wireless enabled devices or obstructions is higher.
Additionally, the nodes or connectivity points on a wireless network cannot hear the other nodes on a single network. This can compromise the performance and quality of your connection.
In general, wireless networks are less secure than wired networks since the communication signals are transmitted through the air. Because the connection travels via radio wave, it can easily be intercepted if the proper encryption technologies (WEP, WPA2) are not in place.
However, when properly secured, wireless network security is relatively safe. The encryption technologies prevent unauthorized users from deploying scanners to identify and penetrate the network.
As a whole, wireless networks lack the data transmission speed capability of wired networks. Instead, a wireless network is primarily dependent upon the maximum speed capability of your current configuration. In this case, a hybrid solution is sometimes deployed with both wired and wireless connections.
RELIABILITY AND STABILITY.
In terms of reliability and stability, wireless networks are prone to interference by other networks, wireless enabled devices, and objects such as walls that can obstruct the connection. Additionally, if you are a mobile worker and you are changing locations, the strength of the signal can vary as well. Therefore, the amount of latency you experience with a wireless network will be inconsistent when compared with a wired network.
If the cost of upgrading your network is a concern and you require the maximum security and performance, a wired network may be the connection of choice. And, if you are not concerned about mobility, a wired connection may serve your office needs well.
On the other hand, if you are not concerned about cost and you prefer mobility and the latest technologies, then you should seriously consider a wireless network. And, if you are concerned about office wiring, a wireless network may be your best bet.
For a more in-depth cost comparison, a recent TechTarget apples-to-apples cost comparison article will provide you with more information.
Additionally, if you are interested in more in-depth details on wireless networking, there is an interesting white paper published by U.S. Robotics that will provide you with additional information.