Article

The Shortcomings Of Wireless Networking

September 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Jeff Smelley - Also by this author

Wireless networking promises easy installation, no cables to fuss with and error free operation. The choice is simple, right? Not necessarily. Even if all of these claims are proven true for you, you may still have sufficient cause for concern. Before you invest in wireless computer access, you should know a few things. Wireless is very environmentally sensitive. It is typically slower than a direct cable network and may not secure your data from intrusion.

Wireless networking consists of a wireless router and a wireless network adapter mounted in your workstation computers. These devices communicate with each other by utilizing a very narrow signal frequency which is reserved by the Federal Communications Commission for devices of this nature. What this means is any other devices, including your neighbors wireless network, must co-exist within this same frequency range, thereby limiting the strength of the signal transmitted and requiring a very sensitive listening “ear” or receiver. As more and more devices operate within this range of frequencies, you experience cross talk, much like you hear when two radio stations are too close together on your radio dial. While you don’t hear this cross talk on your computer, your computer hears it and experiences problems identifying your information from someone else’s. This explanation is a bit simplistic, but accurate nonetheless.

In the best of environments, without competing devices, you are subject to another problem with wireless networking, SECURITY. It is very easy and inexpensive to construct a device to “listen in” on wireless network traffic. Anyone with the desire and motivation could eavesdrop on your transmissions. You may think this a very unlikely scenario, but remember that computer viruses were unheard of once upon a time. Rather than building a listening device, someone need only have a wireless network compatible with your wireless network to be able to hack into your system. Such a person could cause great harm to your data and negatively impact your business with little chance of getting caught. Even if caught, they might not be successfully prosecuted due to the lack of legislation governing such activity.

Additionally, wireless networking often does not live up to the promotional information on the packaging. Your workplace environment may not be conducive to wireless for a number of reasons. The construction of your building, location of your computers, changes in elevation between buildings or simply distance restrictions may cause constant or intermittent problems for wireless networking. Each of these factors can be addressed with the purchase of additional equipment, be it a repeater, antenna or both. Now, however, we surpassed the easy, no cable solution we sought. Unfortunately, you won’t know if this situation exists until you have made your initial investment in wireless technology.

One last factor to consider if you are thinking about wireless versus wired networks is reliability. Wireless networking works best in applications where usage is intermittent and does not require constant access to data on your server. Such an application would be Internet browsing. Access to you dealership management System requires a more constant and reliable connection between your workstations and your server. The volume of information relayed between computers when accessing your DMS is not conducive to wireless, which normally operates at a tenth or less of the speed of a wired network.

Wireless has its place and can be a valuable tool, but like most technologies it is not a solution for all situations. In fact, in my experience, wireless networking has a very narrow usefulness compared to a wired network. However, in the absence of any other alternative, wireless is better than computerless.

Vol 3, Issue 5

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