Join Brad Wheeler for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding wireless networking problems, part of Extending and Optimizing a Wi-Fi Network for Small Businesses.
- [Voiceover] Wireless networks allow you to easily provide connectivity for a wide range of devices occupying one physical location. However, as with most technologies, the advantages of Wi-Fi come with a few trade offs. The main advantage of wireless networks over their wired counterparts is obvious. First and foremost, you're not tied down by a cable, so you connect anywhere the signal allows. Also, by using Wi-Fi, your connections aren't limited to the number of Ethernet ports you have. You can connect as many devices as you have to your network without running cables everywhere.
However, Wi-Fi does have potentially serious disadvantages that you need to consider before setting up your network. Wi-Fi uses radio signals to pass traffic. There are many things that can degrade your connection like interference, distance, poor set up and configuration. Furthermore, when your device is performing poorly over a wireless network, it's not always obvious why, even if you have a firm grasp of your network, configuration and work space, troubleshooting connection issues can be difficult. After all, radio waves are invisible and most consumer wireless devices hide all but the simplest wireless information from the end user.
Wi-Fi today can operate on two unlicensed frequencies: 2.4 gigahertz and 5 gigahertz. Because you don't need a specific FCC license to use those radio frequencies, interference is a major concern. This can be especially daunting on the shared 2.4 gigahertz spectrum. It's used by everything from baby monitors to cordless phones and even microwaves interfere. The spectrum is surprisingly narrow. Not many devices can share without interfering. Five gigahertz is better but similar problems with coexistence apply. Administrative rules and network technologies exist to minimize interference, but it cannot be fully eliminated.
A big part of setting up a wireless network, is setting it up to avoid interference. The second problem is security. Because, in theory, anyone nearby can connect to your wireless network, you need to take steps to restrict access to the people you actually want to use your connection. At the same time, you want to protect users and critical network resources from malicious activity. If you're running a business that provides public wireless access, you may want your customers to be able to use the Internet, without allowing access to other devices on the network. For an office network, stronger security is a must to protect mission critical assets, especially if employees will connect with their own devices.
The third issue to consider is set up and configuration. Not all access points are created equal, and they're often marketed with misleading performance claims. Coming to a conclusion, can be a difficult balancing game. But many wireless access points have a configuration wizard that can get you up and running with a basic network fairly quickly. This might not be the ideal set up for your business. Certainly, they won't be optimized for your specific performance or security needs. You need to be able identify those needs and then to configure your devices to meet them.
Need a more substantial solution? Check out the last chapter on hardware and special security measures for enterprise networks.
- Measuring performance
- Diagnosing problems
- Selecting channel and bandwidth
- Upgrading firmware
- Setting up wireless isolation and multiple SSIDs
- Using MoCA and powerline network extenders
- Exploring enterprise solutions