Getting the most from broadband connectivity with wireless networking.During the past few years, small to mid-sized businesses are building and expanding their networks at record rates. Wireless networking See wireless network. , once a technology used mostly by the traveling executive to connect his notebook computer A laptop computer that weighs in a range from five to seven pounds. The term originated when laptops were routinely more than 10 pounds, and those that became lighter were placed in a special "notebook" category. In practice, notebook computer and laptop computer are synonymous. to the corporate network when at his desk, is playing a larger role today and broadband Internet access Broadband Internet access, often shortened to just "broadband", is high speed Internet access—typically contrasted with dial-up access over modem.
Dial-up modems are generally only capable of a maximum bitrate of 56 kbit/s (kilobits per second) and require the full use of a sharing is one of the driving factors. Internet connectivity is critical to small to mid-sized business success today. It provides a means for staying in touch with customers and vendors, for accessing important decision-making information and research, and it even provides a window through which to keep an eye on to watch.
See also: Eye the competition. Access to efficient Internet connectivity-broad-band Connectivity--makes all of these tasks faster and easier. Wireless networking makes sharing broadband connections efficient and inexpensive--in out of the office.
Fueled by recent steep technology price drops, businesses of all sizes accelerated the pace of PC acquisition to make their employees more efficient. A desktop PC that cost $2000 three years ago costs something closer to $500 today, and the cost of portable PCs dropped even more dramatically, so businesses could reasonably provide more employees with computers for travel and work at home. Drilling holes in walls and running cables to add network connections, especially for sporadic use by portables--or in some cases, set ting ting
A single light metallic sound, as of a small bell.
intr.v. tinged , ting·ing, tings
To give forth a light metallic sound. up an entire network for the first time--still presented an obstacle for many small to mid-sized businesses. Floppy disks and CD-ROM--in some cases, even e-mail over analog dial-up--were often considered adequate, given the mess and expense of the alternative.
With each new PC added to the office needing Internet access See how to access the Internet. for e-mail, research and collaborative activities, the numbers don't have to be large before dial-up stops making sense. Overloaded PBXs and busy signals don't make for good business, so using dialup for Internet access is untenable for businesses, even where a local area network (LAN (Local Area Network) A communications network that serves users within a confined geographical area. The "clients" are the user's workstations typically running Windows, although Mac and Linux clients are also used. ) is already in place, because in an analog modem A common device that converts the computer's digital pulses to tones that can be carried over analog telephone lines. See modem. environment, each computer requires its own, dedicated connection.
The Critical Leap: Shared High-Performance Internet Access
The advent and proliferation of broadband Internet access brought unbelievable performance gains: no more waiting for the dial-in process, faster navigation and quicker downloads. It also brought security concerns. For small businesses, cable and DSL DSL
in full Digital Subscriber Line
Broadband digital communications connection that operates over standard copper telephone wires. It requires a DSL modem, which splits transmissions into two frequency bands: the lower frequencies for voice (ordinary service providers typically installed simple modems for single computer 'always-on' Internet connection, and stressed the need for security precautions to protect the PC and its resident business critical data.
The need for multiple workstation connectivity combined with the need for security pointed directly to the LAN. To add security, businesses would add a firewall/router--the leap from there to networking the office is not a large one, as most routers carry multiple Ethernet ports. By tapping into that router's capability, businesses found that they could both share broadband connections and have the traditional benefits of file and peripheral sharing over a LAN. While the less convenient but viable 'sneaker net' option for file sharing Copying files from one computer to another. See peer-to-peer network, file sharing protocol and file and printer sharing. had filled the gap in the past, there was no alternative for shared Internet access: broadband can be shared only with a network and, conversely, broadband is the only method for Internet access that can be shared over a network. The two technologies Iced each others' growth. With broadband subscription rates becoming more affordable, the subscriber base expanded, and with it came a resurgence of interest in networking.
A Whole New Way of Working
The early adopters of broadband Internet See broadband. connectivity saw value in distributing that connectivity, and the development of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, New York, www.ieee.org) A membership organization that includes engineers, scientists and students in electronics and allied fields. 802.11b standard for wireless networking brought a whole new way of connecting. With no holes in the drywall or cables to run through the office or across the building, wireless connectivity presented itself as a low-risk proposition, especially for small businesses. Over a very short period of time, price drops in wireless networking solutions contributed to its increasing accessibility. The growing popularity of wireless home networks makes providing employees with portable PCs equipped with wireless network adapters even more compelling--they can be more productive because they can tap into their home networks for off-hours broadband access See broadband and wireless broadband. .
Keeping it Simple and Secure
Today's cable or DSL modem ADSL modem or DSL modem is a device used to connect a single computer or router to a DSL phone line, in order to use an ADSL service. The acronym NTBBA (network termination broad band adapter, network termination broad band access) is also common in various countries. not only brings the broadband connection into buildings, it often has the wireless router A network device that combines a wireless access point (base station), a wired LAN switch and a router with connections to a cable or DSL service. Wireless routers provide a convenient way to connect a small number of wired and any number of wireless computers to the Internet. built right in. Many also have print servers and integrated switches to accommodate a few wired Ethernet connections in addition to providing wireless access--thanks to wireless networking technology, the cable modem hardware can serve as communications central for the office. Still, security and access control, coverage and ease of installation have been ongoing concerns for businesses considering wireless LANs. Today, sophisticated security is integrated into most wireless routers, providing SPI (1) (Stateful Packet Inspection) See stateful inspection.
(2) (Service Provider Interface) The programming interface for developing Windows drivers under WOSA. firewall protection, WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) An IEEE standard security protocol for wireless 802.11 networks. Introduced in 1997, WEP was found to be very inadequate and was superseded by WPA, WPA2 and 802.11i. and the new WPA WPA: see Work Projects Administration.
in full Works Progress Administration later (1939–43) Work Projects Administration
U.S. work program for the unemployed. encryption, MAC address filtering. Some even have integrated content filtering and virus protection software. Range of coverage varies, depending upon the technology used, and that can be extended via antenna, whether between or within buildings. Some individual network adapters even have optional or included antennas.
Broadband modems have evolved into easy-to-use communications gateways: multifunction modem/router/firewall/wireless access points that can be easily user-installed, thanks to foolproof one-click installation utilities like SMC's EZ Installation Wizard that's included with all of the company's wireless networking products. At the same time, broadband providers' ability to support the connections has improved as well, in the form of better remote troubleshooting capability.
Connectivity Options Heat Up
Public broadband access via wireless is not only a boon to business travelers and lunchtime workaholics, it's an interesting business opportunity in itself. Internet access via so-called 'hotspots' in hotels, airports, convention centers, coffee shops, restaurants and more is a fast-growing trend. According to In-Stat/MDR, the worldwide for-fee hotspot market will grow more than tenfold between 2002 and 2007--from 12,235 locations to 145,417 worldwide.
Hotspots are simply Internet access for hire. While in some places free access is offered as a marketing tool, most often users pay a fee to sign-on, registering with a service provider like Wayport, STSN STSN Seaman, Sonar Technician Striker (Naval Rating)
STSN Set and Test Sequence Number , T-Mobile or any of hundreds of others, upon sign-on. Relatively economical to set-up, all that's required to create a simple hotspot is a broadband connection and a wireless router; the addition of billing and authentication software can make the hotspot a profit-maker. Many hotspots use T-1 for its high bandwidth, but DSL, cable and fixed wireless can also be used. Some hotspots restrict access to users with 802.11b wireless adapters, but today's 802.11a/g Universal wireless connectivity solutions are a better choice, opening up connectivity to users with any current standards-compliant wireless adapter, whether 802.11g, 802.11a or 802.11b.
Wireless and Broadband
Prices for both the broadband modem hardware and subscriptions have dropped, as has the price of building a wireless network, making shared broadband affordable for more businesses. Price points in wireless networking technology have achieved a level that makes it practical for vendors to embed wireless technology in not only PC's, but in other office equipment, like printers, scanners and more.
Chip technology and the accompanying software and firmware are evolving, too, to keep up with wireless bandwidth demand increases that are required for demanding applications requiring audio and video. By way of example, new technology from Texas Instruments that SMC SMC Saint Mary's College
SMC Santa Monica College
SMC Solaris Management Console
SMC Smooth Muscle Cell
SMC Small Magellanic Cloud (also see LMC)
SMC Safety Management Certificate (maritime shipping) is using in our broadband routers, called TurboDOX Bandwidth Acceleration Software, increases the capacity for cable operators while making the end-user's Internet experience better at the same time with as much as a 20-times increase in wireless Bandwidth.
Here to Stay
Wireless Networking Wireless networking is attractive to businesses because it provides the ultimate in mobility, simple and flexible installation options, low cost of ownership (no cabling costs or maintenance), and excellent scalability. In today's mobile business environment, a system that allows users to easily add devices to the network by simply plugging-in a wireless adapter is extremely appealing. The potential for increased productivity is enormous--in the conference room, in the airport, in the coffee shop, or at home. The affordability and mass appeal of wireless networking is creating further demand for small to mid-sized business network expansion and for broadband as the Internet access medium for the networked business.
RELATED ARTICLE: Demystifying the standards.
802.11b--also known as WiFi, currently the most commonly-used wireless technology. It operates in the 2.4 GHz band with 11 Mbps transmission (with a fallback fall·back
a. Something to which one can resort or retreat.
b. A retreat.
2. Computer Science to 5.5, 2 and 1 Mbps).
802.11a--often chosen for its bandwidth advantages over 802.11b, it operates at 54Mbps in the 5GHz band, but has a shorter distance capability.
802.11g--incorporating some of the advantages of 802.11a and 802.11b, 802.11g was ratified on June 12, 2003 by the IEEE. It provides 20+ Mbps in the 2.4 GH band, and can communicate with 802.11b legacy equipment as well as with other 802.11g devices.
DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) A cable modem standard from the CableLabs research consortium (www.cablelabs.com), which provides equipment certification for interoperability. (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (communications, networking) Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification - (DOCSIS) ITU-approved interface requirements for cable modems involved in high-speed data distribution over a cable television network. )--the CableLabs Certified Cable Modem project, which defines interface requirements for cable modems involved in high-speed data distribution over cable television system networks.
Tony Stramandinoli is director of marketing at SMC Networks (Irvine, Calif.)