At one time, wired networks were ubiquitous and shaped a core definition of the internet. But since the advent of Wi-Fi in the late nineties, many companies have adopted a wireless local area network (LAN) to transmit data. Both wired and wireless networks have their advantages and disadvantages, which every business should weigh.
Wi-Fi Network Characteristics
A Wi-Fi network relies on wireless radio signals to transmit data from one device to another. Some of the top reasons businesses choose Wi-Fi are because it's convenient and accommodates mobile users. That's why establishments such as hotels, cafes and coffee shops provide free Wi-Fi hotspots for their patrons. Offering free Wi-Fi is a modern way to attract a loyal following.
Wi-Fi simplifies online communication, without worrying about wires. Joining a Wi-Fi network is as simple as clicking a network choice and entering a password. Part of the beauty of a wireless system is that wires don't take up space or look like an ugly tangled up mess. Don't forget cables can be expensive. Wireless transmission allows for more flexibility and mobility in the workplace instead of being tied to a wired computer at a desk.
Part of the appeal of Wi-Fi networks is they are easy to set up in a matter of minutes since there are no cables to install. But it's still important to position the router in a certain way so that there aren't sound barriers in the signal's path. Certain materials such as metal or concrete can block sound waves from passing through walls, causing connectivity problems. But if your workplace doesn't have such sound barriers, Wi-Fi can be a reliable solution.
Another reason Wi-Fi is favored for business networks is that it creates a productive atmosphere, since it facilitates collaboration. Teams are able to work from remote locations on mobile devices. Ultimately, Wi-Fi reduces IT costs when you consider it doesn't require expensive hardware or wiring. You still need to replace the router about every five years, but there are plenty of affordable routers to choose from.
Types of Wireless Networks
- Centralized - The most widely deployed type of wireless network is centralized. It's typically based in a central location with wireless users located in close proximity. College campuses commonly use this approach.
- Converged - Small organizations often use the converged network approach, which combines wired and wireless connections. In this scenario, an access switch serves as a wireless controller.
- Cloud-based - The cloud is used to manage network devices in different locations. This solution provides full visibility of the network.
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Reasons Wired Networks are Still Here
Wired networks should not be viewed as dinosaurs since they still serve a valuable purpose. At this time, wired connections are generally much more reliable than wireless connections. Even high-quality devices on wireless networks with high-speed connections can experience latency. The introduction of 5G networks, though, promises to provide more seamless internet experiences due to faster speed and wider coverage.
Another reason many businesses still use wired connections is the belief they are more secure than wireless networks. Recent cybersecurity advancements, however, have made wireless just as secure as wired networks. At the same, no cybersecurity system is completely foolproof against hackers.
Despite its reliability, a wired network still has drawbacks that have led to the mobile revolution. In a wired network, the computers are meant to be stationary, which limits the freedom an individual enjoys when they move around and talk on a smartphone.
One industry that still heavily relies on wired networks is stock trading. It's imperative for traders to stay connected with live streaming market data consistently during a trading session. A big part of trading success is executing a trade at the right time. If the connection goes bad at this time, it can cost the trader money. That's why it's common for professional traders to sit at desks with their eyes glued to wired desktops.
Deciding Between Wired and Wireless Networks
There's no reason to view wired and wireless networks as competing with each other. Some companies implement hybrid solutions to include both. Unless you've invested in new technology, wired networks typically are still much faster and have less latency issued than wireless networks. You're less likely to lose a connection or experience interference on a wired network.
One of your main considerations should be maintenance. How much time do you plan on spending with IT oversight? Wired networks require more routine maintenance to ensure machines are communicating with each other effectively.
If checking configurations and connections from time to time doesn't sound appealing, consider outsourcing to experienced IT specialists. On the other hand, setting up a wireless network doesn't require as much maintenance. It still helps to hire IT support for a wireless network, especially if it involves multiple remote workers.
Deploying a wireless network is essential if your business emphasizes a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy. This strategy has helped many small businesses shave the costs of investing in hardware. Instead of purchasing and servicing a roomful of desktops, a company saves money when the entire staff brings their own mobile devices and connects with Wi-Fi.
Be aware that if you choose a wireless network, it may be less secure than a wired network. While there are innovative and expensive new cybersecurity solutions for wireless, you still have to implement a robust data protection plan that goes beyond firewalls and antivirus software. That's another reason why businesses outsource to IT consultants. Without a multi-layered security plan, any network is vulnerable to hackers.
The decision to invest in wired or wireless networking comes down to how you want to structure your business. Understanding the pros and cons of wired and wireless networks can help you decide on one or both systems for your operation.